Monday, October 1, 2012

Are superstars bigger than the game today?

There have always been contentions and conflicts between superstars of their respective games and administrators. However, the recent spate of such instances has again ratcheted up this issue into the public domain.

Fans of any sport are left in a conundrum when they are asked to take sides, and end up questioning themselves whether their favorite star has become bigger than the game. As many of us know, it is not an ideal situation to be in and is ultimately unhealthy for the game – ever more so – for the people directly involved.

Let’s explore a couple of instances and look into the probable causes that has resulted in complications – fueled and fired by all sorts of reasons and played out in the open through press conferences, public tirades, official statements, unofficial remarks, SMSs, leaked letters, social media updates, rumors and speculations; scoops, conspiracies, and almost anything that one can think of.

Kevin Pietersen – The Troubled Genius  

One unfortunate case that is currently being played out has resulted in Kevin Pietersen commentating rather than dishing it out in the field at the ICC World Twenty20 2012 – which is set to continue as he has been omitted from the Test tour of India.

Although it is a loss for cricket aficionados, many analysts believe that the ECB is justified in its actions and his exclusion could actually be better for the greater good of the team and the game of cricket itself. Further credence is offered by the fact that this is not the first time that Kevin has been at loggerheads with the ECB – with his teammates and some section of the media having borne the brunt this time around – and is an eventuality that was just waiting to happen looking at the timeline of his career thus far, and it would be a misnomer to say it was not expected.

Indian Tennis – Game, Set, Ban

When it comes to tennis in India, things have reached such a low that nothing seems to baffle the ardent supporters of the sport that has brought India such rich accolades, and made us proud over the years.  The latest was provided by the All India Tennis Association (AITA) banning Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna from representing India for two years– which, although could be challenged – has already brought the great sport of tennis into disrepute and maligned the reputation of some its greatest exponents. As if that was not enough, it was followed by an explosive press conference by Mahesh Bhupathi, spilling the beans and letting the world know what exactly was cooking in the once hallowed underbelly of the sport.

Many experts believe the ban is a culmination of the long tussle between Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi – whose doubles pairing made it through to all the Grand Slam finals in the year 1999 – decided to go their separate ways in what was seen as a clash of egos with the world seemingly at their feet, where the AITA played its part towards flaring up the dispute to perfection.

Although the pair did go on to win many big titles with different partners, the legendary duo of Indian tennis failed to bring the kind of laurels and medals they could have brought for their country, if only they would have continued to play together.

Their excruciating parting left fans contemplating what could have been, and questioned the players’ commitment to the country. It left many others to ponder over the selfish nature of the sport, and questioned whether the stars have really become bigger than the game that they adore.

Now, all that the players are really fighting over is their legacy, and the stage is set for the dispute between the troika of All Indian Tennis Association (AITA) Chief Anil Khanna, Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes – whose role in the whole dispute in still unraveling – to be played out in the judicial courts and legal arbitrators, that could manifest into many more suits and counter-suits.

Perhaps the most unfortunate part of all this is the public mudslinging that has reflected the national heroes in bad light. I guess the time is long gone when there was great dignity in silence and arguments. Today, differences and conflicts are being stirred and perhaps settled in the public domain, rather than in the obscurity of closed doors by level headed minds.

Some other case in points comes from the most popular game in the world, football, with the long drawn-out saga of Carlos Tevez and Roberto Mancini; the farcical episode about Cristiano Ronaldo being sad at Real Madrid, and the never-ending problems of Mario Balotelli with seemingly everybody else just to name a few.

Although there are many other instances playing out around the world, emanating from different sports that can be elaborated and analyzed profoundly to prove that stars are perhaps becoming bigger than the game, the more important thing to address now is where does this leave the fans – the most important stakeholders in any sport – who are feeling disillusioned and disheveled, which is possibly the biggest threat of these sordid and inauspicious tales. We might have the answers sooner than we think and all we can hope is that things get better, and we can continue to enjoy our favorite sport played by our beloved players.


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