I have always wondered why we need sports. It is a big money churning business, many stake holders and people are wasting so much of time watching sports. Take a look at us, Indians, when there is a cricket match; we spend almost 8 hours glued to TV virtually doing nothing. People take leave from office; spend valuable office hours discussing and analyzing the match and even people engage rough fights as in the case of football hooligans. Is a sport any good? Well, we can learn many things, I think.
Lets us consider a Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal tennis match. Roger is a flamboyant, beautiful and aggressive player while Nadal is a defensive player. Aggression is always preferred over defense. Then How Nadal wins? Analyze the game. It is simple. From the first game itself, Roger will go with all guns blazing; Nadal remains submissive initially and defends everything thrown at him. Federer cannot keep his aggressive best for ever in a match. After some time, errors will creep into his game, his serve drops and the momentum shifts. Nadal just hangs in there, waits for his opportunity, patiently, his self belief is immense, he knows Federer is going to drop his level at some point of the game and there lies his chance. He grabs even a single window of slight chance and climbs through that window. He converts half chances to opportunities. He has a very effective strategy. He executes it better. Federer may be more talented, but he sacrifices effectiveness to beauty while Nadal is ruthless. Federer tries an almost impossible shot at a very critical moment of the game to woo the viewers, but loses the point. Nadal will not attempt any such shot, his play is not beautiful, but he is clinical, incisive and ruthless. Defense is the best offense. Slowly we will see Nadal overpowering Federer and the tables turning. Both are legendary players, their styles extremely opposite. Federer too will not succumb easily, he will also fight and that leads to a fascinating game of tennis. These are valuable lessons for a viewer. What are the take home lessons here? Courage, self belief, perseverance, strategy, making full use of the opportunities, hope and above all, hard work; these are the modern management mantras, right. Sports are the best reflection of all the management mantras, sportsmen are the best managers in action; the best part is they do it alone, all out there, singlehandedly. It is akin to Lao Tsu’s “art of war”. It is indeed a war, a mental war. Well, these sports mantras can be applied to practically anything. Clearly talent is not everything. The channeling of that talent, the planning and execution is utmost important for success. So is the case with Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan in Shuttle badminton. Who is the effective player, I would vote for Lin Dan. Who embodies the beauty of the game? I would stay with Lee Chong Wei. Lee Chong Wei plays beautiful, but Lin Dan wins. Lee Chong Wei has many tricky and awesome shots over his sleeve, but he eventually fails. Those shots will stay in the minds of viewers, but it is a personal loss for him. Well, again, there are different views on this. Some will argue that the class, the beauty will prevail over the effectiveness of the play, but the statistics speaks a different language. Lee Cong Wei loses, but the game of badminton wins, Federer loses, but the game of Tennis wins, the beauty of badminton/tennis etched into the minds of millions of viewers, and in those lines, Lee and Federer wins, despite their loss to an effective opponent. A kind of sacrifice. A choice, too. Who is the better player? Well, I am not able to decide!
Another lesson, what will happen to a player, when he/she repeatedly get defeated to an opponent? For eg. Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova. Sharapova is extremely dominant against most other players, she defeats them with comfortable ease, but when she faces Serena, even on her worst day, it is difficult for her to win. Serena has crept into the mind of Sharapova. It is no longer a physical game, but a mental game. Serena too realizes that she knows the Sharapova game and she can defeat her, she is confident and that confidence will bring out her best game. Sharapova on the other hand forgets her best game against Serena. It is difficult to break that jinx. It is possible, but far more difficult. Learning from the mistakes, improvising and indefatigable energy/hope are required for that. More like an uphill task. That is why winners win again and again. They prey upon the opponents mind.
I accept that under dogs wins at times. The interesting thing is crowd always favors underdogs. The collective consciousness of the crowd percolates to the player, especially when somebody is playing in their home grounds; we have seen so many remarkable performances instilled by the crowd. The collective consciousness unearthing the hidden talent. Everybody has talent; to bring that talent out is the key and of course maintaining that talent at the desired level. It is all a mental game. That is why Managers look for Emotional Quotient (E.Q) to Intelligent Quotient (I.Q) in their prospective employers these days. Why E.Q is important is best shown in sports. Again Federer comes to mind. His opponents cannot decode him that easily. He shows no expressions at all. Even when he is losing he will not show his frustrations on court and so the opponent cannot really judge him. His presence of mind is superb. He plays his best shots under pressure. We have seen almost all great champions do that. As Jamie Murray quoted, these champions are like tea bags. As water gets hotter, the tea gets stronger. Yeah, they get stronger during adversity. Their fighting spirit unveils under pressure. What more lessons one need in this era of depression, in this era of people committing suicide. We need to fight oblivious of the result. The Great Indian Epic “Bhagavad Geeta” quotes it, you need to do the work and need not think about the result. No matter you win or lose, you need to fight. The manner of defeat itself speaks volumes. A hard earned victory is sweeter and a hard fought defeat is comforting and hopeful. Better luck next time. That hope can do wonders.
Sports also teaches us tolerance or can make it worse; consider this, India and Pakistan are two warring states, Cricket can bridge or make it worse. When India and Pakistan plays any sports, say it cricket, hockey or for that matter any game, it is more or less a war. We extrapolate all the emotions to sports. If India or Pakistan loses to one another, it is more than a loss, it is a National shame. I think it is a sad state. People get killed for losing as in Columbian football scene. We need to grow beyond such atrocities. Olympics, Asian games, Commonwealth games, the athletes are national properties and to be precise, national treasures. Athletes mingle with each other in the Olympic village and that interaction can lead to better relations, better understanding, for a better world. Millions of fans come together, millions of minds come together and thus, sports need to be seen as a unifying medium, rather than a divisive one. Sports need to unearth that collective consciousness in all human society. Sportsman spirit; accepting the failure and trying to win next time, congratulating the winner whole heartedly, praising the opponents fighting spirit, encouraging and giving best wishes for the one who lost for next time, all these are characteristics of humanity, which we see in sports an sports should re-iterate these feelings in every being. That the ultimate need of sports. To remind us of the collective human conscience.