I am currently reading Sylvia Nassar’s latest book ‘Grand Pursuit’, a fat volume that brilliantly traces what the subhead of the book calls ‘the story of economic genius’. In other words, it traces pretty much the history of the discipline and the narrative focuses on the ‘grand pursuit’ of the perfect economic theory. Grand Pursuit, a hankering after ideals that could define the entire world or change your perception of one is there in all sciences (for example Physics’ pursuit of a ‘Theory of Everything’ that has currently hit the speed bump called the Large Hadron Collider), and in theology (the ‘one’ truth) and of course, in sports. 2011 has been a year that has highlighted both the utility and the futility of the Grand Pursuit in sport. It has been that kind of year.
While the ICC and the BCCI have been at loggerheads over the pursuit of an ideal strategy for formats – the BCCI is enamored with T20s, while the ICC seems clueless as to how to save the Test format, or at least reenergize it – the Indian cricket team has been in Grand Pursuit of trying to get back their No. 1 ranking in tests. Unfortunately, the old bugbear of terrible overseas batting sees them at zero overseas test wins for the year. Of course, the almost three decade old World Cup title pursuit was realized this year but it did present an awkward ‘now what?’ kind of a phase from which the fan is still recovering.
A certain S R Tendulkar has been portrayed to be on a Grand Pursuit of a statistical landmark (the 100th ‘International’ hundred, for those living under a rock all this while) soon after another of his so called ‘pursuits’ (the World Cup) ended.
Meanwhile, in football, Lionel Messi wins everything in his way in club football, but when it comes to serving Argentina, his Grand Pursuit of a national title goes on. Manchester City are in their Grand Pursuit of pretty much trying to buy a premiership title (the anti Moneyball strategy, if you will) while the original anti Moneyball guys, The Yankees in Major League Baseball are in their own kind of pursuit of a World Series title to justify their standing as spoilt rich ballclub that fails in the clutch games.
Both the NFL and the NBA saw lockouts (the NFL mercifully saw a full season after a last minute deal, the NBA will see a curtailed season) as owners and players (read employers and employees) clashed over the Grand Pursuit of how to share power and pelf. Tiger Woods continued his grand pursuit to return to legitimacy in the golfing world, while Novak Djokovic proved that persistence in a pursuit can pay dividends as he finished an incredible year which included a stellar Wimbledon victory, where the only while the Djoker seemed to be taking things lightly was when he ate the Center Court grass after the final. (Oh wait, maybe he was serious there, too!).
And on the racing track, we had India added as a Grand Prix destination as the emerging economy continues its Grand Pursuit to announce itself on the global sporting stage. But the deaths of Dan Wheldon and Marco Simoncelli put things in a greater perspective, making us ponder if this whole Grand Pursuit of sport is even worth it. So did the Penn State sexual abuse scandal that saw veteran coach (and legend) Joe Patterno leave.
2011 was that kind of a year. In ‘Moneyball’ (my favourite movie of the year), Brad Pitt as General Manager Billy Beane is trying to use a number crunching method to get the hopelessly underfunded Oakland Athletics to win games. He believes in his method so much that he refuses to watch the games, lest the romanticism of the game of baseball sway his calls. And that is the kind of Grand Pursuit and conflict all of us are dealing with day in and day out. Do we chase our dreams or dream up our chases? Do we keep score and analyse or let go by the saying that ‘when the big man writes your score, he will not look at what you achieved, but how you played the game’. That is the real Grand Pursuit. And whatever state of that pursuit you are in, like Journey said, ‘Don’t Stop Believin’.
Have a great and totally sporty 2012!