7 Mar 2011

Win or lose, it's just a game, isn't it?

Recent results in the two team sports that I follow (rugby and, to a lesser extent, cricket) have rubbed this message in, once again, with all due pertinence. In an age of increasing professionalisation of sport, with all that may or may not imply, it is sometimes hard to remind oneself that it is only a game, and to refrain from either over-celebration in the case of victory, of over-despondency on the case of defeat. I tend not to overdue celebrations, but defeat can be hard to manage at times, especially when you feel that you, or your team, have not given of your best.

Following a team you support (or an individual, in the case of that kind of sport) can be full of joys and also hold its share of frustrations, but neither should be allowed to get out of hand. Living something intensely does not signify that it should take over everything and distort one's judgement. I also believe that one should continuously strive to see and bring out the best in any game or sport. This naturally involves a true spirit of fair-play (ie playing by the rules and respecting those who are there to arbitrate them), which includes respect for the day's adversaries and their supporters.

There can be, especially with team sports, a thin line between ardent support and excessive language or behaviour, even if the language may often used in a spirit of derision and within the framework of participation in a kind of ritual. In other words, people get a bit carried away in the heat of the moment.

When your team wins, its can feel like this:

Firework display at Stade de France after a recent victory of Paris over Toulouse


But when it loses, one can feel like its a bad rainy day and you just hope things will brighten up tomorrow, or you become a little cynical to put the pain at a distance. Yet the difference between the two situations may be very minor, unless your team was totally underperforming (as happened on Saturday when watching the Paris rugby team in their defeat on their home ground against Perpignan).

The recent victory of England over France in international rugby, on the other hand, gave me no particular will to rejoice. This was partly on account of the fairly tight margin by which the game was won by England, at least when compared with what might have occurred. It is also because I live in France and so rightly have to moderate any possible enthusiasm in such moments out of elementary politeness towards my host country. And, to be fair to all my French friends, they were most elegant in defeat, freely admitting that the best team won on that day.  

Turning to cricket, the current World Cup series for the short, one day-long version of the game that is being played in India and Sri Lanka has held its fair share of surprises and cliff-hangers, and, with them, alternating bouts of heartbreak, relief and joy for supporters of the English team. An unbelievably spectacular tied game with India (possibly the favourites for the tournament), a shock loss to Ireland (good team, but hardly top notch), and then a very narrow victory over South Africa, who must have been favourites for that game. And we are still in the preliminary pools part of the tournament !

So, let's take our (whoever "our" may be) victories with modest joy, and a our losses with stoicism and the will to come back and do better.