STICK IT TO CSK

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Well done, haters and lovers alike! You make us tick.

SO, whatever way you look at it, Sunday’s IPL 6 final will once again involve a familiar face – the Chennai Super Kings (CSK). Finalists in every edition bar one of the IPL and semifinalists every time, the Chennai franchise is as close as it gets to a dynasty in the still nascent (by league longevity standards) Indian Premier League. And by virtue of being the virtual dynasty team, CSK also have now pretty much become ‘India’s Team’, as much as the New York Yankees are ‘America’s Team’ when it comes to baseball in the United States. And of course they seem to be in the midst of everything that comes along with being the preeminent (and, by extension, the most successful) team of a league in an era – the haters (think Manchester United, Barcelona), the conspiracy theory and theorists (think Manchester United again – more on this in just a bit), the financial muscle (think Yankees) and their name up on the marquee in bright neon lights.

Let me elaborate. The Yankees are the richest team in baseball. (Those of you who saw Moneyball probably know just how rich and how that un-levels the playing field) Their payroll is a ridiculous $200 million and upwards. They have all the superstars. And towards the late 90s they were demolishing opposition with three back to back World Series (one, the 1998 season, which included a record number of regular season wins). They were almost a shoo-in to be in the playoffs and then in the World Series, the final showdown. They had the Most Valuable Player in the league. Now think about Manchester United in the last decade and a half in the Premier League. I could simply replace World Series with Champions League and you would have similar facts. Ditto with Barcelona. And of course, now that you have started connecting the dots, CSK.

Each of these super successful franchises and the dynasty they build in the wake of their successes naturally breeds haters. And conspiracy theories. You wouldn’t need to be very perceptive to realize that the Yankees wield major influence on Major League Baseball and don’t even get me started on the number of times fans of other teams would conveniently (and sometimes, with legitimate reasons to be aggrieved) blame a defeat on the fact that Alex Ferguson ‘owns’ the Football Association (Fergie’s Association is a common joke) or Michel Platini, the head of UEFA, Europe’s football governing body is just a puppet being controlled by the all mighty Barcelona (UEFALona is the joke here).

Some of those concerns may even have a grain of truth. But that’s not what I am trying to investigate here. It is just the phenomenon of why society always feels the need to create the big guy first in order for the little guy to have a cause. Without a dynasty, it is not easy to direct blind obedience or deep seated hatred. If you ask the Yankees how they are ‘Americas Team’, they have a simple reasoning – they are a successful franchise who give the casual fan (or a bandwagon fan, if you want the more derogatory vernacular) someone to root for because he/she does not have a team otherwise. Surely, 99% of Manchester United fans in India fall into that category. A friend of mine told me a story once. They were watching a Man United game in a shack in Goa three seasons back (he’s an Arsenal fan) and got into an argument with some United fans at the bar. The United fans glowered at one point and one of them, young enough that maybe the bartender should have asked for an ID before serving him, offered ‘Oh please…tell me which other team is there that have won the English League 18 times? 18 times! No one!!’. My Arsenal fan friend calmly replied, ‘Uh, Liverpool?’ Anyway, I digress. So these are the casual lovers, the worshippers at the altar of success who’d readily change their god if the success dried up. What about the haters? The Yankees would say yes, we are ‘America’s Team’ for them too giving them someone to root against and fuelling their interest in the game because they want to see us lose, and if we don’t they come back to watch again and again. Chennai Super Kings followers would probably identify very readily with sentiment.

So, the dynasty team in a perverse way is essential to the sustenance of the league. Whether you put the reason as CSK’s influence on the board and its inside connections, or their ‘luck’ in the auctions and the easier fixture lists for them, and whoop like mad when they lose (and even update your Facebook status maybe) you are also being drawn at the same time into what they called ‘sticking it to the Man’ in the rock n roll era.

And as the modern generation loomed and ‘the Man’, the all controlling and regulating government started taking the backseat, Rock n Roll fell off a cliff. It was easy to be in the Federer camp or against him when he was the best player on view in the men’s tennis circuit by a country mile. But now that you have about four players (including Fed himself) vying for that top spot I find it difficult impossible to hate any of them. In that sense, if you are a CSK hater and are reading this, might as well enjoy your ‘sticking it to the Man’ moment while the dynasty lasts. Because, fans and haters alike, congratulations. You just made CSK ‘India’s Team’.

DISCLOSURES

1. I do not own shares in India Cement.

2. I do not own a CSK jersey.

3. No, Dhoni’s hair stylist and me are not on first name basis.

4. I have never been to a party organized by Ravindra Jadeja.

5. No, I wasn’t asked by Suresh Raina to look after his phone when he is on the field.

6. No, I don’t know Gurunath Meiyappan. By the way, who the f*** is Gurunath Meiyappan?

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