the-south-asian Life & Times Oct - Dec 2010
Delhi Turns 80
‘A SPORT IS A SPORT IS A SPORT’
By O P Dutta
Sport is just another name for the games people play.
I was brought up on games like – Gulli-danda, marbles, Treasure hunt, kabaddi, wrestling, Chor-Police, and Blind Man’s bluff - all enough to exasperate my mother who seldom found me in the house. With time and age I grew up to the glory and charm of hockey, football and cricket - all requiring fitness and athletics. I may not have had these qualities but I was definitely a Sport.
In hockey we managed to hit each other with hockey sticks, leaving the white ball alone - it was supposed to be sporting to spare the poor ball.
But when I broke my hockey stick (the handle came off from the stick) my mother found it very handy to handle. She would wield it like a cane and let it fly at me, whenever I was late in getting back home. Her order was loud and clear - "Every child has to be inside the home before night falls." And a Sport that I was, I was always late and she would lash out at me with the stick and I would secretly admire her for putting the hockey stick to better use than I ever did.
Football is the most popular game around the world. The celebrity writer George Bernard Shaw was once playing host to a visiting fan, who expressed the desire to watch a football match. Mr. Shaw raised his bushy eyebrows and said –"Oh, football! I did see a game once. It is a funny game in which twenty two pairs of feet run after a ball, and when they do get it, they just kick it away".
His fan had to laugh along with him because he too was a Sport.
Football will never forget the great Argentinean player Maradona who scored an all-important goal with a hand – in a foot game! Later on he called it the Hand of God and Argentineans all agreed with him - they all are Sportsmen.
Equally sporting was Mr. Singh of the Indian Navy, who was penalized for handling the ball in a football game at least a dozen times in a ninety minute game. One day he was sitting out as his team played against the Hyderabad Police Team. At the end of the game, I went up to him and asked him "Why didn’t you play sir?" He pointed towards his arm in a sling and explained that he had fractured his arm. I promptly reacted and said "But you could have played football with your feet - for a change."
He could have killed me but he did not because after all he was a Sport.
Cricket was introduced to us as a gentleman’s game. So much so that the English language used the word ‘Cricket’ for fair play.
But with time the ‘gentleman’ just got tired and cricket went to professionals. Once in their hands, it turned in to a huge business. It shows and returns more than any other circus in the world. Players and officials have, many a time, been accused of being corrupt, greedy, and irresponsible. But they take it all in their stride and smile back at ‘Cricket’ - because they are all Sports.
But more was yet to come – Match Fixing! It was simple; the betting syndicate convinced them that they would make more money by losing a game rather than winning. After all what is pride on empty pockets?
The only causality was the much touted fair play.
The politicians around the world are even bigger sportsmen. People have thrown rotten tomatoes at some of them, hurled jibes and abuses at them, but they return the insults with a smile – a smile that has been fixed, most probably by a plastic surgeon. It keeps them Sporting.
But then the great American Woodrow Wilson was also a
politician. While addressing the League of Nations after World War I, he
opposed the European nations wanting war indemnity from the vanquished
German nation. He pleaded that even war should be treated fairly –
‘restraint for the Victor and grace for the Vanquished’ – a similar
sentiment to one applied in fair ‘sport’. "When two people fight" said Mr.
Wilson "one of them has to lose and go down. It is for the victor to extend
his hand, help him get up, hug him and tell him that one of the two had to
lose. Unfortunately it was you. Let us say that we both fought well and can
be as good friends as we were enemies."
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