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Shooting self-goals

Men had long held on to a semblance of control in that last bastion of male hegemony — the commentary box. but No more, writes Preeti Singh.

india Updated: Jun 29, 2010 22:29 IST
Preeti Singh

Mandira Bedi, she of the spaghetti strap fame, has done much harm to women sports fans. Till she unwittingly came along and adulterated that heady mix of testosterone and contained IQs with her low necklines and high estrogen quotient, we were doing just fine without dazzling the world with our passion for various sports or their secretly-acquired trivia. We generally ignored the pre- and post-game shows, ogled the hunks in their sweaty team jerseys and enjoyed the game without offering sage opinions on the state of the pitch or painfully dissecting a missed penalty shot.

Well, there had been women commentators before, and here tennis pro Andrea Leand comes to mind, ably volleying with Vijay Amritraj during many Wimbledons of yore. But the rest of us had been able to stay under the radar.

We could happily slip up with our practised ignorance about a sport’s finer points or unassumingly slip in a googly from a decades-long familiarity with it, much to the indulgent admiration of the boys. There was no pressure to perform under the cynical gaze of male sports aficionados. To understand the offside rule was a bonus and, alternatively, to have nary a clue about why 22 men would tire themselves silly over a round object was par for the course.

Then someone decided they needed to even the playing field, unleashing an epidemic of female sports jockeys. Suddenly, apathy was no longer an option. We were damned, no matter how well we held our own against those for whom women on a sports field had to be restricted to either wearing short skirts and hopping about on the sidelines, or as screaming bearers of “Ronaldo, will you marry me?” placards in the stands.

With women beating their pants off them in every sphere imaginable, men had long held on to a semblance of control in that last bastion of male hegemony — the commentary box. Especially for ‘hardcore’ sports like cricket and soccer. And for years, we had successfully let them labour under a valiant compulsion to throw a spotlight on the game and impress us.

No more. The delicate peace has been disturbed for good. Now, even the most innocuous comment is seen as ‘doing a Bedi’ in the midst of a serious discussion among those who know best. So, even if we open our mouths to ask for that bowl of chips, we’re likely to be beaten back by a reminder of various war wounds acquired while actually playing the game on a real sports field. As a result, every time the Fifa World Cup games go into half time I slink off to a corner before they bring on the ‘experts’. It matters little whether ‘that girl on ESPN’ these days knows a thing or two about football or not.

As for me, I haven’t a clue about the strategy, or lack of it, that edged the Azzurri out of the contest, but I sure can tell you they fill out their blue jerseys well. And that’s been enough to buy my loyalty for the last 20 years, ever since Roberto Baggio made it cool to cry over a silly penalty shot.