There Will Be Fun - The Indian Premier League As Pure Entertainment

   on April 05 2013 12:46 PM

An alert bartender or a prying waiter will confirm, if you enquire, people's tendency of pretending to be intoxicated so as to be able to say things that they aren't quite sure are intelligent enough to be uttered in a state of sobriety. These 'things' usually comprise of dreamy (or to borrow the parlance of intoxication while staying within the somewhat ambiguous censor-constraints of online publishing, 'insanely awesome') sequences involving juxtapositions of larger than life, cultural, societal superheroes. Such as:

- "Wouldn't it be insanely awesome if Messi and Ronaldo played together?"

- "Wouldn't it be insanely awesome if Quentin Tarantino and Paul Thomas Anderson made a movie together?"

- "Wouldn't it be insanely awesome if Leonard Cohen wrote lyrics for Led Zeppelin?"

Not that these (among other liquor induced profundity) would necessarily be awesome. Often, the case is just the opposite, as the CXOs at Real Madrid have shown us time and again. But in a perfectly just and synergetic world, where teams are (at least) the sum of individual talents and ego doesn't exist, you would want Federer-Nadal to play doubles. But not in their prime; no, in their prime, you would want them to fight against each other as you sit back and wait for the elimination of the lesser Gods, like a non-bloody version of Battle Royale (or The Hunger Games for Justin Bieber fans) at the end of which, once the Gods are battle weary and defeated and past the proverbial peak, you are more interested in entertainment than enrichment; you put them together, waiting for various unknown, untouchable things to add up. And more often than not, from a purely hedonistic point of view, it works. Real Madrid sold more tickets and t-shirts under the Galacticos for the same reason that Marvel's The Avengers made over a billion and a half dollars; you take a few revered franchises that are past their prime, having done all that they could -alone- add them together (Beckham + Nistelrooy, Iron Man + Hulk) and then watch the cash roll into the house. Of course, any resemblance to good football/cinema is lost, but as pure entertainment, as an appeal to and an uncritical celebration of the drooling, screaming, impatient, God-loving/fearing, screaming little 5 year old girl that exists in each of us, it surpasses all expectations of any expectation.

Which brings us to the Indian Premier League (or the IPL.) For the uninitiated, it is about cricket (shall I put a comma and wait for the Americans to leave?) which is played in over a 100 countries, but nowhere so much, so fervently and so frequently as in India, where cricketers are (literally) worshipped and a rabid, rapacious fan-base of over a billion derives its religious epiphanies from the spatial position of a ball made of leather. The IPL brings together the most statistically significant players from across the globe to India for a month, puts them into regional teams (much like the English Premier League does for football) and lets them fight it out for a trophy that- if you were to judge by the spleen-bursting enthusiasm of aged commentators- represents the hybrid of an Oscar, a Nobel Peace Prize, a MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss and the Fields Medal;  and which invariably results in those dreamy, divine combinations. For example, arguably the two most exciting batsmen over the past 10 years, now a faint shadow of their former selves, India's Sachin Tendulkar and Australia's Ricky Ponting, who currently open the innings for a regional team based out of Mumbai, the strangely titled Mumbai Indians (wouldn't Indian Mumbaiites make more sense, from a patriotic-yet-regionally-committed point of view?) played together for the first time a few days ago; not to great effect (their team lost), but like the failure of Real Madrid's Galacticos, performance is not the point. These 'insanely awesome' combinations of players exist because they can and should and people want them to; that's all there is to it, and if that sounds vacuous, pointless or event outright dumb, it is because this pointlessness, instead of being some sort of an Achilles' heel, is the entire leg on which a homogenous, multi-cultural, globalized enterprise such as the IPL rests and moves.

Lamentations abound: that the IPL has destroyed the 'game', that 'technique' and 'class' do not matter anymore, that expert opinions are provided by people who obviously do not 'care', that the presence of beautiful, carefully sculpted celebrities somehow belittles the sport for ugly, hastily assembled supporters etc. And that's ok. Modern day sports is similar to modern day pornography: everything that you consider wrong is the sole reason why someone else watches it, thus opinions of opposite polarities cancel each other till there are none left, and all that remains is the mind numbing, almost meditative state of mind that results from the sheer power of millions of repetitive images carving out the same line in your brain - this is insanely awesome, you are incredibly entertained - till it becomes the truth. Like the torture machine in Kafka's 'In the Penal Colony', every time we are bored and move away from the edifice of the modern sports-entertainment complex, it reinforces itself by inscribing that law in our minds. Try missing the next Wimbledon semis, it feels like punishment; the system ensures that. The IPL doesn't destroy the game; it is in the inherent nature of games to entertain us, and it is in the inherent nature of entertainment to overcome us; movies tend towards 3D so that you may feel as if you exist amidst the characters, overcome by every single act, overwhelmed by every single scene, totally and utterly under its command, helpless like a child. And the same goes for live sports. Or social media. The present day need is for constant involvement, continuous update, the physical addiction to miniscule changes at the atomic level, the possibility of every goal scored, every wicket taken, every set won, every meal eaten, every photo clicked, every combination possible - these millions of tiny, hitherto-unimportant-now-life-defining changes probe the inner terrain of our consciousness, shuffling our thoughts and opinions like a deck of cards till we do not really remember much, except the fact that we had an insanely awesome time. One Demi-God per team may not achieve that but six Demi-Gods per team is way too much for our solipsistic generation: When we get what we think we crave for, we crave what we think we want and we want what we think we see, too much information ensures that we crave, want and see but never think. 

And there is no turning back, even though we have just started. Evolution maximizes pleasure and pleasure has a short shelf life. How about a future tournament where the boundaries between different sports become as permeable as the boundaries between different teams within a single sport? How about Cric-Ball, where Sachin Tendulkar and Zinedine Zidane both come back from their respective retirements to co-head the Manchester Indians? Or maybe Federer executing a backhand smash while performing equestrian tricks? You think I am exaggerating or that this sounds ridiculous, and it might even be ridiculous, but the day it happens, I will watch it and I will scream, cry and be delirious with happiness. I will follow it and visit millions of websites dedicated towards it, I will update myself with all the stats and gossip and above all, cutting to the delicate core of my being, unabashed by irony, untouched by nostalgia and unaware of space-time, I will be entertained.

And so will you.