Thursday, September 27, 2007

Chak De - Go chase your sporting dreams again!

Being a sports fan who also loves movies, it doesn’t take a lot to guess my favourite genre. Unfortunately, sport has not been a very popular theme with Indian movie-makers. Actually thank god for it. Coz’ most bollywood sports movies have made me wince (so fewer movies have meant less torture).The regular formula has been to replace the standard climax action shot with one where the hero is making mince-meat of the opposition players. And the sports scenes could have been shot better by a blind man. The batting shots of Aditya Pancholi, Kumar Gaurav and Aamir Khan in the movie Awwal No. should be used to interrogate cricket loving criminals in jail. There has been the occasional decent one – the likes of Hip Hip Hooray, Lagaan, Iqbal and Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikander. But none of them has been a great sports movie.

This might sound preposterous but most of them are not even a true sports movie. They are more about fighting for a cause where the sporting activity was a means to the end objective. There is scope to replace the sporting activity with something else and the movie would be just as good. Iqbal comes closest to being a sports movie but don’t stir up enough sporting passion. Watching it, I don’t feel like getting up and bowling. The script also leaves a lot to be desired and the sporting scenes are no great shakes.

Luckily for me and thanks to liberalization, Hollywood comes to the rescue. They have given me a whole bunch of absolutely great movies. Ones, which have evoked the same emotions that made me a diehard sports fan in the first place. Movies like Bull Durham, Glory Road, Hoosiers, Brian’s Song, Rudy or Chariots of Fire aren’t about winning the game; rather they are about the victory of the sport itself. These great sports movie either make a player or a fan out of you. They have given me great joy and I have watched most of them multiple times over. However, I have still longed for an Indian sports movie of the same class.

Reason being – these Hollywood movies have been about sports and sporting environments I don’t identify with. I have taught myself to understand American football and baseball but there’s no way I can learn to feel them. There’s no way I can feel the madness of college football (which by the way is far more popular than the professional league). I will never have enough appreciation for the socio-cultural impact of sports in American history and I don’t understand the psyche of a nation which takes first place for granted.

Finally, the wait is over. Today we have ‘Chak De’ – a movie which finally makes the leap.

This movie is about India and a truly Indian sport. The situation is Indian and so is the reason.

Like most of the successful Hollywood flicks, this movie is based on a true story – a story of redemption which will motivate sportsmen and non-sportsmen alike. A true story, which is very believable and shies away from the regular ‘hero is a superman’ histrionics. The sporting scenes have been shot really well and the actors are very real.

More importantly, this movie brings the nation’s attention back to hockey – a sport languishing from apathy and lack of mass support. It’s actually the best thing which has happened for hockey in a long long time. It also does its bit for national unity, communal harmony and girl power. It has its drawbacks but they are minor and can be ignored in light of all the good stuff.

While all of this has been talked and written about in great detail; it also does something which puts it in a different league from the likes of Hip Hip Hooray, Lagaan, Iqbal and Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikander.

‘Chak De’ reminds you of all the reasons, why people play competitive sport. It reflects on the purity of sport. Takes you back to the age of innocence when playing the game was all that mattered and you were ready to make every kind of sacrifice for another round of your favourite sport. (Remember the scene where the players put egos aside for a chance to play) When winning the game was the only thing which gave you a kick in life. Puts you in back in a situation where the sport and sportsmen are untouched by its crass commercialization.

If you have ever been part of a sports team, you were ready to live and die for; Chak De is a vicarious experience which will give you the goose bumps. It’s a movie about honest sportsmen - the kind we all aspired to be when we first started playing the game. The emotion of putting on an India blazer is palpable; you almost want to go back and take another shot at relieving your sporting dreams.

In the movie, Komal Chautala’s character, dribbling around scooters and bikes brings a touch of remorse. This is what millions of kids should have been doing in this country (just like kids continue to dribble a football in the by lanes of Brazil). India would have continued to dominate world Hockey. I actually felt guilty for never having played our national game.

Most of us dream of writing a book and making a movie. ‘Beyond a Boundary’ is the kind of book I dream of writing some day and Chak De is the kind of sports movie, I would want to make. I will leave you with my favourite sports quote which comes from my second favourite sports movie (Bull Durham – watch it even you don’t understand baseball. Just the dialogues are worth the money)

A good friend of mine used to say, "This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains." Think about that for a while.

Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, September 6, 2007

There is nothing like an over-valued footballer

The transfer window in European football just closed. All-off season long football scribes and analysts have had a field day roasting club managers and executives alike. The reason for their unusual affection is the supposedly inflated transfer fees paid for some of the players this time round. They have questioned the financial prudence of the men in charge - in handing out sums which far exceeded the 'true market value' of these players. A statistic often referred to has been the increase in total transfer spends from around 300 million pounds last year to approximately 500 million this time round.

I have a few words of advice for the men from the media. Do your homework properly. The balance sheet of a club includes two columns – earnings and expenses. So, while you are raising the roof about the expenses, throw some light on the earnings as well. Clubs have never been richer. As football scales new heights of global popularity, revenues from television rights and sponsorship deals are going through the roof. Big clubs like Real Madrid are set to make more than 100 million pounds annually from television deals alone. Money from ticket sales has also been growing exponentially as clubs continue to hike ticket prices (taking advantage of the demand –supply mismatch caused by the burgeoning fan-bases). So, as earnings continue to grow rapidly, why worry about increasing transfer budgets.

The people in European football would also do well to follow the financial news in some other sports like Formula One, baseball, basketball and the American version of football. For those of you who gasp at the ‘inflated’ amounts paid out for footballers, read this. Baseballers Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter signed 10 year contracts for 252 and 189 million in 2001 (try estimating the value of their new contracts in 2011). Drivers Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen get annual payments of 40 million and 51 million respectively. Here’s a complete list of largest sports contracts. There isn’t a single footballer on the list (not even David Beckham). And Football happens to be infinitely more popular than any of these sports. Blame the men who run the game for not making enough money out of it (to pay for transfers and contracts).

Finally, I would like to know the exact valuation methods used to calculate the so-called ‘right value’ of these players. Talented footballers are an extremely rare breed. The fans, who fill the coffers of the clubs, pay to watch these ‘over valued’ players. Someone is yet to devise a method to calculate the value of rare items. Rare items are auctioned to the highest bidder. I would like to see similar criticism for every item auctioned by the likes of Sotheby’s and Christie’s. There is nothing like the inherent value of a player. His efficacy for a club is contingent on numerous factors beyond his control – the system the team plays, the other players in the team and his role in the system. A player’s failure is merely indicative of his inability to play in the role given to him and not an inability to play the game itself. Blame the manager for not giving him the right role and not for the money paid for his transfer.

Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

An invitation to iSport

Dear fellow sports fans

I cordially extend an invitation to all of you to come visit Its got articles on all the popular sports and there is a very interactive forum section as well.

I have so far contributed 6 articles in all. Here’s a direct link and a brief description for your benefit

Fleeting brilliance and eternal longing

The history of sport is made by the people who play it. But many a times, some destined to be the best, unfortunately depart us before they can show the world what they are truly capable of. This article remembers a few such souls who have left us with a lasting impression in the short time they have spent with us.

The balance of money shifts to England

As the English clubs line up big money for the top players, we take a look at this latest phenomenon that has the premiership clubs.

Rain and Borg at Wimbledon 2007

This article takes a second look at a rain soaked Wimbledon 2007 and a re-look at Bjorn Borg’s record

All the good men- A US Open Preview

Federer’s uncertain form has raised hopes of a new winner at this year’s US Open. This article profiles the top dogs to wrest the crown away from FedEx. He includes a few surprises as well!

Danica Patrick and Formula 1: Made for each other

F1 is a sport dominated by men. However, the profile of the drivers may change. This article speaks of why Danica Patrick can be a revelation in a sport where women have more often been spotted in the arms of their more famous halves...

India's favorite stop on the ATP tour

The Hall of Fame tournament has seen many an Indian great lift the title. Indians have consistently enjoyed success here despite their poor performance otherwise on the ATP circuit. This article understands why and explains

Will await your comments and valuable feedback



Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, September 1, 2007

A good time to be an Indian sports fan

A lot has happened in my life lately, and its kept me away from commonfan for a while. things have settled down now and the period of neglect is over. This post is going to be a recap of all thats happened while I was away.

One of the developments has been the start of a new sports website called Its come from the collective effort of a group of hard-core sports lovers. I have started writing on the site and it already has five of my articles. I would encourage all of you to go to isport. My favourite section is jabberoni, which is a forum for discussions and debates. Iam already addicted and most of you will follow suit, once you go there.

Commonfan will not suffer beacuse of isport. Infact, there will be no overlap in the stuff on the two pages. This will reduce the amount of content on commonfan but rest assured, it will be regular.

So, here's my first post.

India have won the test series in England. Will talk no more about it. Its a massive achievement in itself and we have to be proud of it. We always do well, when our batsmen fire. And this was a major collective effort - the likes of which we have seen very few.

The ICL is moving ahead with full speed. The BCCI is making knee-jerk changes but is clearly losing face. Luckily for them, the ICC and other major cricket boards are firmly behind them. Their proposed response to the ICL; the PCL is a long distance away and merely a creation to drive sponsors away from the ICL. Subhash Chandra need not worry. There is no dearth of advertizing moolah in this country when it comes to cricket.Iam really looking forward to the ICL.

At long last, the new EPL season is here. Man United have struggled initially. But Iam not worried. Let the new dudes settle down and injured players return. Liverpool finally look like taking on the big two. The biggest surprises have been Man City and almost all the new signings have excelled. The biggest star, however, has been Kasper Schmiechel. Lastly, my man, Michael Chopra has made a dream start with a match-winner on day one.

Continuing with a football, India have won the Nehru Cup. Its a big win - our biggest triumph in a long long time. Mr. Houghton seems to be on the right track. Just wondering if Chopra could agree to play for India. Bhutia and Chopra would be more than a handful together. Dream on Indian football fans.

Tiger Woods won the PGA Championship to silence all the doubters about his ability to win majors. No, his daughter has not taken his focus off his game. Sadly, our great hope - Jeev was not at his best and missed the cut. Hope he builds on his feats and doesn't go the way of fellow pro Arjun Atwal. Atwal had a promising first season on the US PGA tour but has struggled this year and is in grave danger of losing his tour card.

The US Open is on and players are already in the third round. Iam rooting for Novak Djokovic and Sania Mirza. The Serb has easily been the third-best player on tour after Federer and Nadal and took a major step towards challenging the two at the Montreal Masters. Consecutive wins over Nalbandian, Roddick, Nadal and Federer is testimony to his growing stature. I expect a breakthrough performance at the Open. Sania has had a great hard court season and is well positioned to match her fourth round performance of 2005.

Finally, hats off to my star performer of the period. Anup Sridhar has taken a big step forward in his career with a quarter-final appearance at the World Championships. He scalped two top players and almost beat the worlds best player in the quarters. He has the potential to become the next 'great Indian badminton player'; following in the foot-steps of Padukone and Gopichand. Remember, how training in Denmark with Morten Frost made Prakash such an improved player. A similar experience would do a world of good for Anup. He has been running around for sponsors and really needs help. Lets pray that one of the big corporate houses takes him under their wings and helps him realize his potential.

For once, its good to be an Indian sports fan.

Sphere: Related Content