Sunday Snippets: Three cheers for Neeraj Chopra!
By Venkatesh Raghavan
As we sipped our Sunday morning tea at our favourite Irani Café, Amir and I discussed our very own Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra, who just won his second straight Diamond League title in Lausanne after coming back from a one-month injury lay-off and throwing the javelin 87.66 metres to win the spot. Our conversation went somewhat along these lines.
Amir: What do you say about Neeraj Chopra and his latest feet?
Me: That is fantabulous. Hope he too becomes a Bharat Ratna like Sachin Tendulkar.
Amir: Doesn’t it seem to be wishful thinking?
Me: What makes you think so? See the Army has already decorated him with Param Vishisht Seva Medal (PVSM) and Vishisht Seva Medal for his excellence in sports.
Amir: I think it’s time other sports also pick up in India. The monopoly of cricket should end soon.
Me: Agreed Amir. Monopoly in any field is bad for the economy in the long run. I think horse racing would be a good choice for a start.
Amir: Suddenly you have shifted gears. Why this shift from javelin to horse racing? You should not be encouraging such a gambling sport. It’s a stigmatized category.
Me: No Amir. There is no stigma about horse racing. It’s a royal sport. We should popularize it by airing it on our television sports channels. I am sure things will pick up and the monopoly will be significantly reduced.
Amir: Why should it be horse racing to reduce monopoly? Why not sports in which we have started winning medals such as javelin throw?
Me: Winning medals in individual sports is not exactly an easy route to popularize a sport, Amir. The sporting event, let’s say in this case a javelin throw fails to evoke spontaneous popularity. The interest lasts only till the news of an Indian winning the event gets telecast. Whereas horse racing is such a sport, if telecast frequently people get to understand its nuances and then keen interest will pick up. Agreed, there’s an element of money involved. But without incentives, nothing works.
Amir: Do you mean other sports without such incentives will never pick up?
Me: No Amir. I am suggesting a revolution in the sporting industry. They should legalize betting. We start from where we are comfortable, meaning horse racing. We then gradually extend it to all other sports. In learning theories, the strategy is called from known to unknown.
Amir: Don’t you feel there will be uproar in the country over moral issues?
Me: No. Our government should take care to keep the people informed. They should first bring out and publicize how much money is squandered in the illegal betting market and how much revenue our country is losing. It should then focus on legalizing the process and using the revenue for infrastructure projects. It all depends on how well you publicize your policy change and earn a favourable response.
Amir: Don’t you feel betting in our country will also require transparency?
Me: You are correct. Again you have to incentivize. You should be able to elaborately explain to the people in the betting industry that transparency will ensure more and more people will trust the system we use to place wagers. There will be a greater corpus for everyone. You see Amir, everything has to be incentivized. There should be no preaching. All preaching should be tossed in the gutter.
Amir: Do you mean we should be devoid of morals?
Me: No. On the contrary, we should emphasize the benefits of any moral value that is desirable rather than sermonise from a pulpit and make people feel guilty or awed. Once we switch to this mode, I am sure our country will lose the baggage created by preachy control freaks.
Amir: To hell with your weird sense of humour and equally bizarre logic. Seems you burnt your fingers in horse racing. Better cheer the Indian Kabaddi team on clinching their 8th Asian Kabaddi Championship title yesterday. That’s more understandable. But you think it is too desi, and homegrown. You should feel proud of this. As for now, of course, it is time to say three cheers for Neeraj Chopra! Better raise a toast to the champion!