Why Indians are missing out on sports success.
|I am a pure-blooded Indian. I have never watched Sachin Than-DULL-Kar play cricket, and I never will. I don’t care about cricket at all.|
No, wait, I do care, because cricket is a part of two worlds I care about: the Indian community and professional sports. And that is why I hate cricket.
Cricket is to blame for something very serious in the South Asian community – the reason we will never have a Yao Ming figure to represent us, and no light, medium, or dark brown person with straight hair will ever take the place of LeBron James as the buzz of the sports world.
I have seen Manny Malhotra on ice for the New York Rangers. I have seen Sania Mirza on the tennis court at the U.S. Open. I have even seen an Indian in the same room as the New York Yankees – and not a Cleveland Indian – WFAN’s Sweeny Murti, props as always.
But I am starting to believe that in my lifetime – and I’m 26 now – I will never see an Indian in the National Football League, National Basketball Association or Major League Baseball. And as a young sports journalist, I put the blame squarely on first-generation Indians in America and my journalist friends who love talking cricket, even though no one on this continent cares.
Don’t shut me up just yet, hear me out.
What’s that stupid term that some moron came up with – ABCD – as you NRI’s like to say, American-Born Confused Desis. I had never even heard the term Desi until 2001. I swear I thought someone was ordering a masala dosa or something! But what you fail to realize is that we as Americans are not the confused ones, it’s the Indians who live here and perpetuate their cricket crap all over the Indian newspapers and television who are.
Why on earth is the line drawn directly between the words “Indian” and “sports” spell cricket for all of you? It’s a disgrace and a disservice to the youth of our community who grow up thinking that no sport matters unless it is played in India. For God’s sake, freshly immigrated kids go to school and have no idea what the NBA jerseys, Nike sneakers, and baseball hats represent other that nice clothing that their friends wear. Lucky enough for me I grew up in New York City and didn’t hear a word about cricket until I visited India when I was 6 years old.
Yes I played it; I pitched, or “bowled” as you call that. Naturally I thought of it like baseball, America’s game with American stars (but not any more!) And if you want to take a shot at today’s MLB for the steroid scandal, then I’ll be right there chanting with you, but more importantly look at the influx of Latin American and Japanese players in MLB and how easily there could have been a great Indian arm in there in the last 25 years – had cricket not screwed it all up!
Cricket is not cool. Cricket is golf gone ugly. I concede that cricket looks classy and the game celebrates gentlemanly conduct, but to hell with that! This is the sports world of 2007 where bigger and bolder is better and sex sells, and oh boy does it sell a lot.
This is a modern sports era in which NFL football reigns supreme, notwithstanding the egregious misconduct of several players. Baseball is stuck in a muddy steroid controversy, but the game is wildly popular. Basketball has its share of bad boys attitudes and occasional fistfights, while still showcasing the greatest pure athletes in the world, graceful and bullying on the court at the same time. Tennis became very popular once young blondes on the women’s side and Andre Agassi on the men’s became its poster children, but the game was always an action-packed drama with very gifted players and always will be.
So what does cricket offer? Guys standing around, just tossing a ball and waving around a giant spatula! More importantly cricket is to baseball what arena football is to the NFL; pun intended, cricket is just a bug on the professional sports’ windshield. At the same time, the MLB, NBA and NFL are important as they are the wheels, not only a metaphor for sports, but for the lives of the athletes involved. There’s a lot of fame, fortune and greatness to be achieved in sports. Cricket just doesn’t cut it. Look at the money difference.
So why does cricket not take a spot over baseball, at least in some parts of the world? The answer is money, money that could be well spent by an Indian entrepreneurial mind, capitalizing on advertising and popularity that comes from being a baseball star. You’re telling me that Alex Rodriguez (the Yankees’ A-Rod) would not be a big star in Bollywood if he were Indian. Don’t give me that, because Bollywood’s biggest star (Aish) decided to try her hand in American films because that’s the global platform.
Look at David Beckham, look at Yao Ming, and now look at the San Antonio Spurs, on their way to a fourth NBA title in nine years. Point guard Tony Parker (from France) scores 30 points to lead the way in Game 2. I’m sure you’ve heard that he’s engaged to Eva Longoria, but did you know that he stands just 6 feet tall, yet he dominates in the NBA? My guess is there are at least 200 similarly built Indian male athletes in this country who were dissuaded from picking up Parker’s basketball skills, even though their parents’ wealth could have provided them with a great environment to learn in. Whose fault is this?
Yao Ming was born in China, the son of two former stars of the Chinese National basketball team. Let us forgive Yao’s unprecedented gift of height (at 7-foot, 5-inches tall) and let us see the bigger picture. For there to ever be an Indian basketball player (close to Parker’s size) – yes they may need the God-given athletic build and skills in the art of the game – but more importantly they need a team, coach and a sports-minded community to develop with.
Without anyone interested in practicing free throws we could not see players hold the ball and shoot it correctly. Yao is near the top in a category in which most NBA big men are abysmal, e.g.. Shaq, Dwight Howard and Tim Duncan. Yes the genetic factor is at play and for most Indians height is an issue, but come on. Where there’s a will there’s a way. Canada’s Steve Nash (5’11” at best) taking two straight MVP Awards and Parker’s championship game are proof that a short foreigner can become a star in this land, and on the biggest stage.
What’s the point? That fundamentals beat all else, and as simple as it seems only few take the time to master them. Unfortunately, Indian youth in India and abroad aren’t even encouraged to think seriously about an athletic career unless that damn insect (cricket) is the game of choice.
So no polish to a diamond in the rough and no career is what you get. Look back to Latin American baseball players, people in their communities worked long and hard at getting guys to pitch hard and hit the daylights out of the ball. You’re telling me that no one could have done the same with the best students in the world: Indian kids!