Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ethics from a game

Today's match between South Africa and India left some important impressions for me to think about:

  1. That one chooses sides as to be able to belong and, moreover, exalt in the victory that might ensue for one's side. One wishes to belong to victory and superiority, that is. Similar situations arise even in more serious politics, in casual discussions, in socialization, and so on.

  2. That victory in such belongingness is necessary for getting that specific high also implies that one so choosing sides would have to face angst if his team comes out lacking or lost.

  3. Because it aims only at the loss/humiliation of another, this kind of pride does not really care to appreciate or even comprehend any other good or end, for example, perhaps the game itself. That is, competition here effaces the want of perfection. Calling it irrational would be wrong. Rather, it chooses a very narrow patch of reasonableness, beyond which everything is irrelevant. This choice we may call irrational, on account of it being without any reflexion.

It is interesting to compare Sachin Tendulkar with Harbhajan Singh, Virat Kohli or Zaheer Khan on field. Tendulkar's plan of action seems to be playing a good innings, putting up a good amount of score on the board, and putting good effort on the field. No verbal exchange with the opponents, no intimidation. Bhajji, Zaheer and Kohli, on the other hand, believe that if they can't bend their rivals by their performance, they must provoke them into it by language. Kohli, in fact, represents the blind fury that cowards and scoundrels would resort to when no avenues are left. His “भक मादरचोद !” yawp at AB de Villier's dismissal drove this point home. He also showed this arrogance at a Bangladeshi bowler who'd got the better of him. Bhajji and Zaheer are less rash: they scheme to wear down the opponent by words. And add to that, they are more proficient in their game than Kohli is. However, the point is that Kohli, Bhajji and Khan can never become Sachin, Murali or Walsh; their focus is not adequately upon the game. They seek to embrace victory even at the cost of indulging in trash. Sachin, on the other hand, shows an unrelenting love for the game, and concomitant assiduity for his team.

A slightly distant concern: Noam Chomsky has said somewhere that if one must support someone, the underdogs are the obvious contenders. Seems a fine idea. But throughout the match, underdogs keep shifting. Not a big deal; one can always choose the momentary underdog. This, I think, would come closer to 'detachment'.



  1. Personally, I don't believe in the institution of 'competition'; the whole concept, in my opinion, is redundant and extremely juvenile.
    Victory and defeat, then are the only two probable outcomes of competitive engagement, objectively.
    About underdogs, I think, the tag never changes; India and South Africa are experienced teams...so yes, it did shift, in that sense.
    And the underdogs were the ones who ousted us in the last tournament...that was fun to watch, I must say...

  2. But suppose India was in an England sort of position against Ireland? Getting badgered badly by them. Then, even though the Irish would be the traditional underdogs, supporting India would be the right choice, given that we want to watch some real action.

    I guess there was some sort of a cheering, encouragement for Nehra in my head after that six by Peterson. But my propensity to want to bask in the proteas' win kind of stopped me from that.

    Yes, competition seems lame, especially when you see that you are performing among buffoons. But suppose we found a community in which the competition was for, say, originality? I guess that would undermine this notion of competition that we have and someone opposed to imitative competition wouldn't mind taking that up.