22 February 2017

Big Matches and Small Things

March Madness.  That’s what it was called a few decades back.  That’s because all ‘big matches’ were played in March.  Now the big-match seasons begins in February and goes on till the end of April.  Back then there were elaborate previews of each encounter; now there are almost none simply because there are way too many to be crammed into the sports pages of newspapers.  

Back then there was the Roy-Tho, the Joe-Pete, the Ananda-Nalanda and the Trinity-Anthonian.  Well, there were matches that were regionally ‘big’ but nationally small because they lacked the long histories associated with the ‘glamour’ events.  Now we have hundreds of ‘big matches’ and almost all of them have drawn from the ‘culture’ associated with say the Royal-Thomian.  

So we have the cycle parades which seem to have less and less cycles every year.  There are papare bands.  There’s the ‘traditional’ practice of boys thinking they are men and being a nuisance to the public, sometimes even jumping into girls’ schools.  Part of it is fun, but limits are often crossed.  Too often, some might say.  There is the ‘fun’ of boys decorating themselves with masks, hats, and even girls’ uniforms.  There’s fun in hat-collections, but there’s harassment too.  

But then, we are told, boys will be boys.  It’s for just two days of the year.  True.  The public has by and large indulged.  

Then there’s stuff that happens at the match.  Lots of things.  There’s partying that gets out of hand, and partying that will be unforgettable.  Pitch-invasions, out-smarting prefects, stewards, police officers and of late security personnel, and making an idiot of oneself and not caring one bit.  Stuff for the memory-book.  Great stuff.  There are boys and girls preening themselves for each other.  Some of it can cross the limits of decency, but a lot of it is predictably hormonal and understandable.  Again memory-book stuff.  

That’s part of what makes old boys go to the big match.  There are memory-slices in the making that will refresh the pages of bygone days they’ve stored in their consciousness.  And then it’s back to the old days.  It’s back to being the boys and the boyhoods they like to think they never outgrew.  

It’s about familiar faces.  Re-telling stories they’ve told year after year and being received as though for the first time, each time.  What’s nice about it is that despite the boyhood-belief, the years mould enough ‘man’ into mind that whatever ‘nasty’ there was depreciates every year. For the vast majority, let us add.

And it’s the little things that count, not the big scores or the centuries or even records being broken.  That’s all nice.  You’ll let out a roar, raise arms and even try to will your legs to turn shed the years and get to 16 so you can sprint to the pitch and sprint back without being brought down by the various discipline enforcing authorities.  And almost always, the joy of the invasion would outweigh whatever was being celebrated.  

It’s those little things that count; meeting an old friend after a lapse of several years or even several decades, recognizing and being recognized despite the re-structuring that time inevitably crafts on the body, meeting sworn enemies from a different era and realizing how the size of quarrels diminish and how something that was once thought of as life-death matter seems so trivial courtesy temporal and spacial distances.   

Small things are what make for nostalgia, that lovely region which is divested of all unpleasantness that are as much a part of that time as those which made splendid memories.  Big matches, for the old, are about such things.  Little things.   And the loveliest thing about little things is that there are so many of them that every Big Match seems new.  Little things in fact keep re-inventing big matches, year after year.   

For schoolboys the match is certainly big.  Every new experience is big and imagined to be even bigger.  For old boys, it’s different.  The old see the young and they smile for they seem themselves in a different time.  The young see the old and will never be convinced that one day they’ll get there too.  There’s always a little something for everyone, though.