The Fifth Season
This must be a rewarding month for bookmakers.
June has always been an exhausting yet deeply blissful month for sport-lovers. Weekends are looked forward to with fervent ardour, adrenaline flows as abundantly as beer and battles for TV viewership are temporarily suspended (how can a sports fanatic not get his/her way?). I remember when Sundays in particular used to be punishingly hectic due to uncooperative cable operators, numerous phone calls and personal visits being made to them to take DD Sports (which, invariably, would be telecasting archives of the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics) off air to put Star Sports on for the F1 race. The amount of sporting action was obfuscating- I remember one particular Sunday when motor sports clashed with hockey clashed with cricket clashed with tennis…Super Sunday the news channels called it, and rightly so.
On such tantalising days, spoilt for choice, you grip the remote tightly, caring naught for the beads of sweat on your palm and for bodily needs. If you get up for a snack or to answer a telephone call, you just might miss that historic moment that you would want to talk to your colleagues and later, your grandchildren, about. To rub it in when an equally passionate sports lover has missed it. Think, for instance, of all the people who were at the court to catch a glimpse of the incredible marathon match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut- what a wonderful fireplace story. And this June, things are as busy as ever- Star Cricket is forced to telecast Wimbledon matches, so you get the picture.
The FIFA World Cup, as it does every four years, has won itself new supporters. Hitherto unknown names roll off alien tongues with astonishing adroitness, out-of-work presenters turn into expert columnists on the ‘hot’ quotient and partying habits of the players, drawing rooms that earlier erupted with the melodramatic shrieks of chiffon-saree-backless-blouse-clad soap opera actresses now warm to the infinitely preferable monotonous drone of the vuvuzela.
The ’consequences’ of the World Cup, of course, haven’t been entirely favourable as seen by a certain section of people. The French President reportedly chose to abandon meetings with certain non-profit groups in favour of an emergency discussion to tackle the most predominant ‘social’ issue- the lacklustre performance of the Les Bleus at the tournament- and didn‘t win himself too many supporters through this move. He sought a meeting with Thierry Henry as soon as he returned home- a good indication of how sports can often be as large as life and political egos.
It isn’t just at the higher levels, though. Us small fry are equally enraptured by the idea of sport. Picture an office area with a solitary speaker-phone, where a voice from the client’s end drones on in injured ignorance about trivial matters, when more pressing affairs beckon- four laptops sit adjacent to one another, streaming feeds from the two World Cup matches that are taking place simultaneously, Wimbledon, and the finals of the Asia Cup- of course people choose to crowd around them, punching arms and thumping fists, rather than indulge the unreasonable fancies of a person continents away. Justifiable. Isn’t this your perfect idea of an ideal workday? Gone are the days when you had to call home and find out from a disinterested mother or wife, who didn’t even know where the sports channels were, the latest score updates. Technology is in.
Interestingly, even in a cricket-parochial country like ours, the euphoria of the football World Cup has drowned out- albeit temporarily, as I‘m guessing- the cricket madness. The Asia Cup was only followed on the sidelines, when people had time to spare after having exhausted their overnight-earned football knowledge in heated discussions. Wimbledon seems to be faring slightly better, thanks to the publicity the Isner-Mahut match that lasted longer than eleven hours has generated. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, the perennial favourites, have also toiled to victory in five-setters, in a sense narrowing down the gap between themselves and the also-rans. Adding an element of interest was the departure of the French Open finalists in the first round of the ladies’ singles.
Also squeezed in last weekend was the US Open golf tournament, won by Graeme Dowell of Northern Ireland, making him the first European to win the tournament in forty years. Just another piece of worthless statistics if you’re a sports cynic, and a bit of news to gasp over if you’re one of the more sensible people inhabiting this planet. Golf isn’t just Tiger Woods- not anymore.
And in case you have some time to spare this weekend (discounting the mouth-watering England-Germany match-up), set it apart for the European Grand Prix taking place at Valencia, particularly if you’ve been watching with closely scrunched eyebrows the diminishing disparity between McLaren and Red Bull.
If you’re trying to escape the sporting madness of the season, sorry, you’re in the wrong year. If Shakira’s gyrating moves and the goal-scoring celebrations of the Wavin’ Flag song turn you off, please find yourself a new hobby.
If you are a bookmaker, go have a field day. For the rest of us, beer, popcorn and a good couch are always an option- I beg your pardon, THE option.