Saturday, November 21, 2009

Of Sport and Passion.

This article happened after raking the brain for hours. Six hours. Five of those six came after 00.00 hour.
Anyway, I wrote this for a department fest magazine called Transit. The theme, hence, being 'change' or 'transition'.

Change. One knows not whether it is for good or for bad . Change is all pervading, all affecting. There are many things that change , as we grow. Grow out of our shells, grow out of our habits, grow into adults. All the while, moulding our personality, making us the people we are. And then there are those changes that we have no control over, but still make a massive impact on our lives.

As a Formula 1 fan for about ten years now, I have seen the many changes that this sport has undergone. Be it rules and regulations, new teams, departing teams or simply the change into becoming a sport with theatrics, I have been there to watch. But nothing changed me, as much as Michael Schumacher did.

Michael Schumacher drove his last Formula1 race in October, 2006. It was a breath-taking race, a spectacular display of the Meister's capabilities. Watching him drive would have filled the heart of every fan with pride. After 71 laps, it wasn't just the race that had come to an end. For most people around the world, it was the end of an era. For me, it was the day my childhood ended. I had grown up watching his shiny red car take him to the podium every alternate weekend. This man, along with the team he revived, was the constant change that my life grew around.

Michael Schumacher gave me my identity. He defined my existence as a human being , driving most of my instincts and my puerile opinions. A Schumacher victory or defeat would decide my mood for the following couple of days. Being a tomboy who rarely cried, there was, surprisingly, no resistance for tears that rolled out of my eyes when he crashed. When the same happened to his opponents though, my neighbors would have monstrous laughter echoing through their homes. Defending him or cheering for him was all I ever did. There have been many friends lost over arguments. Countless hair strands were pulled out and plenty of blood vessels threatened to burst, while I watched every race.

It might seem like taking things too far if I said his wins inspired me to do well at school, but yes, they actually did. I particularly remember a project we were asked to do, on our favorite sports person. It was the first time I worked on a project with all of my heart and soul, making helmets and wheels out of paper , scanning the internet for hours and eventually ending up with a mini-biography. The appreciation I received from my teachers only made me love this man more. There have been times when I'd vow to not watch the sport again , all because Schumacher came second and not first. Until Schumi, I wasn't one who thinks of competition. Stories of his dedication to his team and to winning, of how he worked on his car all night , would leave me in a trance. A state of complete awe which would eventually have me motivated and full of energy. I was always told, it was an absurdity to let celebrities and their exploits affect us to such an extent. But how Schumacher drove his races would always show in me and my work. And more often than not, it worked to my benefit. The era of Schumacher was and will always be, the period when I had 'the time of my life'.

Lets jump to the less inviting present. One might say the sport hasn't been drastically affected by Schumacher's retirement. Yes. Only, now there is more drama off-track than on it. If we recall the huge wave of excitement that swept the world when Michael announced a come-back earlier this year, we realise just what he did for this sport. There are many talented drivers, agreed. But no one for whom I would ignore sleep , skip work and ensure that races were not missed. There are Britons who have the whole nation rooting for them, charming Finns who never fail to spice up races , young Germans who don't stop proving themselves. But I, like many fans, still look for Schumachers in them. It is both a matter of pride as well as pain, when every driver who performs well is compared to Schumi. Pain, because no matter how good the newbie is, he is not Schumi. For Schumacher made the sport heavenly. His drives were nothing short of magical. My vocabulary restricts me from expressing articulately, the euphoria he brought to us, Schumacher fans. Michael was special. And he is irreplaceable.

So when Michael retired, I was stranded. For a while, there was nothing that could interest me or inspire me. I believed that it was the end of following the sport. That I wouldn't have anything to look forward to, week after week. That my passion for sport and enthusiasm for life would die a quick death. But three years on, I look back at his retirement as a refreshing reminder of reality. A change that was foisted upon me. After three calm years of introspection, I realize, it was not merely the person that had given me my identity, it was a whole body of ideals. Of heroism, of victory. Of dedication and will. Of simplicity and supremacy. He had been but the embodiment.

With his retirement, a defining feature of my childhood was taken away. And I didn't have a say. I knew then that it was time to grow up. Schumacher, and what he stood for , changed me as a child, helped me grow as a teen and stand by me still. I reiterate, nobody will ever affect my life, like Michael Schumacher did.

A big Thank You! to Nihal and Sid, for getting this piece and me out of our ruts.


Akshata said...

I remember the Merin after Schumi retired. We had barely met. I don't remember you being verbally distraught but it sure had affected you visibly.

What you exhibit is more than passion. It is simply astounding and more than anything, I want to feel that way for something too. Let it happen soon, dear devil!

Button in McLaren. :P

Merin Mandanna said...

:D You like writing! You always have. You love literature. :)

But, coming back to that abstract sentence.."Button in McLaren"..yes, so? Whose side are you on? :-o

Vinay Hegde said...

I didn't know you then, when the man was still driving. So, sigh..

Merin Mandanna said...

Its alright. You know me now. :D

Madhurya said...

It was indeed a fantastic time when Schumi was driving. Hell, it was even fun to watch Alonso whine about 'F1 is not a sport, it is a business'.
I really wanted to see him back on the track this season. I prayed for it.. Unfortunate he didnt return.
Formula 1 has somehow lost all the charm and the grandeur without The Reinmeister.

Merin Mandanna said...

You speak my mind, Madhurya.

siddh said...

Hey, I didn't know you had posted this one! Well, this is the first blog post that I have had any role to play in, lazy as I am to blog. Thanks!

Merin Mandanna said...