Posted in Sports - General

A Reluctant Roger

Nadal-Federer - Aus Open 2012 Semi-Final

Today was exactly like the story that hardcore Roger Federer fans by now should be used to.

The story begins with a first round match which brings out some tentativeness in Roger. Then he paddles along with some impeccable tennis – almost reminds you of his era of invincibility. Before you realize it, he marches into the quarter final where he gets to meet his first real opponent. An opponent who is in the Top 10 or something. Roger brings out his best tennis and elevates his game to a level that makes you believe that this indeed is the grand slam that he is going to win because there is no way anyone could beat him in this form. He makes it to the semis.

It’s Rafa Nadal that he gets to meet there in the semis. And then it all ends. Dreams shattered. For Roger and for his millions of fans..

It is not that Rafa is better on the court than Roger in general but on this given day he plays into Roger’s psyche. So easily. Like a shrink working through a patient’s mind walking through the inner chambers to retune everything the patient believes about himself. Roger gets into a self-destruction mode. None of his forehand winners work. His backhand shots are as terrible as you have ever seen. His first serve % starts going down and ends up close to 50%. Meanwhile at the other side of the net, Rafa continues to play to Roger’s weaknesses consistently. Rafa doesn’t do anything extraordinary except keeping himself highly charged up and motivated to beat Roger at whatever cost. He keeps playing aggressive shots but doesn’t try anything new he hasn’t tried before. He knows exactly what works under the circumstances. Roger on the other end, starts losing it. He gets into a mode of series of unforced errors. Errors on shots he had comfortably played even in the first set. Sometimes he tries some new shots only to miss those too.

Then, it is only a matter of time for Rafa to prevail. It is only a matter of time for Roger to recoup and pack his bags to walk back to the dressing room in an elegant manner only he could do. It is only a matter of time before Roger during the post match conference starts telling everyone how he has had an incredible run getting into the tournament, winning a few minor titles here and there and how he has played spotless tennis till the semis and how he was unlucky on that day to miss out a few points, which eventually cost the game & the match for him, all the while making it sound like luck was not in his side even though he played better tennis….

A reluctant Roger, who continues to live in a state of denial marches onto the next grand slam.  And as a highly-not-so-reluctant Roger fan, I don’t think I can take this denial much longer.

Posted in Sports - General

Reconciling with the pigskin

13 years and counting. That’s how long I have been exposed to “American Football” and yet, I have never gotten around to enjoy the sport so much that I see myself playing it with the same passion that I do with other sports. And then there are sports that I don’t play because I can’t – but those are ones which I always have had a “Why couldn’t I play this sport?” angst associated with them. Football is not one of them. In fact for the first 7-8 years, I was a fierce advocate of calling the sport “Gladiatorial”. Not that much of my opinions have changed since then, but I have reconciled.

Here are the five reasons (not in any order) why I have decided to reconcile with the pigskin in spite of all my reservations:

  1. It is not just a sport in this country but a socializing medium.
  2. My son and his lack of choices in growing up with any other sport. He is limited to Football and Baseball (yes, there are others but the environment doesn’t promote them with the same passion)
  3. A good family pastime – Better than watching sitcoms or movies that may deem unfit for kids, I find sports to be a perfect thing to watch together as a family on TV. Again with very limited choices on what sports we get to watch during primetime, Football and Baseball rule the charts. So.
  4. My son and his knowledge of the sport – Not to be far left behind, I am catching up on some statistics (much to my own surprise) and some history, etc. In the process, I have a better understanding of the sport (not necessarily appreciation of all aspects).
  5. A safe bet – With my son’s growing interest in the sport, discouraging the sport forcefully and not making him watch or follow the sport, I figured, may do more harm. Hence I decided that it is better to understand the sport and not label it “bad” blindly as it will only make him like the sport ‘blindly’. Also, I feel it is safer to encourage him to focus on some “sports” than Nickelodeon or Disney stuff while slowly letting him know the dangers of playing this particular sport in the long run.

And finally – yes, I still think this sport is not something I would want kids to play – especially the way in which the rules are framed currently. But I have learned a lot in the last 5-6 years about the sport that I no longer consider this just as a physically dominating and mentally demeaning sport.

So, with our local NFL franchise team, the Detroit Lions doing better this season than they ever had since I started following football and with so much discussion around the games that happen everyday at home, I guess it was only natural that I had to reconcile with the pigskin.

I don’t care who wins on Feb 5. Yet, one has to pick a favorite. So I will be rooting for the Giants because that’s what my son would be doing.

Posted in Poem

A Healthy array

A Healthy array

Slithered almonds to seduce and shriveled grapes to cry sour;
Frittered cheese to fatten and flavored yogurt to stay fit.
Battered broccoli to bite into and brined apples to chew onto.
Crispy onions to neutralize  and cold edamame to whet it all.

An array to confuse, befuddle and weaken my mind -
Again, served for me with choices that no one will mind.
Posted in Cricket

In Trivial Pursuit…

As I type this post, I am being told by several people who seem to care so much about this record that it has been 302 days since Sachin Tendulkar hit his last century in any form of cricket. I have to confess that this record that Sachin has been made to chase has been bothering me as well, even though at the outset I consider this as the most ridiculous statistical record in Cricket you can think of. So to me this is as irrelevant as trying to cross 10000 total miles (or some such number) by driving a car and a bike combined over a period of time. Yes, there is some sense of accomplishment. But trivial. Because driving a car and riding a bike mean totally different things.

Yet, here we are.

What I can’t figure out is why this man is chasing his 100th century in test matches? Why did he opt out of the ODI series against WI when he had all the ammunition he needed to score a 100 because he would have opened the batting? And his record in scoring centuries as an opener is spectacular.

Of course, I love his batting. Who doesn’t? But I am neither a fan of Sachin to the point that I appreciate everything he does on & off the field nor a critic that I do the exact opposite by calling him a selfish player (which seems to be the most common accusation). So I feel I have a fair view in presenting my armchair punditry.

The biggest ailment in Sachin Tendulkar’s batting since he scored his last century on March 12, 2011 vs South Africa (Nagpur)  is his mental state. Contrary to what all his admirers think that he is doing a really fantastic job of carrying the expectations of the entire nation on his shoulders without much of a mental strain, he actually has been carrying a big monkey around his shoulders for the last 300 odd days because is a human being. He is not “God” (of course – I mean God in a traditional sense..not in a Higgs Boson sense). Beyond this 100 100s monkey, every time he has gone out to play for India in a game, I am sure he goes through enormous amount of pressure & mental stress that none of us will ever know of. By dehumanizing him, the Tendulkar fans have only made it more difficult for him to be what he really is.

Notwithstanding the superlative form he has been in since his last hundred, especially if you look at the series of 60s, 70s and 80s he has made, I can’t help but conclude that this monkey that he has been made to carry is taking its toll. Even though he has come out positive in most of the above knocks when he started off the innings, he had invariably gone on the defensive mode once he crossed 60 runs or so. This is a problem. Sachin Tendulkar shouldn’t think he has to score a 100 which makes him cautious once he inches closer to the mark. It is all easier said than done. But then that is what armchair punditry is about right?

I hope he works on this aspect of his game. Of course he can never get rid off the monkey till he actually gets rid off it by scoring a 100. In the meantime, at least he should tell himself that the monkey is harmless and it doesn’t do much other than just sit on his shoulders. If he can somehow tell himself that, may be..may be..he will not go defensive after he crosses 60 runs.

Having said that, in all honesty, I don’t think he is going to score his 100th 100 in Australia in the test series. I will be glad if I am proven wrong. His best chances were against WI in India. Now he has got to wait for another home series and more importantly, he should be willing to play the 50 over format games to increase his chances.

As the little master continues his trivial pursuit, so do we..