What the Deuce …?

I happened to be a proud recipient of a complimentary pass to the Kingfisher open Men’s singles final match conducted in Mumbai last Sunday. Now, I have always been a Tennis fan but never had the opportunity to watch a ‘live’ tennis match. Oliver Rochus v/s Richard Gasquet (I hope I got the spellings right), seemed a decent contest frankly. Not a Federer – Sampras exhibition match, but then I wasn’t charged SGD 200 either.

Once the match started, one could figure out that there were 2 camps within the spectators. Those who supported Rochus and those who were opposed to the ‘Rochus supporters’. Now the Rochus supporters were those perennial animal lovers whose love of the underdog can take them to any length. Show us Indians an underdog and we will show you our hero. The atmosphere was carnival like. The only thing missing was a Ferris wheel.

The Rochus supporters were misguided by the learned commentator that their hero was pronounced as Rock – us instead of the actual Roh-kews. So every time he won a point, there was a deafening chanting of “Rockus Rockus”. The Gasquet faction would take this as a personal slight and start their own chanting. Chak de Rock -us was another crowd favourite. Every point was cheered, so what if it were a double fault or an unforced error. The average time between 2 points was double the normal point as each party wanted to have the last word.

The poor players would look up a couple of times for the crowd to stop the chants. The chair umpire would say ‘thank you’ which would spur the spectators to greater heights in their chants. The off court events were much more attractive than the on court game, so I won’t waste my time describing the match.

It will never be known whether Oliver Rochus lost to a superior opponent or to the continued pillorying of his name by his supporters. But in the end it was the Tennis spectator who was the winner. Amen..

Not just anywhere, this was in Mumbai, at the CCI. The moot point is that its not only teams / players who need coaches. Our country needs training in the basic etiquettes of sport watching. A policeman walking across the sight screen is one of the common sights in Indian cricket. Clapping in the middle of a point is considered encouragement – be it Tennis, table tennis, Badminton.. You name it. We as as a nation are acting like the nouveau rich in the sport arena. We might have the money power to organise a tournament, run a full sport but maybe we should outsource the spectators.

I agree that we as a society suffer from this boorishness across all spectrum of life. Be it sport, be it public conduct. But to imbibe a sports culture, we need to be sporting. To be champions, we need to learn to act as one. Else we will end up seeing the Sreesanths of the world being idolised for their aggressiveness, not accepting defeats to a better side, clapping on an opponents double fault..

I have always been a die hard Indian fan and have complained at unfair treatment meted out to us by umpires/ referees / foreign media. But we have to be fair before asking for neutrality from others. Anyway, think that’s a separate topic..

P.S. One of the songs playing in the background that day was – ‘We will, we will Rock you‘.. Anyone for poetic injustice?

Posted by Rahul


12 thoughts on “What the Deuce …?

  1. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.

    Rahul, how much of this lack of sporting culture can be attributed to the fact that there are very few amongst us who actually play sport once we graduate from half pants to long pants? And since we don’t actually play, how opaque are we to the etiquette associated with sport?


  2. i stay in chennai but i made the trip to bombay to watch the bombay open. I mostly agree with ur point made about the crowd. I have been going to the chennai open for the last six years and have seen a linesman bringing coffee into the courts. I felt accutely embarassed. But i think these things are quiet common place. We all know how unruly the crowd at us open gets. French open there are mexican waves. My friend who had been to the french open was telling me that factions of the crowd yell the names of the player they support just how gasquets and rochus’s names were yelled. Dont feel too conscious abt the indian supporter. They are a fairly well mannered lot. And moreover this is just the 2nd year that an atp tennis tournament is being conducted in bombay. So it will take some time for ppl to understand the nuances of the game. all in all i thought my trip was worth it.Was upset that baghdatis and safin didnt make it though. As for hewitt losing to schuetller ,i dont even want to talk abt it.I had wanted to see hewitt play gasquet in the final. but thats fine. To sum it up I had a nice time in bombay

  3. Thanks Srinath,

    I exaggerated a bit, I admit..

    I am happy that you enjoyed yourself in MUMBAI (esp as you stay in Chennai and not Madras -) .. I am a Ghati boy finally).. Gimme a call next time you are here.. u’ll get my number from sfx..

    The larger issue that I was looking to tackle was our behaviour as fans.. and not a Tennis match..We are an immature nation which has achieved puberty too fast.. Maybe wrong choice of words.. but some thing which I believe in..

    Maybe in a Maslow theory.. sport watching comes after earning a livelihood.. But I thought, most of the guys in CCI had already passed the Maslow hierarchy of basic needs.. And Julius I can say with great conviction that most of the people in that Arena have played some sport or the other even after wearing their Long Pants..

    I hasten to add that I walked out before the Rohan Bopanna doubles match..

    They lost!!!

  4. Rahul,

    The optimist in me actually wants to applaud the fact that a Rochus – Gasquet game has loud, cheering full stands – including enthusiastic supporters travelling across the country (you’re the man, Srinath !). Thats a new, growing India and I guess this is part of the growing process. Like Srinath says, I don’t think we should be too self concious about it.

    In larger sports arenas, the debate is bigger though. In cricket for instance, the carnival atmosphere – the barmy army and the streakers have been around for years. What we don’t see, thankfully in India (and do see elsewhere) are racial slurs. My point is , appreciation of sports (different sports obviously require different nuances to be highlighted) is one thing – etiquette, is quite another.

    One last bit about the “aggressiveness” thats being idolised. There’s a great deal in the media out there today about Sreesanth and am frankly amazed at the number of writers that suggest that “if he bowls like a Mcgrath, its ok …” . And I think that misses the point and thats the problem with “our” understanding of “aggression” and how its different from “virulence”. Sreesanth is crossing the line and it does not matter how he bowls so long as he crosses that line. Its part of being a champion …

    Thanks though, for a great post which gives lots of room for thought and debate.


  5. Hi Sfx,

    First off , a brilliantly written article.

    I hope Sreesanth’s mom laid him across her knee and snaked his bottoms with her hairbrush. Bad behaviour is mistaken for healthy aggression and encouraged.

    The same is true in the stadiums.

    referring to your illustration, I once attended a David Cup tie in New Delhi between India and Chile. Marcello Rios was a top-ten player that time…I think he was either 3 or 4 in the ATP rankings. lee and hesh were red hot those days as a doubles pairing with recently cultivated chest butts which appeared to go down very well with the Indian audience.

    The doubles encounter was given, but the reverse singles which went India’s way was entirely for the reasons you mentioned. Rios wasn’t spared and I suspect not many knew his name….they just called him “Chilli” and generally made a nuisance of themselves.

    Sporting enthusiasm and support are misunderstood and wrongly expressed.

  6. Hey Soulberry ,

    Welcome (back) here ! Great to have you over … and thanks for sharing the story …

    The article’s penned by Rahul , who’s as much a host here (so I don’t want to say is a guest contributor).

    Now – Lea and Hesh , that was aggression without bad behaviour….

    Cheers !

  7. Sfx,

    My point is that every sport has a particular conduct that is becoming. Now a Barmy Army in a cricket stadium is not as much of a distraction to a player as much as a Barmy Army on a tennis court.

    We carry the same etiquette (which is making as much noise as possible) everywhere.

    I take Srinath’s point that we need not be too self conscious about it, but just because other guys do it doesn’t give us a license to follow suit.

    Agree fully on the Mcgrath argument. No amount of statements about how great he is as a person outside the cricket field hold no water with me.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s