Education

Changing attitudes to sporting successes and failures: Lessons for educators

Lt. Col. A Sekhar
Changing attitudes to sporting successes and failures: Lessons for educators

Sports teaches you character, it teaches you to play by the rules, it teaches you to know what it feels like to win and lose-it teaches you about life. Billie Jean King

Two white-ball cricket matches...almost 27 years apart... First-ever ODI for the Republic of South Africa...10 Nov 1991, Eden Gardens, Kolkota...

Second match T20I between India and SA...22 Sept 2019, Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore...

I was physically present on both the occasions...this article highlights the differences in the way cricket erudite cities of Kokota and Bangalore responded to the players, and the match situations...27 years apart...

The first match, in 1992, a historically significant moment, for an apartheid free South Africa, with the iconic Nelson Mandela as its President, playing its first-ever one-day international cricket match. A full house, and the South Africans, (except for the battle-hardened Kepler Wessels), intimidated and overwhelmed by emotions...The match in itself had little to be commended upon, but for the fast and furious spell by white lightning Allan Donald, and it was electrifying to watch. Sachin Tendulkar and Praveen Amre score fifties as India won by three wickets. The match highlighted the very best of Indian sports crowds...knowledgeable, respectful, and always cheering the opposition teams for their batting, bowling, and fielding. Allan Donald was given a huge ovation when he got his fifth wicket, and the generosity of sportsman spirit showcased for me the very best of Indianness, in letter and spirit. I was justifiably proud of the fairness of the average Indian.

The second match, ten days ago in Bangalore, was a completely floodlit match...and what a difference in atmosphere and response, every which way! Bangalore is as famous as a nursery for Indian Cricket as much as Mumbai and Delhi. The  G R Viswanath (a Bangalorean) decision of recalling Bob Taylor for the Jubilee Test Match (1980) in Mumbai is still talked about as one of the great sporting gestures of all time.

The match itself was one-sided, with South Africa winning handsomely. The sad difference was in the response from the crowd. The music was loud, garish, the announcers mixed up the names of the visiting players, and in general, the existence of the South African team, was, well, an unavoidable necessity, close to being an optional extra. Deathly silence for Indian wickets, exaggerated elation for Indian boundaries, even more, deathly silence for opposition boundaries, and a deep reluctance to accept the superiority of the South African team on the given day. As the match was into the closing stages, a few unwarranted comments were hurled towards the Indian players, who were close to the boundary ropes...the language used was not pretty...

The players were, however, gracious in their conduct, and the  Indian Captain in his post-match conversations accepted responsibility for the defeat, in a gracious and mature manner.

The crowd was representative of Bangalore, a metropolis in the truest sense of the word, whose sporting knowledge and respect for opposition performances had been widely celebrated. I saw no evidence of it that day.  As an educator, I was, (and still) aghast. It is to be remembered that this happened after the nation came together as one, in supporting the Indian Space research community, after the failure of Chandrayaan 2.

It was distressing to see the reactions of young school-going children inside the stadium; sadness and an element of anger is natural, but the bitterness was difficult to understand. And sure enough, conspiracy theories started flying...

The challenge for all of us, especially the parents, the elders, and of course the educators is that the public discourse, be it the politicians, the internet, the social media all play with the most basic of emotions. Further, we are becoming an increasingly homogeneous information society wherein the echo chambers only reinforce what we want to hear, where our existing biases are reinforced. The must-hear/read/listen part is now increasingly avoided, for it challenges our comfort zones, forces us to reflect and look inwards. Education, in its best form, gives space to alternate, opposite points of view, disagreeing with dignity, but never being disagreeable.

Rising jingoism harnessed very well by our politicians for their own ends, the commando comic channels whose newsroom factories create daily outrages for TRP gains are destructive agents for quality, reflective education. Add the permanently agitated social media spectrum, where the speed of likes, dislikes, retweets have a distinct ephemeral quality about it.

The already time-challenged educator has got a new problem in her hands, potentially, deeply insidious.

"Everybody is angry at you at all the time" says Susan Wojcicki,the CEO of Youtube, with 2 billion monthly users.

I strongly believe that, beyond the conventional books, classes, examinations, results, and jobs, the urgent need is for educators to focus on making our citizens of tomorrow more patient, reflective, nuanced  and be able to be flexible thinkers, rather than the binary society, which is being attempted to be established, for obvious reasons. We have to take the road, less traveled.

About the author:

Lt. Col. A Sekhar is Director - Education, SAI International Group of Schools.

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The views, opinions, positions or strategies expressed by the author(s) and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, positions or strategies of ScooNews or any employee thereof. 

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