Sports needs heroes

Posted: February 18, 2007 in dhanraj pillay, padukone, prakash, sport, tiger woods

The success of sports, its popularity with people, is based on having heroes in the sport.

I am hearing less and less of F-1 racing this year. I have never been fascinated by F-1 racing, but I know so many people who used to track it and also talk about it all the time. And now I am hearing a lot less of it. Is it because Michael Schumacher has retired now?? Does it need a news item of his visit to the training field, to regenerate some interest in the sport?

Likewise, back in the days when Prakash Padukone won the All-England Badminton title, all of a sudden, the sport became a big hit in India. Thereafter, it has now been relegated to an occasional small column in the inside sports pages of the newspaper.

For a few years, in between, post Samparas’ retirement, tennis was not being talked about much. Earlier of course, during the days of Becker, Lendl, Borg, McEnroe, Connors, Navratilova, Chris Evert, Graf, etc., the sport was extremely popular in India. Then again, during the days of Agassi and Samparas. But thereafter, the popularity dipped. People said that it was on account of many other sports emerging for the public interest.

However we find tennis returning to its old glory all over again. Thanks to Roger Federer. An amazing hero. A phenomenal success, who has rekindled interest in the sport.

Cricket in India, has always had its share of heroes, whether Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Sachin, or whoever. Hence it has never really dropped out of the popularity charts, irrespective of our win-loss record.

On the other hand, hockey of course, lost its popularity, once we stared losing internationally, and we also lost heroes. At this time, we see a huge movement in the form of the so called Premier Hockey League, being initiated to make hockey popular again. However for want of a hero in the sport, its not getting any decent traction. Inspite of all the efforts of ESPN/Star Sports. Dhanraj Pillay, the last known hero in hockey, seems to have disappeared and without him, the sport will not pick up.

Who cared for golf in India – I mean, amongst the masses. That is a sport which is so far away from a common man in India. But thanks to Tiger Woods and his immense popularity around the world, golf is known and discussed amongst common people in India.

Sports requires heroes.. undoubtedly.

  1. USC Trojan says:

    @spm: Absolutely right. Every sport needs a hero, but if you want to talk about making the sport really popular, you need rivals. Two or more rivals in the game, each having almost equal chances of winning on a given day, makes the sport really interesting to watch and therefore automatically get more media attention.

    On that note, I would say that Federer has in fact made the sport of tennis quite boring of late because in all Grand Slam and other major tournaments he is the one who has to be beaten and most of the times, no one comes close. His Australian Open victory without dropping a set earlier this year is testament to the fact.

    Similarly, two or three years back, Michael Schumacher made the sport of F-1 racing boring by winning so much in the season. The same Schumacher, with the same team, having Kimi come close the following year, made it a much more exciting season then.

    I would say Australia made the sport of cricket boring, but the big difference with cricket is that there is no annual or quarterly “tournament” where the winner gets showcased. As a result, India/England rivalry is as interesting as any other. So playing Australia was a boring event, but pretty much any other contest was even and it was good to watch.

    So yes, you need heroes, but you also need rivals, to make the sport really worthwhile.

  2. SPM says:

    @usc trojan:
    You are absolutely right. Rivalries are even better than sports heroes, for a sport to get really popular. The Ashes, the Indo-Pak series, Borg-McEnroe, Agassi-Sampras, Lakers -Celtics etc. have been popular because of this very reason.

    If we get heroes AND rivalries, nothing like it. Otherwise, at least, there should be heroes 🙂

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