Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Two Comments on Sports

- Enjoyment of team sports is largely linked to the tribal instinct. As cricket in India moves away from nationalist frenzy to leagues playing each other without a national or tribal identity, Indian viewers are having difficulty enjoying the spectacle. The spectacle was earlier thrilling only because one identified with a particular team because of patriotic or regional reasons.

See for example a letter in The Tribune.

- Should sports be subsidized? There is something called the "sports quota" in the public sector and higher educational institutes in India. Sportsmen who have merely participated in a major national or international event get a reserved seat in preference to a meritorious candidate. Obviously, there is a cost to this affirmative action. And the cost is passed to the general public. Since participation in sports is so career-defining in India, there is widespread corruption in the bodies which choose the various players and teams for national and international events. See for example a news item in today's Times of India.

Sports serve various purposes. Physical activity, competitive pleasure, a surrogate activity for the hunter-gatherer male (less so for the female), entertainment for the viewers, an expression of skill (e.g. in gymnastics or diving). In India, an artificial purpose to participate in sports has been introduced: one can be assured of a degree or a job if one is a good enough sportsperson. Mostly however, the definition of "good enough" is participation at a particular level. And this participation is controlled by political appointees in IHF, BCCI, etc. There is massive corruption in this arena.

In a poor country like India, one is loath to make the investment of time required to become a world class player. This investment is not lucrative on its own and it usually means one falls behind in the normal rat race. To remedy this and to encourage people to take to sports, the government dangles various carrots to budding sportsmen. Instead of these sops remaining as means to entice players or to compensate them, these sops have become the sole rationale for getting into sports. One observes young children being pushed into esoteric and uncharacteristic (in India) sports like Archery and Fencing because these are the gateways to a secure non-sports-related career. The less widespread a particular sport, the more the possibility that one will easily become a national-level player.

No comments: