Fair-weather fans

That some Pakistani in a corner of the world is doing something good in some sport is enough for us to become a fan.

Nadir Hassan December 12, 2010

I would like to join the rest of the punditocracy in felicitating Pakistan’s marvelous sportspersons for their remarkable performance at the Asian Games. After all, I’m as much of a fan of our women cricketers and men hockey players as any other hack editorialist out there, which is to say that in some dusty corner of my brain I was vaguely aware that they existed. I’ve never watched a game of women’s cricket before and I gave up on hockey around the time our team gave up contending for titles.

As we galloped to gold at the Asian Games, I was preoccupied by our Test series against South Africa, the Ashes and Roger Federer’s run at the World Tour Finals (which proudly embraces the hilarious WTF anagram). There was a greater chance I would have gambled on a dog-racing match than caught any of the action at the Asian Games.

Yet I am expected to join the orgy of self-congratulation. You see, at a time when our country is rocked by terrorism, such victories lift our national spirit. This is an astonishingly glib argument. I yield to no one in my passion for sports, but even I wouldn’t have the audacity to argue that the trauma of being in the vicinity of a suicide attack, for example, is cancelled out by the pleasure of watching a bunch of people, all of whom we wouldn’t recognise on the street, win a match. And if this view has any merit, surely the opposite must also hold true. Was there a surge in the demand for Valium as the cricket team lurched from one disaster to the other in England.

This same purposeless patriotism was proudly paraded when Aisam-ul-Haq was putting together a decent run in the US Open doubles tournament. Immediately, everyone become a tennis tragic, an instant expert on the Bryan Brothers’ strengths and weaknesses. This from people who wouldn’t know the difference between deuce and ad courts.

That some Pakistani in some corner of the world is doing something good in some sport is enough for us to become a fan. Forget, for a moment, that this phenomenon is a microcosm of the kind of dangerous patriotism that leads to wars in Kashmir, Palestine and Northern Island. It ultimately cheapens sport itself. If tribal afilliation becomes something more than the seasoning that makes the dish worthwhile, if it becomes our only cause of interest, then we miss out on the true meaning of sport.

The slow-building tension, the characters involved, the sudden changes of fortune — sport is meant to be a reflection of life. We give it absurd importance because the minor dramas of our life are being played out on a stage much larger than our relatively meaningless existences. Sure, we root for one side over the other, and have a good moan for a few days when our team loses. That is easy to do with the men’s cricket team. They are familiar. We have our heroes and villains. There’s jealously of and anger at Shoaib Malik over getting the hot wife and stabbing every team member in the back. We cheer every Shahid Afridi moment of insanity because he takes the risks we would back off from in our lives.

Resisting the urge to use Google, I’ve spent the last few minutes trying to name a single player in our gold-medal winning teams. I give up. There’s no way I can get excited over victories that have no personal meaning for me. I refuse to become a fair-weather fan, someone who can turn on the tap of emotions that sport invariably brings just because my country is involved. I could resolve to follow the fortunes of our hockey and women’s cricket teams but that would be about as successful as any other New Year’s resolutions. I’ll just restrict myself to the pain of being a fan of men’s cricket.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 12th, 2010.


Saad | 10 years ago | Reply So in your opinion, we shouldn't feel happy rather we should pretend that they did nothing. If any Pakistani brings honour to country's name then i think it's worth celebrating. It doesn't matter who did it. Kudos to all champions! As for the men cricket team, they are total disgrace. The less said about them, the better. I lost interest in cricket because of their antics. It was only because of the women team that i realized that not all is lost.
Don Miles | 10 years ago | Reply "I’ll just restrict myself to the pain of being a fan of men’s cricket." Then you cannot call yourself a cricket supporter! I am not suggesting you follow every twist and turn of the national side. Like so many others, you dismiss the girls with little or no first hand knowledge. Watch a quality game or two - still not interested then fine - but don't turn your nose up (as we say in England) at what you have no knoweldge of. I agree there are more serious issues in the world, but were it not for the lighter side, the triumph of a local team that fought hard for even its existence in the first place, then you must feel the human race has no hope of redemption. The world is not all dark. Don
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