1999 World Cup – India playing England in a crucial league game. India had to win to go through to the Super Six. As a 11-year-old, I was just mad about cricket like any typical youngster. India made 232. When the chase started I was feeling as much heat as the players on the ground if not more. Half way through the chase I started feeling chills. Believe it or not, I was running a temperature. My dad was amused to see his perfectly fine son catch fever watching a cricket match!
Switch to 2011-12 UEFA Champions League final, Chelsea were dramatically in the final. I was watching the match from my college hostel with 3 other Chelsea fans. Drogba’s header to equalize and his eventual penalty to win it for Chelsea are etched in mind. The moment the penalty was scored; all 4 of us who were shouting and applauding went silent. Couple of tears rolled out of my eyes. It was as though I had accomplished something really close to my heart.
Come to Australian Open 2014 quarterfinals match. Roger Federer was leading Andy Murray 2 sets to nil and the 3rd set went into tie breaker. I was watching the match hoping Federer would finish it off in straight sets. Though he lost the tie breaker, he wrapped up the proceedings in the 4th set. There was a feeling of calmness throughout the game which turned into tension during the tie breaker and finally glee when Federer won.
And finally a game as recent as yesterday. Oklahoma City Thunder was playing Atlanta Hawks. The game was tied at 109-109. Kevin Durant got the ball and sank a game winning jumper with 1.5 seconds left. Though I wasn’t watching this one but only following the scores, there was a huge smile on my face when OKC won.
The point I wish to convey through the examples is once you start loving a sport, it grows to become a strong feeling. Feelings can have a strong influence on you. It can make you go through a range of emotions – from moments of extraordinary joy to abysmal lows. Its interesting to look at some common manifestations of this.
The most obvious example is that of Sachin Tendulkar. None has affected the mood of a whole country as much as the little master. His dismissal meant TV sets were switched off. His retirement speech made a nation cry. The speech was indeed emotional but more than that it was the thought of not getting to watch him play again which made people cry.
Another manifestation of the feeling for a sport is seen through the high sales of sporting merchandise. We have all kinds of branded merchandise available from jerseys, tee shirts to even credit cards. All this cater to the emotional need of a fan. Wearing a jersey of the player/team you love adds a certain amount of pride to you. It makes you feel good each time you wear it.
Now if a sport can induce a strong positive feeling, a negative feeling may also be induced. A recent Telegraph article analyses how schadenfreude is a dominant emotion among football fans. In simple terms this means the failures of a rival club can be more pleasurable than the successes of your own team.
In football, rivalry between teams from the same city is fierce. But even fiercer is the rivalry between the fans of those teams. Fights between fans are a common thing. Sports have seen important consequences at a global level as well. Countries have fought over sports.
All I say is this. You can associate any given emotion with sports – happiness, despair, joy, anger, frustration, calmness and even schadenfreude. Unless you are a monk who has learned the art of staying detached from everything, sport is bound to get you to shout out in anger or jump up in joy.