In Awe of The Simple

I just read an article in The Hindu, the article is titled "Taking a lesson in sporting awe">>

Taking a lesson in sporting awe

Sometimes it's good to halt for a moment, inhale athletes' brilliance, and marvel at what they do, writes Rohit Brijnath

Sometimes in all our instructions to Greg Chappell about who should bat where, and irritation over Tendulkar's perceived conservatism, and insistence that Federer motor to the net, we forget how to appreciate sport.

We're so busy having fun (i.e. berating, arguing, expecting), so captivated by winning and losing, that we occasionally fail to be amazed. Not by outrageous deeds, but by the smaller, everyday moments which actually are anything but routine.

Like a batsman defending a delivery, a minor composition in itself. Or the fine mix of reflex and decision-making while returning a serve. Or the footballers' sublime marriage of dexterity, control and judgment as he collapses a ball on his instep while running.

Do we ever wonder how extraordinarily difficult it is to just make the Top 100 of anything, to scuttle four paces and cleanly collect a ball that has come off Ponting's bat like a stone from David's slingshot, to hit a forehand onto a line a few inches thick from 30 metres away?

Need to remind ourselves

Of course it is unspoken in any discussion on fine athletes that they are gifted, but sometimes we need to remind ourselves of how much, how they operate on a frequency we have no comprehension of, how the simplest act is so utterly extraordinary.

When Brett Lee bowls, he propels the ball at a speed beyond our understanding; 150kmph is meaningless to us, we have no frame of reference.

From 22 yards, most people would not see the ball, would not register its course, before it arrives at their throat to complete an involuntary tracheotomy.

Yet in these fractions of a second, as our brain arrests, Dravid has seen, recognised and categorised the ball, sent a message to his hands, legs, body to arrange themselves, blending memory and reflex and anticipation and knowledge, and as his bat rises, and soft hands ensure the ball drops right down to his feet, here's what you and I think. Dammit. No run.

Athletes do the incredible every rally, every over, every round of golf, but we yawn. Tennis players will run, skid, hit, turn, run, yet in the midst of this athletic dance are still able to put the ball within inches of a line, shot after shot, and you know what we say. Bloody rallies are too long.

Sometimes all of us, garbed in cynicism, need a refresher course in awe. It is an education best found by attending practice sessions. Because to stand in almost whispering distance of an athlete is to quickly grasp his extraordinariness. And because we see sport not in the deceitful slow-motion speed of television, but in real time.

Wonder amplified

A colleague once lingered 15 feet away from a practising Sampras, both hypnotised and horrified by the velocity of tennis' greatest serve. It was a wonder amplified the next day, when Agassi stepped into that serve to hit winners. Who are these men?

In cricket stadia, it is fun to stand directly behind a net where, say, Zaheer Khan is bowling to Yuvraj Singh, and it is not uncommon to flinch and duck even when standing 10 feet away. Yet Yuvraj will step forward and almost carelessly dispatch the ball into the clouds. What has become routine is in fact breathtaking. It is an astonishing world out there.

As sporting lessons go, my most telling arrived over a decade ago, when the genial Ramesh Krishnan, and Leander Paes, in different years, agreed to the embarrassment of briefly rallying with me.

Friendly forehands from Paes came laced with a leaping topspin that, forget a response, was beyond my comprehension. Krishnan at one point gently snapped his wrist and by the time my brain suggested "move" the ball was past me.

Their speed, and accuracy, and spin, was astonishing. And these fellows weren't big hitters! Not even close.

Truth is, we may have used the same rackets, and the same balls, but they played a game I was not familiar with. And not just them. Out there, athletes, and not merely the outstanding ones but the middle-level practitioners, operate at a level, and with a beauty, which is staggering.

It's not going to stop us carping, and judging, and debating, because it's what we do. But sometimes it's good to halt for a moment, inhale their brilliance, and marvel at what they do.

I put it here, not just for the sense that this article makes, but also for how true it is in other walks of life. Just think of that teacher whom we have always derided as being good for nothing, but how many of us can do atleast a tenth of what he or she did.

Think of the day when mother has just one off day at cooking, we immediately find fault with it. Do we ever consider at that moment, how many times in the past she cooked great, and how many times in the future she will cook absolutely delightful dishes. Not me, I haven't thought of all that.

Think of the waiter in the restaurant, when he spills that chutney on you. Do you ever consider the hundred times he's served absolutely to your taste, before cursing him for his folly?

How many times did we stop by to watch a supposedly insignificant creature lead its life?

Now, if I go on, there are many incidents in our life when we just don't appreciate the other persons skill, but just carp on a minor mistakes which may even be permissible under six sigma.

This article has come up as a wake up call to me. I myself do lot of things in the most imperfect manner. I feel good when someone sympathizes with me, and continue with a feel good factor.Also, when someone admonishes me for the same act, I get hurt somewhere deep down.

Now the question that troubles me is, why don't I apply the principle to others. Why do I tear apart people for small mistakes and never am in awe of the simple things that they do right time and again. Probably "Human Nature". But, from now on I will make a conscious attempt to be in awe of simple things in life. I wish you too will note this simple effort, and pardon me for all the mistakes in this post.