We have our favourites in life and that favouritism percolates into sports in many forms. Our perceptions of the best player; or best coach; or best team; or best move differs and most times is guided by an individual’s understanding of the game or emotional tune up.
There have been evenings when I have been watching a sport and have been unable to fathom a person’s admiration for a sports person. What may be good for one can be bad for the other. This should be or could be the rule of sports.
Let us take a player like Messi . He is liked by many; adored by many and found common by others. Obviously, these others will find Messi common because they see a Messi in some other player.
So, subjectivity is a big part of sport. There are times when we may feel ABC is not at the right place at either the right time or wrong or that he should not be there at all. There are times when we wonder XYX was selected or dropped when there is an LMN who is better than him and should have been there and is not. The concept of bias creeps in and favouritism becomes the topic of discussion and it was during one session of discussion that my memory took me back some thirty five years back in time.
I must have been fourteen and was studying in St Thomas Boys High School ,Aldona. I liked the school because it was in this school that I was taught the importance of asking the question, Why. If you don’t know, ask why. This is what I was told then and continue asking even now because as one lives to die, one learns till one dies.
It was in this School that I began to understand the freedom of childhood and the joy that came with playing any sport. At that time, which sport one played did not matter. What mattered was the opportunity to play and so I began playing football, cricket, basketball, table tennis, badminton, gymnastics and carrom.
These were the games made available to us in school and I distinctly remember my school organising camps for us conducted by coaches from the department of sports. They used to come for a fortnight and I really do not remember what happened after wards because I was not cut out to be a sportsperson.
But, I do remember that when I was in St IX, I one day heard my name being announced over the school microphone – that is how notices were announced in those days – as member of the school basketball team. I was embarrassed because I knew then, that I was not the best and should not have been part of the team.
Our school was playing St Xaviers HSS, Mapusa and a bus load of our class mates accompanied us to the college ground in Mapusa. I was pretty sure that I would be part of the substitutes and that really kept me cool.
The match started and we were losing by a basket and were reaching the end of when I was asked to go in. There must have been a few seconds left and needing just three points, the ball was passed to me. Instead of aiming for the basket, I threw the ball over the board out of the ground and St Thomas Boys High School lost the match by three points.
Thirty five years later, the memory is still vivid in my mind. I knew then that I was in the team because the principal of the school – Fr. Archibald Fernandes- liked me. I was a naughty guy but he always told me my naughtiness had no malice. At that time, I did not understand what he meant.
This story comes to mind because many times we forget, the other is as human and is bound to tend his likes and dislikes just the way all humans do. A sport is not a science but can use science to make it more predictable and less flawed.Science and sports will never meet. But they will cross each other’s paths and complement each other along the way.
Fr Archie is no more. Apart from being an excellent history and geography teacher he played the saxophone and in those days was the only priest playing for a band called the Cascades. If he did not take his team to play in his VW van, he would use it to take his band instruments. And, after playing the whole night, he would return in the morning to say the mass.
Sports are a way of life, he would say. It will take you through the highs and lows. How you deal with it is how you perceive the situation.
If basketball was covered by the media in those days, I and the coach who put me in would have been razed the next morning. But, few would understand and do understand today that human chemistry is the essence of sport.
What is bias for some is opportunity to others and it is the inability to agree on this point that adds that extra sparkle to sports that most of us do not realise.