I’m by nature very aggressive and risk-taking. I don’t mind picking fights with people, am never afraid to banter or be sarcastic, and sometimes without really calculating it, end up taking much bigger risks than I can handle, though I never really ask for a bailout in case my bets go bad. And I’m extremely impatient.
It’s been a while since I played any kind of sport, but I’ll go dig back into the past in order to make this argument. In most sports that I play or have played, I’ve been by nature the way I am in real life. Take chess for example, the only sport I’ve played at a level that can be called competitive (I participated in state-level age-group tournaments in 1994-95, before I retired at the ripe age or thirteen). I’m this extremely tactical and risky player, and don’t really have the patience to play correctly in slow boring positions. While this nature helped me do well in the odd game here and there, my lack of patience meant that I was never winning tournaments, and that led me to call time on my career.
In contract bridge, another indoor sport which I’ve played at a reasonable level (Madras city tournaments), again I’ve been very adventurous and risk-taking, often bidding for contracts over what could have logically been made (we used to play pairs, so making a “better contract” sometimes helped), playing sometimes for impossible card distributions based only on a whim. Again, a few spectacular hands here and there, but mostly indifferent performance. I haven’t played much cricket, but in all the tennis-ball cricket I’ve played I’ve been an across-the-line slogger. In my childhood I bowled superfast and erratic, and then suddenly lost my pace and started bowling loopy off-breaks. So you see that in general, for me, sport has reflected life.
The exception is in perhaps the only two outdoor games where I’ve been anything better than downright ordinary – volleyball and basketball – both games I started playing back in high school, and in which I could’ve done much better than I did (at least represented my college in both) if I’d bothered to put in rigorous practice.
And the exception is that in these two games, I play extremely defensively. Most of my “moments of success” (uncopyrighted) in volleyball have come when I’ve blocked or lifted smashes, and though I did have a booming serve I’d get into the team due to my defensive abilities, and serviceable “boosting”. In basketball, despite having the ability to shoot from random angles and distances, I’ve mostly made it to teams based on my ability to block and tackle; my inclination to be the first to track back when we lose the ball (though not being very quick); of basically being this old-fashioned disciplined guy in the team, which I’m not in real life.
Unfortunately, my biggest moments of sporting disappointment have come on the volleyball court (I’m definitely better at volleyball than basketball, if you could compare). And have been the guilty party on many an occasion.
Exhibit A: August 1999. Voyagers versus Pioneers. We go 2 sets up, opposition gets 2 sets back. 15-14 in final set, I’m serving on match point, decide to “play safe” (remember I had a booming serve). Serve into the net.
Exhibit B: February 2005. G Block versus F Block. Same story. We go 2 sets up, they get back 2 sets. We’re leading 20-16 in final set (new scoring system). I decide to spike rather than boosting for the in-position Pedro. And spike weakly. And then later on match point, remembering the 1999 fiasco, go for an even more safer serve. Serve gets returned and we lose our advantage. And lose the game.
Exhibit C: February 2005 again. Section C vs Section A. Story way too similar to Exhibit B, so I make a conscious effort to not remember the details. But it was as painful.
I wonder if the fact that my most painful moments on the sporting field have come when I’ve shed my usual risky-and-aggressive behaviour and put on a disciplined avatar, have led me to become even more risky and aggressive in real life.