When I'm 64, no 46 - My personal history of incurable sports addiction

Sir Paul McCartney famously sang about his insecurities and fears for when he would be a sexagenarian. 

When I get older losing my hair

Many years from now 

Will you still be sending me a Valentine 

Birthday greetings bottle of wine

I am certainly a lot more secure when it comes to my impending male pattern baldness or my affections - spousal or filial. I successfully  ordered flowers and wine for my Valentine and received some too. Secure with that knowledge I can dream about what a year in the life of a 64 year old sports-aholic would look like.  Well, why wait till I am 64, why not start when I am 46, right now. 

Before I start that dream let’s rewind first and take a stroll through memory lane

I am the sporting equivalent of an inveterate rake - I will watch any sport where there is something moving. So yes, chess is not my thing and curling also does not quite make the cut. 

It wasn't always this way. I grew up very much a “monogamist” in sporting terms - my singular love was for cricket. After all growing up in Madras how could one escape the magnetic attraction of cricket. The first time I saw cricket on TV was in 1982 on our brand new Black & White Dyanora TV - an “unofficial test match” between India and Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka had not become a full ICC member at that time. The only two names I remembered from that game were Sunil Gavaskar and Bandula Warnapura (won't blame you if you never heard that name). Gavaskar scored 155 and I was absolutely in awe of his batting abilities. Over the next year I continued to get more and more enamored by Sunny - I remember listening to the radio commentary of his exploits in the West Indies where he scored a 147 at Georgetown and then remember watching him carry the bat in Faislabad against the hostile pace of Imran and Sarfraz and the even more hostile umpiring.  I was glued to the screen as he hooked and pulled his way to his 29th test century at the Kotla. This was truly remarkable since he got bounced out by Marshall at Kanpur in the first test. A few weeks later came his masterpiece in Chennai - 236 not out to become the first batsman ever to reach 30 test centuries.  I must have watched every ball of that innings since it was the year end school break. 

My relationship with cricket really went to the next level in ‘85 with India winning the 1985 WCC tournament in Australia. I was truly wedded to cricket. I vividly remember waking up at 430 AM and listening to Richie Benaud and Bill Lawry wax eloquent about Sunny’s men - “shimply shuperb'' as the inimitable Bill Lawry would say. My most enduring memories of that tournament were the brilliant outswingers Kapil Dev bowled to Robbie Kerr and Qasim Omar, the “jugalbandi” between L Siva and Sadanand Vishwanath getting many a big name stumped, including Imran Khan and Kapil’s incredible match winning innings against New Zealand in the semi-finals. When he came together with Vengsarkar I did not think we would win that game.  

My monogamous relationship with cricket barely survived the first anniversary. I have only one man to blame for this sporting infidelity  -  a sneaky five foot five inch temptation called Diego Armando Maradona. Staying up at midnight to watch his magic in the rarified air of Mexico City was unforgettable. I can recite in my sleep even today the play by play of every one of those five goals scored in that famous final of 1986. It certainly did not help too that Javed Miandad broke my heart in that infamous Sharjah game where he swatted Chetan Sharma for a last ball six. My younger brother, also a cricket nut, cried non-stop for two hours after that game and promptly came down with a fever that night.

Having tasted new love of the sporting variety I was now feeling even more adventurous. Along comes the 17 year old wunderkind Boris Becker and the dusky Argentine beauty Gabriela Sabatini. Someone famously said of Sabatini, “ She looks like an angel, she walks like John Wayne” Soon tennis became my third sporting lover. “Pistol Pete” Sampras and Boris Becker were my favorites so of course any time they played each other I was an emotional wreck. I can only imagine what it must have been like to watch your wife and your mistress openly fight in front of you. To this day my love for tennis continues - Roger Federer is now firmly ensconced as my all time favorite. To this day I wonder how anyone can not support Roger, especially when he plays Rafa or Novak, the two men that have more than had his measure. 

It mostly stayed that way till I turned thirty. I was married to cricket.  The relationship lost some of its spark when Sunny retired and India were swept out of the 1987 World Cup by Graham Gooch. Our love was re-energized soon by the arrival of the next Mumbai superstar, Sachin Tendulkar. I will never forget Sachin hitting Abdul Qadir for three or four sixers when the Indian team were visiting Pakistan. Sandeep Patil used to be the benchmark for clean and powerful ball striking before that but Sachin was clearly something else. Four times a year I would sneak out of the house for a tennis dalliance of the Australian, French, Wimbledon or US open kind and once in four years I would take part in a soccer FIFA World Cup orgy. Once Doordarshan’s monopoly ended in India the airwaves started to beam all kinds of sports including “Hulk Hogan” and the WWF. During my days at IIT Madras I remember enjoying a few Formula 1 races and also waking up early to watch Jordan, Pippen and Kukoc in the NBA. Little did I know then the greatness that was Michael Jordan - back then he was that basketball player who acted in Space Jam!

I moved to the US in the early 2000s. For the first time in my life I felt completely cut off from cricket. Time zone challenges, the lack of streaming TV services back in those days, the absence of Youtube all meant I was confined to reading about my favorite sport on the Internet. I remember the first time I visited India for a holiday in 2006 -  I watched cricket like a man possessed. I rejoiced as Sreesanth took five wickets in a famous Indian victory at Johannesburg. 

Reading about cricket was hardly going to satiate me. So I started to broaden my sporting horizons and started to take a keen interest in basketball and football( not soccer) The Spurs NBA dynasty was just getting going and both my wife and I became big Spurs basketball fans. They were a talented but really down to earth team led by a no-nonsense coach in Pop (Popovich). Friends at work invited me to a Superbowl party in 2004. It was my first football game and my first time watching Tom Brady win. It has taken me the better part of two decades to truly appreciate the nuances of football - it is a complex and exciting sport - the ultimate team sport I would say. It takes upto 50 players to really play a full game and an army of coaches. The dazzling array of strategic and tactical decisions that need to be made by the offense and the defense through the game, the sheer physical prowess of the players themselves, the incessant Monday morning quarterbacking that occurs...football is the most popular sport in America without doubt and now as I near the end of my second decade here, I truly understand why. 

One facet that is unique to America is college sports. It's only when I moved to the midwest from New York city that I truly learned to appreciate college basketball and college football. Seeing the passion my co-workers in Indiana had for their college teams was pretty infectious I must admit. The energy and passion in an Ohio-State Michigan football game can easily rival that of an India-Pakistan cricket match. March Madness which brings together the top 64 college basketball teams in the country is riveting and universally enjoyed especially in offices where winning your “bracket” can give you bragging rights for many a year. 

In all of this there were two big holes in my sports fan resume -club soccer and golf. I am now playing catch up, big time! It was only when my son started playing soccer that I really started to watch club soccer. It is probably not an exaggeration to say that club soccer now rivals cricket as my biggest sporting love today. I kick myself regularly for having missed out on club soccer before 2018 especially when Messi was at his prime. I am now supremely grateful for the past 3 years of watching every Barca game, marquee EPL games and some incredible UCL games. Sting would not disapprove if I were to slightly change the words of his famous song to say “Every little thing he does is magic''. Messi’s ability to score goals from all over the pitch, and break through lines with incredible passes and assists is just compelling to watch. I love Barca and Messi and as a protective lover I will admit that the thought of cornering Origi or Mueller or Lewandowski in a dark alley and clubbing them over the head for the way they molested Barca has crossed my mind more than once.

My association with golf has grown exponentially once I started playing the game myself a few years ago. Golf is the one game I watch both as a fan and as a player of the game. Even as I  persevere in my attempts to break 80 my appreciation for the skills professional golfers bring to the game grows. I marvel at Tiger hitting a draw from a downhill lie or Mickelson getting out of a sand trap and landing the ball two feet from the hole. Watching Tiger come back from oblivion and win the Masters in 2019 was hugely exciting. They say that the Masters really begins on the back nine on Sunday and Molinari’s meltdown really proved it. Golf is really poised for an exciting new decade. An immensely talented new crop of players is really taking charge - Rahm, Morikawa, Berger, DeChambeau just to name a few. I would not be shocked if one of these young stars goes on to win 10 majors in the next 10-12 years. 

Now that I have come clean and confessed all of my sins of sporting polyamory, I feel a burden has lifted off my shoulders. I can now return with a light heart to the subject of my original thesis, my dreams for when I am 46, which is now. With all humility and love for Sir Paul McCartney here are my dreams. Feel free to pick up a guitar and sing along to the tune of When I’m 64!

Starting New Year at the SCG, 

Watching New Year’s Test 

Hopping back to USA for CFP

Back to Melbourne, Aussie Open

Sunny Superbowl in February 

All that madness in March 

April in Augusta At Amen Corner 

Hearing the crowds roar 

May In India 

IPL time

Watching sixers rain 

June in Europe, 

the Champions League final 

And then onto Wimbledon, Lords 

August in Queens 

Watching Roger’s magic wand 

Rafa, Djoker too 

7 train rides at 2 AM

Celtics-Lakers at TD Garden

Mahomes in Foxboro

Back in India 

for some test matches 

Filter coffee, Amma’s idli, Marina Beach 

Wankhede, Kotla, Eden Gardens

Novembers at Nou Camp 

Magic Messi 

Pedri, Ricki and Dembele too 

Classico at Madrid and back at the Nou

Ending the year in sunny Oz land 

Gabba and Melbourne 

Boxing day test at the MCG 

Watching Bumrah make the roos go pop

All I need now is a private plane to make these dreams come true! Oh well, I am going back to sleep...Roger is serving against Rafa in the Wimbledon 2021 final….Match Point for Slam number 21!!!

Analytical Sports-crazed goofball

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