May 28, 2013

What I despise most about fixing

That it distracts me from the real thing and tells me that I am wasting my time, that I'd do better to find other ways to while away the hours

We no longer remain fans when things that happen off the field, while important to understand, make us lose sight of the game itself © BCCI

At 9.30am or so on Sunday morning, with the IPL final due to begin at 10.30am, and with babysitting finally arranged, I tried to organise an IPL final-viewing party. I sent out three invitations, by email, text message, Twitter and Facebook. All three were politely declined; one friend was out of town, the other two rightly found my Sunday morning invitations a little too late. What a drag. I wasn't upset about watching cricket alone; I've been doing just that for over 25 years now. What I really wanted was a chance to talk about fixing, to vent a bit, to spin out a few conspiracy theories, to tell a few morality tales, to imagine possible futures involving lifetime suspensions, jail terms, resignations, whistle-blowing, independent commissions of investigation and so on.

But even if my little IPL-fixing gossip extravaganza had worked out, what would have transpired would have been unfortunate. A game of cricket would have been on, and three serious fans - all cricket bloggers and writers - would have been talking about anything but. In short, that most wretched of situations for a sports fan would have been allowed to transpire: the happenings on the ground would have been overshadowed by what happened off it, so much so that the actual sporting action would seem to be a mere epiphenomenon of the truly important substrate. The IPL final did seem very much like a diversion; it was supposed to have been the main event, but instead it had become a sideshow.

As a sports fan who likes to think of himself as a member of the "serious" class of that demographic, I enjoy embedding sport in its broader social, cultural, economic and political contexts; indeed, it is these contexts that elevate sport above mere coordinated physical exertion and give it its most resonant and rich meanings. Such a placement in context does a great deal to enhance and make richer my appreciation of the on-field endeavours of those who play the game; I track my growth in maturity as a fan as correlating quite closely with the increasing attention I paid to cricket's history, economics and culture. Taking one's eyes off the on-field action to look behind and around is thus a crucial aspect of understanding it better.

But these broader inquiries should never make us lose sight of the bare bones of the game, the basic bat-on-ball stuff. When that happens, we have been distracted adversely and our attention, supposedly meant for the game, has been consumed elsewhere. We aren't being fans of the game any more; we have been suckered into something else altogether.

My resentment and frustration about the latest fixing scandal to strike cricket is grounded not just in in a very real weariness about the unending capacity for stupidity and greed on the part of cricket's players and managers. (Killing golden geese is always tempting; too many seem to have succumbed recently.) It is a reaction, too, to fixing's insidious ability to make cricketing action seem like a bizarre simulacrum of the real thing, to render ersatz that which I need to believe real in order to sustain my fanhood.

What I despise most about fixing is that it slaps me upside the head and tells me I'm wasting my time, that I'd do better to find other ways to while away the hours, that I should just move on, for there is no cricket here to be seen.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

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  • Dummy4 on May 30, 2013, 17:55 GMT

    Now everytime I see a bowler deliver a no-ball I can't help but wonder "Was that a genuine no-ball or was that part of a spot fixing conspiracy ". It really gets to you doesn't it?

  • Dummy4 on May 30, 2013, 15:37 GMT

    A few miles north of where you are, the situation is much the same with me.

    I couldn't muster a partner, much less a crowd to watch any IPL games. Finally it so transpired that I didn't either.. though I had accepted long ago that I'm watching "augmented reality" shows, the recent uproar proved the last straw.

  • Rav on May 30, 2013, 11:31 GMT

    Intelligent, discerning readers wishing to know the future of the T20 format should take a look at how Italian football has declined since the 1990s. Italian domestic football provides the most pertinent example of how corruption slowly eats away at a beloved nations sport like a cancer -- the public being barely aware of just what is being lost, or the speed with which public interest crumbles over time. Like Indian cricket, there was a time when Italian football was full of confetti, fire crackers and the culture of the spectator was the true driving force and face of the game. In Italy, the average person on the street has all but lost interest in football, and stadia which were once packed out in the 90s are empty today. However unthinkable, this is the fate which awaits the IPL if they fail to act soon.

    There are no magic silver bullets to prevent fixing. Because of globalization and the constantly high levels of economic expectation in the world today, greed knows no limits.

  • Dummy4 on May 29, 2013, 16:58 GMT

    @WheresTheEmpire I cnat agree that preparing a pitch to suit your teams strengths as fixing, both teams still play on the same pitch. Samir I like your 3 friends decided not to watch the Finals after realising I had wasted the best part of 2 months watching a Bollywood production. nothing against the productions but would have liked to know I do at times watch WWE matches.

  • Abhishek on May 29, 2013, 7:46 GMT

    Samir - while I share your frustrations, I think the kind of "gossip" you were hoping to indulge in is precisely what we as serious fans need to do. It may be painful, it may, as you say, adversely impact on our experience - but unless there is some kind of an uproar (an every uproar starts with a few whispers in living rooms), there is very little scope for change.

    It's better we compromise now, vent and hope it leads to some change, than god forbid, be disenchanted from the game forever.

  • vishal on May 29, 2013, 7:43 GMT

    well yes... it forces u to think that u r wasting ur time... how u would know dat a dropped catch wasnt conspired or a missed run out chance or a last over full toss that turned the match wasnt fixed.... u begin to question each and every missed opportunity...each mistake on the field appears to be a part of agreement off the field..

  • Arvind on May 29, 2013, 2:52 GMT

    It isn't such a big deal. IPL is just like WWE or a TV series, where you know that the artists perform as per a pre-determined script, but it is entertaining nevertheless.

  • Vinod on May 28, 2013, 23:45 GMT

    .." As a sports fan who likes to think of himself as a member of the "serious" class of that demographic, I enjoy embedding sport in its broader social, cultural, economic and political contexts; indeed, it is these contexts that elevate sport above mere coordinated physical exertion and give it its most resonant and rich meanings"-wow Samir - encapsulates what am sure is the feeling of 1000's of fans regardless of nationality. The IPL was always going to be a magnet for the fixers, & other undesirables, wish the cement heads @ BCCI were more proactive in rooting this out. Thankfully IPL is over and we can look forward to real meaningful cricket-Tests-the Ashes....To WherestheEmpire - ur comments above-spot on buddy, doctoring the pitch is akin to match fixing and sorry to say India leads in this, wish this could be stopped as well.

  • ian on May 28, 2013, 17:31 GMT

    What a cri de cour is here, Samir! Nontheless, I'm glad that you've decided to share your pain & misery with readers of cricinfo - where, for the most part, you'll find sympathetic ears & open minds - although it seems to me that the latter are more readily found outside India. Despite it being the cricket season (or what passes for such, amid the rain & cold) in England, to anyone who has the good of cricket on the larger stage at heart, the seismic goings-on in India are, to me & those like me, of overriding importance. It is vital that true lovers of cricket in India (& by definition that cannot be the case if the top & bottom of your affection for the game excludes all that happens outside the IPL 'fixtures') realise that we, neutral but passionate observers, are hoping that a cleansing breeze blows right through the BCCI & takes all the detritus with it. At this distance, it wd appear that all the critical & powerful voices need to be concerted to effect the necessary changes.

  • xxxxx on May 28, 2013, 15:21 GMT

    I also despise fixing in cricket and my feelings are a parallel to those so excellently described by Samir. The only thing I would add is that my feelings extend to all forms of fixing in cricket i.e. pitch fixing as well.

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