Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Best of Us Challenge

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Indians - biggest sports data/info mongers

Shabash hai hum sabko. We are biggest sports data/info mongers, at least on official websites. Let me correct it maybe, we are 2nd biggest sports data/info mongers.

I came across an article that mentioned user traffic to US Open (Tennis) website - usopen.org. It received most users from US (as expected with Internet users and event) and guess what 2nd position for traffic is grabbed by India.

This got me a little curious as usopen.org did have video content but only limited to US. I checked up for other Tennis Grand Slam websites. What do I find, again India has 2nd most traffic to these websites, except at wimbledon.org where its close 3rd. Interestingly, wimbledon.org had video content offering with live webcast of matches in whole of Europe so understandably UK had most traffic with US and India following closely. Australianopen.org and rolandgarros.com websites again had India at 2nd spot with host country traffic numbers behind India.

Then I checked it up for olympic.org and beijing2008.cn, official websites of IOC and Beijing Olympic Games, and now what do I find here. Similar phenomenon. Users from India are 2nd most frequent visitors to these websites.

What do you think, we were following Paes and Bhupathi all the while for tennis and at Olympics Bindra, Vijender and Susheel.. hmmm come on let's be frank, we didn't. Why am I little convinced, read further?

What about English Premiere League, hmmmm this is one website which I have visited personally once in a year, but my countrymen have already beaten me to it. Indian users are 2nd to UK here. More, same is true for manutd.com. But we do get beaten handsomely at liverpoolfc.tv, but we still remain 3rd for chelsea.com and arsenal.com, behind UK and Nigeria.

What were we following, imagining Rooney as an Indian sibling or what?

Now I threw in a further challenge, what about UEFA, FIFA, Soccernet, La Liga websites. It was too much already but traffic from India still features in Top 20 if not Top 10 on these websites.

I've not spend too much time in analysing what this all means but one thing is for sure, we have an interest, actually a very strong interest in sports. Ok, redefine it, people in India who have access to Internet possess a strong interest towards Sport related information. What to take from it, how to make the best of it, needs to be defined if at all thought about. But it is worth taking a note.

Kyun? Did I mention not enough of us get off reading it and doing some sport?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A great clip with highlights of Beijing 2008 Olympic Games that I find very interesting.

The video has some amazing moments captured from the Opening Ceremony and sport actions - eyes that are epitome of concentration; clenching fists; runs, swims, jumps, trots & movements that take last juice of an athletes power in their respective Olympic effort as if there is no other day left in life ; faces that shout; smiles that symbolize friendship; hopes turned into tears; tears that take shape out of joy as well as pain; dichotomy of sports symbolized by winners and losers; and then Closing ceremony that suddenly ends it all - the whole extravaganza, the jamboree, all hoopla - years of efforts finished in few moments that can't do any justice to what has happened.

Though video is also accessible through official website bottom of the home page.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Sports & abuses

Recently I thought let's spend a day watching TV and I failed miserably. I simply could not believe simple stories being blown out of proportion and no one making any sensible talk. Basically topic blown was 'Harbhajan Singh's monkey row with Symonds in recent Indian tour of Down Under'. I don't care what he said, Maa ki or Monkey. I tell you why? I don't even care what Materazzi said to Zidane that made Zidane do the headbutt just minutes away from being 'the greatest'. Anyways, the point is not about what would have been. The point I want to make and it is purely a personal view, is that swearing, abuses or whatever you name it have been, are and would remain a common substance in field of sports. And mind you it is not taking any spirit of the game away. But another important factor has been, call it ironical but as it may be, but its true that public swearing or such a public display is not regarded sportsman like. But few words exchanged are too common to be said untrue or deniable. If you have stepped on to field of any sport, ok may be I should put it as a contact sport or competitive sport or highly competitive individual sport, you just use swear words. Call these words as fillers, just being said for the sake of saying it or may be to push oneself that one step ahead or punish yourself for making that unforced error or missed chance, or the last bit to enrage the opponent. These are there in everyday life. If you are denying it, then you are not living in the real world. This is undeniable truth and the better way is that we accept this fact and get on with our life, on the field as well as off the field. It has been ridiculous that even the players and experts have denied this fact and made something or the other as their bait. Just need to take it easy. The attitude of Aussies as if they hear a slur or abuse for first time is nerving. And attitude of BCCI for not sending (as per reports) a good lawyer in these times when sports law is an evolved field, still point to the fact that administrators are not ready to professionalise, even to the extent of facing ire of own players. But the views expressed and denying the fact that such terms are common and not so foolhardy or nerving. Simply no need to chicken out, its you who made a choice to step on the field, so face the music.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Interviews Chaperoned

What do Jack La Motta, John Higgins, Will Carling, Oscar Pistorius and hmmmm Martina Navratilova have in common. Well may be add more names, Jack Nicklaus & Sir Jackie Stewart, Andy Murray, Michael Owens, Billy Jean King.
Commong theme is sports, art of winning,faith, belief, legacy, proving that there is more to life than simply success or drive, but that there are sacrifices. Ok for more, we better read these interviews chaperoned and each one tells us stories from these different personalities from the remarkable world of sports.

Note: If you don't know a name, still read the column, it tells more than just about the personality.
Jack Nicklaus & Sir Jackie Stewart
Jack La Motta (Raging Bull - the movie remember)
Martina Navratilova
Billie Jean King
Michael Owen
Jonathan Edwards
Oscar Pistorius
Andy Murray
Ronnie O'Sullivan
John Higgins
Will Carling
Luol Deng

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Master's 'Magic'

Sachin Tendulkar is a Master, he is master of his own class, he is world's top cricketer, ... he is jinxed. Wait a moment here, somebody also mentioned his last innings in Mohali where he got out on 99 as 'master choke'. How can anybody be so silly to make such a remark. Was Bradman a "super master choke", not getting an average of 100.
405 matches, 395 innings, fifteen thousand eight hundred and thirsty five runs (yes 15835 in figures might be small for some but not in words for sure), made with average of 44.23 at strike rate of 85.40, with highest score being 186 not out, and then somebody tags him as jinxed or choke. Are you insane or what?

In this figure add today's score of 97 as well.

To top he has master classed the ball to hit the boards with his straight drives, cover drives, cuts, flicks and paddle sweeps, 1741 times. Even that piece of leather stitched between a circumference of 22.5cm and weighing about 160gms would not have felt so worthy of being touched or whipped. And take stoke of another moment, those 166 times that same piece was thrown over the boundary, that included those straight ones or mid wickets one in Operation Desert Storm in Sharjah against Aussies, or that slap on Caddick in World Cup where ball had to be called from outside the walls of stadium and then unforgettable time to hit the fastest one over the cover against arch rivals Pakistan in World Cup. Add to these statistics today's ninety-six against the same opponents. Yes one more in 90s, yes 6th time this year, yes still that elusive 42 not there with just one match to go this year, chances are bleak. So what? Remember, it is only this magic wand of this master, that this is possible. Witness it cherish it and appreciate it.

We better cherish each of these magic strokes before record books stop editing on the name Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. Let the next generation witness those cuts, whips, walks down the pitch, those delicate touches. Failure, when nothing looks improbable just makes it humane. Isn't sport alive because of this factor only, adore the masters and still acknowledge life brings with itself a few failures at important junctures. But, finesse lies only in rising again and doing it one more time. Anyone remember story of King Bruce and the Spider?

And please try to create new stories, we have reached such a stage with this new team that thankfully Tendulkar alone can't be held responsible for any loss. But there are new stories about this team now. Why aren't we interested in that, Dhoni and Yuvraj partnership, which is flourishing like killing 1-2 combination.

Sachin, we shall wait for 42nd one, keep the brush stroking new scapes.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Has the 'Gaint' woken up?

We had all heard of 'new Indian left pace bowler yorking the opposition like Wasim Akram' but not 'an Indian Gerrard'. By the way, let me explain to all readers that Gerrard is Steven Gerrard, football player, Liverpool & England, and a player who plays with heart, guts, like a champion who on a day turns the outcome on his own, a glimpse of one of the great sportsmen. Coming back to Indian connection, remember the terms, first one "Indian Gerrard".

There are different parameters of rating a sport in a country. Crowd attending an event in, it could be anything, sporting arena, stadium, court, course, road side, rink and made of any turf or any size. But what counts is how filled that arena is and in most cases how noisy the crowd is. How much involved they are, how much fun they are having, how happy they are. We have seen and heard filled Eden Gardens. And, we have many a times ignored 130,000 strong crowd and passionate devotees in Salt Lake stadium. But how many times have we heard filled Ambedkar Stadium, a stadium that now boast of a green grassy football pitch in National capital city Delhi? With many more waiting and hearing the proceedings outside the gates and trying to catch a glimpse from any opening.

Second, would be how many people watching the action live on TV with reactions captured with moving eyes, tense & swearing faces, beer glasses or cans in front or in the bin and number of heads watching the action through the idiot box? We have seen it through cricket matches, football matches, people even getting cardiac arrested while watching the action. But how many times have we seen an Indian Football action, that too an Indian National Team, making inroads into homes around the country? Or, how much have we heard about Indian Football Team in something known as Sports News.

We have all read articles about people thronging the Tube stations in London to catch latest action of Arsenal or Chelsea? Or fathers taking their sons hand in hand to the White Heart Lane or Old Trafford, getting out of those buses or trains stations and walking down that path where they have seen or would see enthrallers like George Best, Wayne Rooney, Theirre Henry, Solksjaer and all put themselves on display. Articles describe the talks or rather exact match analysis happening after the match on return back home, in those buses, trains or tubes. Have you ever read article describing some Delhites analysing football match?

Have you seen that crowd dancing and shouting passionately on August 29th & seen those 'unusual' news items under Sports News or you read those articles talking about Indian Footballers, the coach, the win, the story, then something has changed, or is about to change. Yes, after much deliberation I name it, its indeed the India's win over Syria to win the ONGC Nehru Cup at Ambedkar Stadium. Agreed, it is not the best opposition in world, it is not the World Cup nor even World Cup Qualification, it is not even the Olympics. There was no Ronalidinho skip the heart trick, no Beckham curling free kick, no Ronaldo brisk run and goal, no Zidane-sque display, agreed. But what surely was there would have heart, guts, enthusiasm and foremost belief and a light, that rekindles hope. Hope for new chapter in annals of football of not just India, but World Football. Its an announcement that Indian Football is alive, taking new baby steps through its team and more importantly through its people, through the media that might have been looking for new story but hungry for this phenomenon called 'The Beautiful Game', through crowd that waited or saw the action live or for all those football loving people who have waited too long and turned their remotes to EPL, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga or CL. Now there is new belief rising, which augurs for I League, national Professional Football League, and most crucially a belief for the Indian Football. Wake up Football in India, wake up Sports in India!!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Meaning of Sport

Excerpts from a marvelous book - "The Meaning of Sport" by Simon Barnes, chief sportswriter at The Times

Sport is everything:sport is nothing. Sport is important:sport is trivial. Sport i packed with meaning:sport mean nothing. Sport is an escape from real life:sport makes real life uncompromisingly vivid. Sport is packed with contradictions: sport is the most straightforward thing on planet. Sport is simple:sport is complex. Sport is beautiful:sport is redeemably ugly. Sport is only about winning:sport is mainly about losing. Sport is about courage:sport's main subject is fear. Sport is for fools:sport is for intellectuals. Sport is about creation of a living mythology:sport is a soap opera of the tedious doings of tedious people. In sport you find the commonplace:in sport you cannot avoid the truly exceptional. Sport is about strength; about weakness. Sport is endlessly entertaining:sport is full of longueurs. Sport is predictable:the point of sport is that no one even knows what happens next. Sport tells us nothing new:sport supplies us with one revelation after another. Sport is about partisanship:sport is about the search for an abstract and unaffiliated excellence. Sport is about breadth of vision:sport has its being in the narrow and one-eyed. sport is about perfection:sport is about the endless fallibility of humankind. Sport is about the heroid:sport is about the craven. Sport is about the audience:sport is about the performers. Sport is about learning the new:sport is about the reconfirming of prejudice. Sport is about sex:sport is homophobic & homo centric. People care deeply about sport:people know that sport means nothing. For a champion:sport is matter of life and death:in sport, victory often goes to the person whom it matters least. Sport is a modern invention:sport takes us back to the most ancient parts of ourselves. Sport is basically uncivilised:sport is the first luxury of the civilised human, Sport owes everything to the age of television:sport is 65million year old. Sport is something you do: sport is something you watch. Sport is about action:sport is about personality. Sport is about ability:sport is about character. Sport is about discipline:sport is about excess.sport is about self-control:sport is about letting go. Sport is form of madness:sport is a great bringer of wisdom. Sport is waste of time:sport is something that can enrich all who come into contact with it.

Above all, sport is to be found in the testing:in the last strides of the 400meters when the body's oxygen debt seems unrepayable; int he innings you play when your side is 49 for five;in the way you stirke the free-kick in time added on;in the way you hit the penalty that must decide the game;in the way you deal with out swinging corner when you're clung to a 1-0 lead for 80minutes; at the point in the marathon at the uphill finish and you rival alongside; or int he way you rip the entry from the ten-meter board in your final dive; or in the southern ocean with time ticking away and only an albatross for company;or int eh way ball meets boot when you go for drop-kick in the game's last seconds; or in the apparent width of the balance bean you throw the gold meal back-somersault; or in the impossible weight you select for the final lift; or in the amount of air that you give the ball when Adam Gilchrist's on full song; or in the way you hit the long jump board in the sixth and final round; or in the way you respond to a crude tackle or a coarse insult in the biggest game of your life; or in the way you hit your second serve at match-point in the pin drop hush; or in the way you ride into the final vertical with nothing in hand after three days of competition; or int eh way you wait when you know that your horse has all the speed in the finish; or the way you row when you're still second with ten yards left and you've already given your all; or, above all, in the moment between hand grip and hand grip as you perform the Kovacs. The truth is always and only in action.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Chak de India - From a 'Reel Dream' to 'Dream in Real'

I've always been on the line of criticising movies, not just movies but people, life in general. But in this criticism of movies, it has usually been limited to short discussion, mostly on the negative side for the film, director or the actors. Just in case its good or positive, then it is limited to a small recommendation to people that do watch this movie. And generally, I make this passing judgement on serious movies by acting and screenplay. But here, I'm to discuss (ok first discuss!!) and tell about a sport movie (yes Bollywood sport movie!!). What follows is not a movie critique, but rather a writing inspired by the movie and coming up with few basic questions, sometimes answers as well regarding Sports, specially Sports in India. But by the end of it would be more "words on sports" rather than movie, but let's see.

I've been able to make one judgement about sport movies, those being good or bad depends, if those create a lump in my throat like that one felt before crying or with crying. If there is that heaviness felt in throat or the voice box just gets stuck and it becomes hard to swallow with eyes almost wet, even if tears refuse to trickle down, then the movie is surely good and in all probability great (maybe more because of my special affinity towards sports). And usually there is more than one such moment with one and last one at the ending of the movie, but at least one such 'lump in throat' moment. Be it Miracle (most notably Coach Herb Brookes leaving the playing field after 'the miracle', and to be in gallery under roof and punching the air all alone by himself), Cinderella Man (Boxer Braddock going to the local club and begging from the members to donate to feed his family rather bring his kids back home), and similarly for remarkable movies like Million Dollar Baby, Coach Carter, Das Wunder von Bern, V for Victory, Any Given Sunday, Rudy, Remember the Titans, Invincible, Seabiscuit, Chariots of Fire, The Greatest Game Ever Played, The Fastest Ever Indian, most notable among others.

OK, I'll continue to give reasons why I included such a big list, primarily to convince that lump story is based on class of movies.

So finally, the movie I'm talking about is Chak de India (translated as Go for it India or Buck Up India or Come On India, but I'm really not sure about this translation) because Hindi (Punjabi here with Chak de being words from Punjabi) in itself is so powerful language that translation losses its meaning a few times. Why Chak de Indian is different? Not just because it is Bollywood movie in genre of Sport, we have had movie most recent and famous being Lagaan and Iqbal (those had my lump theory element as well). What Chak de India has different is the game involved, it being Hockey (Field Hockey). Lagaan & Iqbal had Cricket, most famous and 'successful' sport in India. Almost all Sports movies, the good ones as sighted above are based on successful sports, popular sports, mass appeal and professional sports, sports where money is and where the popular audience is, be it Ice Hockey, American Football, Football (Soccer), Golf, Horse Racing.. maybe different once would be Chariots of Fire (Athletics) & The Fast Ever Indian (drag racing) and to be included would be Breaking Away (Cycling) and please excuse me for leaving a few more notable movies specially on Baseball.

So, Chak de India is based on Hockey. And Hockey being the Golden Sport in India, the National Sport, the sport which is just present because of its glorious past and has seen no present achievement in/by India. Even the contest between traditional rivals and erstwhile super houses of hockey, India & Pakistan, has lost its appeal. Another low came as the government degraded it to second degree sport. Nothing going positive for Hockey here, may be a glimmer of hope, but that too not in Hockey but was given by Cricket team's non performance in Cricket World Cup and thus providing other sports a light to be looked at by sponsors, authorities, administrators and public.

And then a Bollywood movie. But a movie on Sport and that too a contact sport like Hockey (Ouch!!). We Indians are 'soft', we believe in playing safe, get educated, get job, get married, watch movies and live happily ever after. If Hockey was not enough it chose topic of "Women's" Hockey. Suddenly it takes a turn to an art movie and non-populous one, maybe something based on gender inequality like Matrubhoomi. But no, its Yash Raj Films, a big, if not biggest production house. still not done, it stars Shahrukh Khan, the best known or second best known actor. But wasn't Sharukh supposed to come in family, love triangle, quadrangle movies with those teary eyes. What's is he doing with hockey stick and yes with those same teary eyes? And wait no actress, correction no lead actress, no Paaro, Chandramukhi, no Preity, no Raani.. not one, nor two but there are 16. 16 actresses playing hockey, swinging hockey sticks in promotions and sticking the ball and dodging Aussies, banging toughies from Argentina and winning the World Cup. Yes, movie is a dream setting, though based on true story of Indian Women's Hockey triumph in Commonwealth Games 2002, but aren't we waiting for such a dream. I was skeptical but after success of movie, I'm convinced, we (Indians) are hungry for success in sports.

The movie starts with a sequence of Women players called for camp for the national team, coming from various states. Now comes first critical point on the movie, it picks a sequence from Miracle. Coach asking each player their introduction and players answering with their name & state team. He takes out everyone until a player tells him, "ABC playing for India". As the movies show, Miracle, Remember the Titans, and almost all sport movies, there is some sort of discrimination against which the protagonist(s) are fighting, be it regional dimension, racial, class inequality, some times age (The Rookie). Here it is not just the regional dimension that has plagued India, specially the Indian Sports, but it has been added a twist with the gender bias approach. First, the regional bias, as we see it from other countries, not just from the movies, regional bias exist in each team, be it US, Yugoslavia, Russia, China, so giving reason for regional bias for our inefficiency in sports is just like chewing own fingers for no real reason actually. Second, gender bias, hasn't the Indian women performed better on sporting field specially in recent times. Maybe not better but competent enough for sure as compared with the performance of men athletes or teams.

I think its more a reason for our inefficiency rather than regional or gender bias for non-performance in field of sports. Its not just that, we even don't believe that we can beat anyone in any field, more so in Sports. We are already down by dozen points or goals before starting a game. But then we did well in cricket, sometimes in Tennis, Shooting. We could do it, (My apologies to the athletes as I'm taking their credit and giving it to all Indians here), ok we could do those, special moments, because those individual athletes believed that they could do it, they raised above the potential. That specific day they believed they could do anything, maybe act like God. But sports is not just about beliefs is it, but those athletes also had the basics right, that I take is there, don't we say we (Indians) have the potential, it is just performance on the big stage. Its said Sport is about goals, wish, target, but it seems like our goals are just limited to represent India, wear the national jersey in disguise and get the basics of survival, a job and living. Do we have to be so desperate to achieve success then, like being downcast Will Smith in The Pursuit of Happyness, another one of the lump theory?

What ever the answer is, this movie and its running to big numbers on charts is a testament that we are indeed hungry and desperate as well. Is it my wishful thinking or for real that we are feeling an environment for sports in India, maybe its because of those increasing numbers in marathons, those increasing registrations in fitness houses or people running/walking on roads/parks, maybe its effect of my involvement in the field and illusion thus created in my neurons, maybe Commonwealth Games 2010, or maybe this movie - Chak de India?

Why isn't sports being taken as career alternative? This would be research topic on its own, so let's just take on a basic theme, why don't we follow sports in school or colleges? One simplistic answer being, sports is painful and we shudder at thought of it, but so is life, isn't it? But I would take more on the thought that Sports is NOT for the intellectuals. Ok leaving me aside (why later..) from the more than billion Indians, Indian mindset has always been argumentative and in search of that Shunya, Nirvana, that high level of intellectualism, now pronounced by intellectual jobs based on technology, management or professional education. It has always been about "achieving" that, may I take liberty of saying it, achieving that absoluteness or being supreme. But not supreme in sports, because in our childhood, teens we are told that "kheloge koodoge ho jaoge kharaab, padhoge likhoge banoge nawaab" translating to "If you play you are going to get spoilt (dishonored), but if you read and write you are going to be the king (honored)". So, everyone else has been fool to run, jump, lift, score, kick, smash, land so higher, faster, longer and that too beautifully & splendidly and get those honors at Olympics or those different fields where action takes place, where sports happen. It is altogether a different story if you have thoughts like why should we go for honor or success at all in life. Anyway coming back, I left myself out because I left myself out of those so called intellectual jobs world to follow world of Sports. But in any case, are we saying Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi, Sania Mirza, Jeev Milkha Singh, Viren Rasquinha, Anju Bobby George, Rajyvardhan Singh Rathore, Anup Sridhar, Baichung Bhutia and all those whose name I can't include just because of space, from present, past, from India, from Asia or whole world, are all those sportspeople not "Intellectuals". How many option does a football player like Ronaldinho has when he has ball under his boot and playing the Champion League Final? Or, how many decisions did Michael Jordan took in each of his Chicago Bull triumphs in NBA finals? How many decisions does Mahesh Bhupathi take before hitting a volley in the court to win next Doubles's title or out of court to organise or launch new venture with his company? Numbers run from thousands to zillions for each game. That was the decision making done by the Coach Kabir Khan (acted by Shahrukh) in the movie Chak de India, for choosing the right position for each member, right place and time to say to players and same went for the players in final to forget past infighting and raise the game to new level and collaborate when least expected by opponents to score and equalise and later win the title.

That's what we need to do. Forget the past mis/un/non-happenings and act in present to take steps and grab initiatives to first equalise to the stature of being a force to reckon with in sports and then excel. We have done it, unleashing the potential, in the field of technology products & services, no reason that we can't do it in Sports. Not just to see the Tricolor being unfurled and hearing the sweet sound of anthem, but more importantly to engage this 75% population full of exuberance of youth for the well being and supreme health of the nation in coming future. Because those are the people currently thronging the movie halls and chanting "Chak de India"!! And giving us more such stories, so that our autonomic nerves and the autonomic parasympathetic nervous system keep creating those muscle entangles in throat to create that lump in the throat. As this movie (Chak de India) gave one, before providing another one at the final ending of it, at the 100th minute as team enters the final, there is a call from staff back home in India and urging the most experienced player that "Defeat is not acceptable now, come back as victors" and reply being "We 'll die but would not be defeated" and in the next scene the Coach watches tricolour being unfurled on the eve of Final. Making it not just a reel dream but a dream in real!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

My Date with.... NBA

I recently came across one article, which talked about author’s encounter with College Basketball, well I had my college (university in India) basketball encounters in childhood and then school basketball and then again some engineering college basketball competitions. My first experience was All India inter-university basketball competition and I faintly recall I was 7-8 year old and at that time even fiberglass boards had arrived and matches were played in floodlit open arena. There was enthusiasm and excitement and that was it. I remember I knew the rules are somewhat different from what’s played in US and I would go there to watch, wearing a black colored t-shirt with Portland Blazers written on front with the logo as well.

Then came school basketball in 11-12th standard. And there were 2 aspects, one whole enthusiasm and cheering our own team against our rivals in inter public school meet. Second was to see girls playing and frankly I hardly remember anything about it but I remember people always being excited about watching girlies playing, though I guess watched the final, maybe I was more interested in game than any thing I should have been interesting in. The shy-introvert me. Welham’s boys beat the MNSS, Rai in the finals before beating our arch rivals DPS, Mathura Road and we supported Welham’s as Mathura Road had beaten us the dipsites from RK Puram and we were so glad that they didn’t disappoint us. I was totally awed by how the coach opened new strategies to counter the lanky guys and attack and defense.

Coming to NBA for a while - Defense .. defense .. defense .., the sheer cheer for home defense as Lebron James lead the Cavaliers, sounds new live from the sound that comes from TV sets, gives me goose bumps still as whole stadia stand up for defense.
Same sound was so erratic and shrill but evoked same feeling as we cheered our college team (weak by any standards and technique) and still managed to frustrate the opposite team, as if they also got carried away by the non-smoothness of defense cries and remarks coming from front benches and receive huge comments (abuses) laughters from us again. I sometimes wondered how players could control themselves against such fierce criticism. I’m learning now that goes as one of the chapters of Sports Psychology. Sometimes we used to win and most of the times on the losing side but we cheered.

Case was similar here as I was too flabbergasted to even cheer. I was more awed by Lebron James than getting onto the Bucks cheering bus. I was one of the few ones who had seen the next great, next Jordan, next air, next kid on the charts, next millionaire rookie and all the euphoria that surrounds the next great…. LIVE in Cleveland Cavaliers Red jersey as they played the purple Bucks.. the Milwaukee Bucks. I knew them through childhood by remembering the glass and the cap, which were their souvenirs.

I was relatively very new, less than 40 days old in land of milk and honey and had the chance of tasting what –11F (-27F with wind chill) means and I got the feeling of wind chill as well as I moved towards my uncle’s car from the Chicago Midway exit doors. The air felt cool and wet and refreshing, but I got the real feel when I had walked about 10 metres and entered the door and instead of listening to some nice welcome words, I heard why didn’t I wait as suddenly I felt chill engulfing me. Thanks to a new overcoat and woolen gloves and cap that I survived. The same overcoat made me survive the cold as we entered the Bradley Center for the game night.
Before reaching there, I was witnessing the snow filled expressway and whitish brown trees all the way. As we took an exit from I-94 to meet my other uncles and all cousins with a gas station as meeting point and then all followed together towards Bradley Center.

I had no clue what waited there. I was not excited, more confused as how it could get so cold ever and what lay ahead. As we came out of parking area, I felt the same chilly wind but hardly anything as we laughed our way into the arena. Whole flock of people from different sizes and shapes were entering the arena. I was absolutely in zombie state as sometime I was awed by the whole euphoria. I’m not sure what I did in that zombie state and I hope I did not let myself be sloppy than I am.

Through the gates after showing the pass I followed everyone more silently than ever as we moved up towards higher floors. I’m not sure if I even thought about I not getting to watch the game from the benches near the chairs. But I was facing more surprises as was entered into a suite room. I do not remember the suite number, but it belonged to my uncle and I came to know that this was something.

We welcomed the teams with claps as whole stadia became vociferous with rock kind of music cheering followed. This was it. I wanted to hear all this. The view from up there was not so close as I wanted it to be but I was great. But I was kind of disappointed by the slow game. I could not imagine how come this was so different from the game I watched in childhood between two universities. But then game clicked and reached its desired level. The baskets, 3-pointers, blocks, assists, blocks, turnovers all came alive as crowd also boomed as game flowed.

We were served with snacks and some drinks and some other food but I was more interested in the game. I heard more and more about phenomenon called Lebron James and I watched him more and more as he led cavaliers all the way. I was kind of feeling sorry sitting at bucks home but still awed by the new prodigy.

Quarters ended, half time came and time outs taken and I followed the cheerleaders and the fillers that came in between. The aerobics performed or the show was good. In between I got introduced to some known and mostly unknown faces. One of my uncle’s colleague took me by surprise, I’m not sure what picture she had of me, but I was taken by her to another suite and I had never been this bemused and by the time I could think of any thing about what might lay ahead, I was led by her into a room full of unknown faces. And just then she called her daughter (I’m not sure really) and got introduced to her (and I forgot her name as soon as she said that) and I don’t even remember how I introduced myself. Maybe they understood my perplexed state or they themselves were feeling at odds, and I was back to out suite as soon as possible. And just then I was taken out as we were supposed to go somewhere. This was getting totally confusing and I calmed myself down and then I understood we were going to Locker Rooms. I was not sure how interesting it could get. Whole of our group by led by a guide of the arena and we entered guest’s Locker Room as well Home team’s and we were more interested in guest’s as we saw the shoe stack of Lebron James and others. Shoe sizes were as huge as possible and their gowns said about their heights and sizes. I could imagine the coach giving few tips and players pumping themselves before the final show down. Going over their anthems with some sitting on the wooden benches, some standing over and laying back along the wooden stacks. Then the walkway which would lead them towards playing area and the same way where after winning they would come back all cheered up, exhausted and elated. Then we also managed to see the medical room attached to the Locker Room and I for the first time saw how advanced technology there was present in that same arena. It was more for physiotherapy massages as well as handling any muscle tears or even handling the first aid of bone fractures etc. There were some medical gadgetry and we moved further back to the game.
The pace and the heat notched up quite a bit in second half and was at its pick in final quarter. I’m damn sure Lebron must have kept everyone in awe but no one really appreciated the visitor’s but Lebron had everyone awestruck and had the attention and appreciation a few times as he took Cavaliers to different level all by him self. Bucks had more of team play but Cavaliers rode on sheer brilliance of Lebron. Final few minutes made contest really close but bucks missed the crucial 3-pointer as Cavaliers took final lead and with they putting in from the line even though home supporters had all distractions in store for them, it didn’t matter any more. This “shutting it off” thing hit me really as how players in that arena could shun tens of cameras, hundreds of lights, thousands of howls and cries of support or against and still manage to play as if outside world are fools and just make them mesmerize with skills. Cavaliers had the win as crowd started departing even before the clock was showing the final 24 on shot clock.

I was among few ones who were interested in the watching the arena till last team member moves towards the locker room so that I could soak it all in as I never knew if there is going to be second time or not. (Already I’m somewhat convinced that NBA threw this shy guy out !!). People watched a good decent scoring game and were not sad really. As everyone faced cool chill of late night and blew colder in the parking lot where it was frantic search for our car, made more to wait as one of relatives completely forgot how his car looked. Regular laughter in shivering cold made it more fun as we finally came out of arena and I having finished my first date with NBA with all cheering embedded in core.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Greatest blunder of 2006 FIFA World Cup

If it was Ronaldo of World Cup Final in 1998, the greatest blunder committed yet in this edition was unleashed in Quarterfinal match of Germany and Argentina. Creator was none other than Argentina's coach Pekerman.
How did he do that? Argentina leading 1-0 and with 62% possession and controlling the game and here he comes up with 2 substitutions - Cambiasso coming on for Riquelme and Cruz on for Crespo. The game changed with Germany henceforth dominating an eventually equalising and then losing on penalties, Cambiasso missing his penalty. Ok, let's excuse Cambiasso of this penalty miss, he did gave us the best goal of the tournament, may be in history of tournament. But why were these put on when only 18 minutes were left. And why for losing sake - Riquelme? He was back in control, dictating the game to Germans in German half. Was Riqueleme injured? No, so far no such reports have come out. Then why Cruz on for Crespo? What was Pekerman trying to do here, nothing but trying to give chances to Germans. Why not Messi or Saviola? How come Argentina got into defensive strategy when you know that Germans were giving more and more space at their backyard. Whatever it may be, tactical move or normal changeover, it was worst possible decision and nothing but move to lose, which eventually did happen.

Pekerman resigned just after the match but not before leaving doubts if he did play any intentional spoil sport. I hope this is simple case and not the case of Ronaldo's mysterious subdued game in the final of 1998. Ok Football is beautiful game, then he has disappointed all of us, be it Argentina fans or people looking for an El Classico between Brazil and Argentina.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

FIFA listen - Get the Ivory Coast in

Get the bloody teams out, if there is something called Fair Play. Both Portugal and Holland should be shown the door. Police should be called in to stop the pandemonium happening in the ground. Even the referee should be shown the card he already took out four times already if not the caution one used already 16 times. Referee if did caught 12 incidents right didn't caught 5 other important ones where there was necessity of his second favorite card this day.
Nevertheless, Scolari and Basten both have not shown any great gestures and their fellas have simply brought great disrepute to this beautiful game. Figo head putted but survived, Deco fouled, Cocu fouled but survived and story goes on and on and simply neither referee nor the Fifa were in-charge.

England are already 25% in the semis thanks to their next round opponents, huffing, puffing, wounded, injured, barely breathing side Portugal, but beware there could be another battle, Battle of Nurenberg shifting to Battle of Gelsenkirchen. Please bring my beautiful game back please. Get the Ivory Coast in place of these bloody teams. Brazil where are you, please continue your art, I have lost my faith and more so as i expect another bloodbath between Aussies and Italians.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

World Cup 2006 : FCUK - French Connection of Under (K)conduct

Raymond Domeneche, Henri Michel, Roger Lemerre are three of the 32 coaches who lined up their squads for the biggest extravaganza of the world in Deustchland. But after 2 weeks, Henri Michel's squad is already out, though after giving the toughest challenge to all the opponents; Domeneche's squad the champions of 1998 are staring down the barrel and picture is gloomier for Lemerre.

There is something terribly wrong with these coaches that has undermined the performance of their squads. Either it has to do with their own playing careers or their tactics still lingering to olden times and no looking for the latest happenings and ignoring latest developments.

Coach Domeneche has clearly been the most reserved of all in his approach. French in there 180 minutes have never looked like scoring. Somebody please tell him there are mid fielders and forwards also in a team. It looks like there is no team playing out there but 11 players sent out to touch the ball somehow. Henry and Zidane look foolish in this bunch of play. Zidane's World Cup might end if other teams play to oust France here, who do not look like to do anything extra. If the game against Switzerland was not an eye opener, game against Korea proved it that Domeneche has total defensive vision as if they were taking it for granted that pre-quarter berth is assured from this group without even scoring a goal. When the whole world knows that Korea scored almost 90% of its goals in 2nd half, how can a team think they can win on a 1-0 lead, but Coach Domeneche did think as he took off Wiltord from attack and put in Ribery a midfielder in, when the strategy should have been to score more goals. Coach completed the drudgery by putting on Trezeguet for final 2 minutes as if Henry who could not score for so long would help Trezeguet in these 2 minutes. Thanks to Barthez's lazy thighs who stuck and Koreans aimed at those only and not the goals. It was a shameful performance if looked closely, as French seemed to be playing against a powerhouse and instead of themselves putting on the opponents.

Second in line of fire should be Roger Lemerre. Tunisians however proud of their Coach, should realise quickly that reason they are not in second round is majorly due to the French approach. They were worse than Domeneche's, as they lost their leads twice, thanks to Zaidi they at least drew with Saudi Arab, otherwise it would have been 2 loses in 2 matches. Again here Lemerre did not learn from his previous stint with French squad in last world cup and thought that a 1-0 lead is enough against Saudi Arabia. If that was not enough, he thought same against the Spanish Armada. How on earth was he thinking that their defense can withstand against all attacking Spain attack force who had blasted the Ukrainian defense to pieces in last match. Instead of playing the ball in Spanish half, he made sure that Spanish were attacking with full force. How come Tunisians give such big space to Cesc Fabregas. With due respect to forthcoming greatness of Fabregas, he was given too much room to roam around and do anything with the ball. Lemerre might not be talking to Fabregas' Arsenal Coach Arsene Wenger but must have watched this youngster and should have stopped this on song. Alas, he simply waited for things to happen.

Third, Henry Michel, though undoubtedly would go as most successful French Coach unless Domeneche or Lemerre can inspire their squads to go much ahead in the run, which is very doubtful. Michel was in-charge of Ivory Coast who were regarded as Dark Horses of the tournament but were dealt well by Argentina nad Holland and thrown out of the tournament fighting. Now Michel had one of the best African team ever to be competing in World Cup. The match statistics of all the matches of this team show how much attacking this team was than famous Argentinians or Dutch. The only problem was that Henry did not make sure his team plays a slight different game against Dutch having learnt from their close undeserving defeat at the hands of Argentina. Apparently Marco Van Basten made sure they learn the Ivory Coast Game plan but Henry Michel failed to make any change in his plan. Result was same, agonizing defeat. Why? Because Ivory Coast was not finishing. Argument might come that finishing can't be learnt in a day. But a slight change could be made in either closing on Dutch attack and scoring first, rather than always chasing the 2-0 deficit. So many missed chance speak of themselves. Thanks to a Serbian depleted defense ivory Coast got 2 penalties to score a win finally but Henry Michel should have made slight change which was not in showing even in last match.

There is severe need to bring back the renaissance that was put forth by Coach Aime Jacquet, as French are capable of much better showing than this display of Coaching.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

World Cup 2006 Predictions

It is prediction time so i've my cents thrown in too.

My semis line up -
- Brazil ,Czech, Argentina,
4th one I thought hard... hmmm i give it to Holland over Ivory Coast (African teams are not able to finish but this century belongs to Africa for sure) ...

- Italy should meet Brazil in pre-quarters,


Prequarters -

Germany - Sweden - (Germany wins because it has to reach quarters it being hosts)
England - Equador
Though my vote goes for Equador to top Group A but anyhow it would not matter much in disturbing the Semis line-up. But please take notice of Equador, they are deadly finishers.

Argentina - Mexico
Portugal - Holland

Quarters -

Argentina - Germany
Holland - Eng/Equ


Czech - Aus/Cro
(Somehow soceroos are my favorites)
Brazil - Italy

France - Ukraine (This might change but any team comes Czech should beat them by the way Czechs are topping the Group ahead of Italy)
Spain - Sui/Kor (I prefer Suiss)

Czech - France
Brazil - Spain

Though all predicitons have gone for a ride so far, let's see how it goes this time.

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Fan following

April 04 - UEFA Champion's League Quarterfinal Second Leg at San Siro - AC Milan's Inzaghi scored againt run of play to lead the leg 1-0 but Lyon's Diarra scored back in next 5 minutes to make it level and I was happy for this equalizer. Suddenly realizing that AC Milan is the team that has been my favorite since childhood. I've been longing to wear its red-black t-shirt and how happy I was when I saw the San Siro. But here, I was supporting the rivals. What had happened to me.

Was I moving from a straight fan follower to take a more generalistic approach of following better football? Or, I was just supporting another team that had no stars and thus was a weaker side, what if they were French Champions by far or what if they dominated the game for 85minutes and were few minutes away from creating club history of reaching semi-final stage.

This beautiful game raised many more questions about this fan following. How was I different from all sitting in San Siro and making a deafening noise for Forza Milan or Forza San Siro? How could anyone support Chelsea life long? Ok they might be champions, then how could anyone follow and support Sunderland when i guess 99% know they will relegate themselves or be close to it in Premiership? Moving to a different sport, how could anyone get behind Scuderia Toro Rosso, when we are sure they might still not get points if all other cars crash out in Formula One?

These and many more questions that neurons raised in something we call as mind, have been troubling me and i would like to find answers and give arguments and contradict a few times, to find some concrete answers to such questions raised by fan following.