I am not watching IPL this year. I haven’t been watching much for the past two years. My cricket loving mind hasn’t been able to accept T20 cricket. Not much loss for me or that format, because my interest in cricket is gradually dwindling as Sachin will retire soon.
But I have to go through the torture of match updates on my social media timelines. There are some genuine lovers of the game who analyse a match threadbare and support their team too. But they are far and few. Most updates are geared up towards touting against the opponent team, make jokes at the opposite team’s loss and even worse than that. They have a decent name too for this – “trolling”. Are you a true fan only when you troll the other team?
This is not specific to IPL per se, I have seen this with EPL fans too. Be it a player transfer or a manager retirement, the fans of opposite teams leave no stone unturned (I have never understood foreign Football club loyalties of Indian fans – I am not saying that I don’t like certain clubs but fanaticism among Indian fans baffles me. I enjoyed when Barcelona were thrashed by Bayern Munich!!!)
I know these vehement fan trolling happens in the case of Tamil movie actors’ fans but I never thought this would transpire to sports. Interestingly, the sports trollers make fun of Tamil Movie trollers without even realising that there are no differences between them.
The truth is sports trolling is much more worse than movie fans trolling. Not long ago, we had a culture of celebrating sports and sportsmanship. It was always “the better team won” or “they played well”. It was never “they got raped” or “take that you bitches”. The reason why sporting events are living is because of the sportsmanship and not because some team is winning. Its about the fight each sports person undergoes to win a game and not the fight between fans that matters. The fan fighting is more prevalent during football games – every time Mohan Bagan and East Bengal play a game, you can rest assure there will be a brawl at Salt Lake – if Indian Football is like that you can think about Europe and South America. Now, Social media has given this raw power to people to do that brawl online. Sometimes anonymously, sometimes openly.
The most endearing part in Sports is the respect you have for an opponent as a fan of the game. Whether Christiano Ronaldo given a standing ovation when he was back at Old Trafford or Sachin given standing ovations at every Australian ground he visited during the last test series (even an Australian can’t imagine that), it was the respect those fans had on a sport and the way those people played their sport. Till recently, I was so proud to be a Chennai cricket fan, because we are called the “Intelligent lot” after that famous 1999 standing ovation that Pakistan received. With the attitude of current class of IPL fans, I think we have already lost it.
There might be players who disrespect the opponent but they are very few. I still remember when South Korea rallied to come back against Germany in a 1994 Soccer World Cup League match. They were 3-0 down but the Koreans scored 2 quick goals and the last few minutes were sheer brilliance. South Korea lost, crowd gave a standing ovation and German players applauded a new team that has emerged. Even recently, when Sehwag demolished Mumbai Indians in a league match, Sachin congratulated him for his knock. But this mutual respect is a rarity in a set up like IPL.
IPL could have made cricket accessible. It could have entertained people. It could have made millions (officially and unofficially). But it has killed a real cricket fan. It thrives on regional loyalties and kills the idea of being a fan of cricket as a whole. Every time I see an IPL match, I look at it like WWE Wrestling ring, where the players (actors!) intimidate fellow players and fans do the same. There hasn’t been any difference – probably, it has moved from the ground to online space. IPL was said to be something that will help popularising cricket and bring in new fans to the game. If cricket is getting fans who can’t respect the opposing team and who want to ballyhoo their win at the expense of losing team, I should say “God save Cricket” (Oops, sorry. He is retiring soon)