Why you should always back your local team
As you grope your way along the unlit hallway of life in search of the kitchen of destiny, occasionally banging your head on the hatstand of fate, you face many dilemmas. Should you stick with that master's degree in Advanced Number Fondling to keep your parents happy or go for the diploma in Paper Aeroplanes now enrolling at the University of Time Wasting? Get married or remain happy? Shiraz or Merlot? That tie with those shoes?
But of all the difficult decisions a human being has to make in the course of a lifetime, perhaps the thorniest is choosing which sports team to support.
For some, the answer is easy. Every summer the streets of English holiday resorts are adorned with Manchester United/Chelsea/Manchester City/Liverpool shirts as people proudly display their lifelong support for the team that they last saw win on television.
For the rest of us, it's trickier. A sports team lies somewhere between "friends" and "family" in the proverb about being able to choose your friends but not your family. You can choose your sports team, that's true, but it's usually a choice in name only, between two equally unappetising alternatives - a bit like a general election.
That's because etiquette in this area requires you to demonstrate a connection with the team of your choice, and only certain kinds of connection are acceptable. That your favourite colour is blue, for instance, does not entitle you to pledge your loyalty to Chelsea, any more than owning a DVD of West Side Story qualifies you as a fan of the New York Jets.
The would-be fan usually has two options: the team that your family elders support or the team whose ground is the nearest to your breakfast table. You might get away with claiming loyalty to an outfit you followed while you were at university, but be warned this is regarded as a little superficial by people who feel that six alcohol-soaked semesters in the suburbs of London do not make you a cockney.
When the tournament you're watching is in another continent, choosing your team is even harder. When the Indian Premier League began, I obviously wanted to pick one of the many shiny new franchises to half-heartedly follow from a distance. But which one? I couldn't claim a family connection to any of them, which left me with the tricky business of working out which franchise was the closest.
Fortunately, I was able to call on my C- in Geography, and with the help of an astrolabe, a wooden globe, a piece of string, a tape measure and a few calls to NASA, I was able to establish that Chandigarh is just 4130 miles away from my front door, and that therefore Punjab are my local team.
Back in 2008, this seemed like fun. Punjab dressed like extras from an episode of Power Rangers, but I remember thinking, as I chuckled at the sartorial misfortune of those poor Chennai supporters, that at least my team weren't dolled up like canaries. They also had the advantage of Preity Zinta's enthusiasm; her jumping up and down on the sidelines producing enough celebrity energy to power a medium-sized electricity generating plant.
Six years later, after an odyssey of defeat, disaster and disintegration, my support had started to wane. After a particularly limp 2013 campaign they finished sixth in a blaze of mediocrity, and the signing this time round of "Million Dollar" Maxwell and creaky old Virender Sehwag appeared to be the key ingredients in a particularly ripe failure trifle.
Yet as the circus is in mid-air, heading back to India, it is the men of Punjab who are flying first class, enjoying the complimentary champagne, having won five games in a row for the first time in, well, forever, while the superstars of Mumbai are in the cargo hold, sweeping up the elephant dung. All of which goes to show that the true sports fan should stick with their local team through thick and thin, even if the thin is very thin indeed and their local team is not really all that local.
Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here