Thursday, February 09, 2012

The Art of Fielding

There are a gazillion movies based on the theme of an underdog sports team overcoming odds to make it big. Invariably tucked in that narrative is usually an errant protagonist who finds redemption at the very end. I'm a sucker for those plots when it comes to movies, but I never thought I'd fall for it in a book too until I read Chad Harbach's Art of Fielding.

The novel was gripping from start to finish, all along making me reflect on my own sports obsessions. Here's my background; I went from being a sports fanatic who followed Cricket, NBA, Formula 1, EPL and everything in between to one who almost watched no sport in a very short time. I remember I had already tipped over to this conclusion even before I read this bit in Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent " sports -- that's another crucial example of the indoctrination system, in my view... it offers people something to pay attention to that's of no importance... keeps them from worrying about things that matter to their lives that they might have some idea of doing something about." Anyway, I was cured of all sports addiction except the one called Test Cricket. I've wondered often why that one has been so hard to shake off and this little text from Art of Fielding sums up why sports-viewing can be so compelling "The Human Condition being basically, that we're alive and have access to beauty,can even erratically create it, but will someday be dead and will not." While I know nothing of baseball, I could relate several pieces of the book to my own joy of watching cricket. In some oblique way I could also relate it to the travails of three fading stars in our own cricket team; Dravid who seems to have lost his sense of timing, as much in his shot-making as in his retirement planning, Laxman, whose insistence on sticking to his place has finally made it legal to use "unaesthetic" and "Laxman" in the same sentence, and that genius called Tendulkar, who seems to be selling his soul in the pursuit of some arbitrary numbers. I'm not sure if these protagonists will find their redemption and finish on a high, but right now they are effectively de-addicting me from test cricket.
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