Tuesday, October 10, 2006

End it like Beckham?

Column: Back Talk Author: Murali Gopy Publication: Sports Today: Isuue: September/2006

An extraordinarily ordinary month. Wherein Darrell Hair tampered with the truth and Inzamam-ul-Haq trudged out of the match. Wherein David Beckham was thrown out of the team and Marion Jones was trapped in the loo. Wherein Merlene Ottey trotted to yet another bronze coin and Sania Mirza, yet again, took the first door out. Wherein alliteration seemed to suit the pen more than profound observation.

Strange, but it has become impossible for the sports buff to keep himself posted on the latest without simultaneously opening a “urine sample ledger”—a document that demands religious diligence in jotting down the dope history of your favourite star. Doping is no longer a Dog-bites-man story. It has become a Man-bites-dog headline. A portend as ominous as the ice sheets that fell off the berg into the deck of the Titanic. Tragedy is in the making.

Sports has obviously outgrown itself in the sense that it is now beheld as an industry rather than a podium for physical excellence and graceful contest. Gatlin, Landis, Marion—degraded to mere words that denote crass ambition. Where are the good men?

If you are not exactly looking for good men but style leaders and designer heroes, you don’t have to go west beyond the Greenwich. David Beckham, with looks that can substantiate even a myth of direct descend from the Greek pantheon (“Until he talks” is the rejoinder from my colleague), is on his way out.

In a career so greatly overrated, thanks to screaming lasses and globalization, David has been a touch-me-not hunk known for flitting on the right wing, running around like hesitant rabbit, launching an occasional cross, and a kick that came free with him. The only lasting picture of this Brit is his artistic stroll to the dressing room after the final whistle, with an unspoiled puff and a face as fresh as a bluebottle. The star reassured himself with occasional changes in hairstyle, outrageous tattoos, an inventive dress sense and a spice girl. Even when he cried, like on that quarter final night when he injured his Achilles tendon (Greek again), David did it with rehearsed charm. The picture of him sitting on the benches, with his dark blue eyes twinkling in newfound tears, is for the impressionists. The bathos, however, would belong to the dramatist.
That David Beckham led England from the back is too obvious to be stated. His presence inspired no awe. He made the football field look like a ramp. And the English team, under him, clanked on like an indigenous automobile of the Cold War Third World. Well, Steve McClaren is a brother-in-thought. No more belief in bends. He allowed David to end it like Beckham!
Meanwhile, in a hotel launch Down Under, the phantom sees yellow.
Brett Lee and Michael Clarke are spending days cutting cakes that are modeled on the Ashes Urn. One copy editor has given a trenchant caption for the picture: They want I back... Badly”. Yes indeed. The Aussies have a real chance at that, especially since international cricket laws forbid England from exporting winning accessories such as Darrell Hair along with the team luggage.
Back to where it really matters, cricket matches were getting cancelled and postponed, thanks to man’s innate tendency to hate each other. In the land where the Buddha meditates in the midst of flowering bombs, fans were disappointed with the rain gods who prevented Sachin Tendulkar from “coming back”.
The ethnic strife, that suddenly turned bloody, invaded the South African psyche so much so that the board displayed sound symptoms of war neurosis. It is time for the Proteas to browse a few libraries and have eleven paperbacks of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. Players of our times are expected to be voracious readers. Or so is the credo of the quirky and quixotic Artist of War, Phil Scolari. Three screams and a war cry for him!.



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