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The Sporting Temperament

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The Sporting TemperamentA recent Tamil hit film called ‘Unnale Unnale’ made a certain kind of female character register in unforgettable ways with the audience. This is the kind of woman who is always angry about something or the other, intensely critical of her partner for doing all the ‘guy’ things like drink with his buddies, arrive late, tell white lies, or try and crack stupid jokes to cover up his faults. Played by the beautiful Sada on screen, this character grates so intensely on one’s nerves that one is tempted to walk out of the film – before the much sweeter-tempered girl played by Tanissha can actually win the hero! While you watch the repeated tantrums of poor Sada, one wonders – can any person be so unsporting, so petty, so lacking in humour?

When men and women fight over small things in relationships, men can often be heard urging their woman to ‘Be a sport!’ or ‘Come on, forget it, show some sporting spirit, yaar!’ So what is this sporting spirit all about? Is it about becoming as infantile and immature as men sometimes become? Is it about taking up a tennis racquet?

“I think being a sport – on both sides – is very important in a relationship,” says Deepti, team leader in a BPO. “Basically, being a sport means being generous and big-hearted, not holding on to grudges, and being able to laugh at things together. Unfortunately, while guys keep asking for us to be sporting, they are not so good at being sports themselves. I was once in a relationship with a colleague who was so madly possessive that he could not tolerate me getting a call from my girlfriend whenever we were together. But he always expected sporting behaviour from me!”

“Nobody expects a girl to think exactly like a guy,” says Srivats, a young graphic designer. “But what makes them so tough to get along with is how they keep bringing up something we may have done wrong many months ago. For a guy, this will not matter at all. That’s what we mean when we say they can’t be sports. Also, they seem to have something against sports, too. If I spend three weekends in a row playing matches, my girlfriend will start sulking like anything. She won’t see that the other days in the week, I am riding my bike for nearly an hour in peak traffic every evening to meet her! She keeps on saying, ‘Oh, you only want to play cricket or drink!’ It makes me so angry to listen to those words.”

Perhaps what men and women want to invoke in their partners when they appeal for sportsmanship is the immense psychological control and restraint that some sportsmen show – think of Pete Sampras or Roger Federer. In order to keep a relationship healthy, it is also important to avoid the kind of breakdown of sportsmanship displayed by a footballer as great and gifted as Zinedine Zidane in a Football World Cup final. Whatever be the words Marco Materazzi said to him to cause the rush of blood that resulted in the infamous head-butt, Zidane will forever live with regret for his momentary loss of sportsmanship – as will, indeed, all of France.

While it may not be possible for him to retrace his steps now, for most of us, it is still possible to show a much more sporting nature to our spouses and partners!

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