WARNING: this post was typed after tasting the extract of a few finest and pleasant barley hops, so readers beware!
Last night as Arsenal battled Stoke somewhere on a little island, a strange thing happened in my little watering-hole-of-a-home. I was in the company of a few “non-football type” friends, one of whom happened to be born 29 years ago precisely on this day – or so he claims atleast (wonder how can he be so sure about it). Anyways, others too had had the good fortune of tasting the above mentioned delicacy, and were therefore quite vocal in putting across their dissent for my changing from VH1 to ESPN, but I doggedly ignored their boos.
Then, 8 minutes of captivating football (for me) or aimless kicking of a round object (for my friends) later, Sebastien Squillaci managed to test gravity more than others and (with the fine understanding of angles as of an astute mathematician) managed to divert the oncoming trajectory of the ball between two vertical poles. Fortunately for him, Stoke’s goalkeeper seemed to have skipped his school trigonometry lessons, and could do little to appreciate the line as the ball went past him into the forever waiting net.
This seemed to have triggered some juvenile switch in my mind – which off-late my friends say, is coming into action with increasing frequency – and turned me into a jumping, shouting and mentally unstable soul for the next minute or so. Now for the “strange” thing, suddenly all of my friends’ earlier hostility towards the broadcast seemed to have vanished, which come to think of it now, may also have been in concern for my suddenly deteriorating condition.
Everyone did focus on the repeat of the same magical skill, now being displayed in slow-mo, obviously to help people with slower understanding of the game. This was the moment I heard (and am sure the barley hops were not tricking my ears) a few ooohs and aaahs from these atheists. I agree that the goal in question was nothing which will go into the annals of sport, but it must be said that this moment of the “round thing” going past the ”white line” has some magic draped around it, which makes otherwise sane human beings turn into (at the very least) wide eyed statues or (at the other end of the spectrum) bring them closer to the antics of their long lost predecessors (read howling and chest thumping).
What is it – this GOAL thing – that so captivates our attention. To test my theory, I took a FIFA approved ball, painted a white line in my local joggers park and relentlessly repeated the process of push-the-round-thing-across-the-line. Sadly this seemed not to enthuse many, and those that were intrigued, left tut-tutting and pitying the state of my grey cells.
NOTE: the barley hop effect seems to have drained, so you can expect human text now!
So definitely it is not just the matter of crossing a line, there has to be something more to it. This something has been termed as the “magic of sport” by many while also vilified as our species’ innate barbaric tendency to glorify physical achievements. Whatever the truth may be, it cannot be denied that sport captivates our attention like nothing else.
We make gods out of mortals, cry with joy or sorrow and completely forget our own predicaments, just by witnessing action that is as remote to our life (in the literal sense) as a supernova exploding in another corner of the galaxy (the supernova mind you, still has the capability to bring our joyous moment to an abrupt and permanent halt). This then, ladies and gentlemen (and the aliens who are decoding this) is the intangible “spirit” all humans are born with.
Sport calls to us deep inside, and its not surprising considering its had time to hone that skill for the whole of our evolution period. If its not so, try explaining those goose bumps you got when Usain Bolt crossed yet another white line in 2008 (or is it really something about white lines??). Don’t take my barley hop influenced words for it. Mr Mandela in all his wide wisdom called to this spirit to astounding effect in apartheid infested South Africa. Tony Blair (ok I agree not the best of examples to quote, but whatever) recently said, “Sport has enduring qualities. It shows us how to participate in something that is bigger than ourselves. Sport brings people together; the self-wroth and self-belief that it teaches are values that can last a lifetime.”
So it did not matter if my friends followed the Gunners or not, nor the fact that Squillaci was as familiar to them as JJ Berzelius (provided the wiki link to help with your curiosity). They were nevertheless attracted almost subconsciously to ”that moment“ around which the sport rotates. For all non believers, tell me how many people have you seen queuing outside a TV retailer, watching the trailer of that long anticipated movie, and compare that with those you saw when Dhoni was pummelling the hapless Banglas.
I started this post by expressing surprise for the strange moment that froze my friends, but am only too pleased to state that moments such as these are here to stay – that is till that supernova finally decides to make a point about itself. Finally, to all those wondering what on Earth messed up my brain cells to make me type this nothing kind of an article, all I can say is, just seem to have done it lost in the “moment”.