What goes on in the mind of a fan? There’s a whole lot of psychology, identification, basking in reflected glory and more. Which is why Sachin Tendulkar’s fans are in mourning, writes ANUSHA NARAIN

“I’ll never smile again. I never wanted this day to come, now that it’s here, I don’t know what to do.”

“This is it; I’ve been hit, it’s the end of the road for me, I’ll only know misery from here on out.”

The thrill is gone; the thrill is gone for good for Sachin fans around the world and they are all ready to pen the longest and the most fervent Ode to Dejection. December 23, 2012 was the day when their whole world came crashing down around them.

“I can’t express my feelings in words. I am shocked and sad. My world of cricket is over as far as ODI cricket is concerned. It’s really like the end of the world for me. It’s like living without oxygen, water and food. I can’t imagine ODIs without Sachin,” this is what Deepesh K. Nair, a die-hard Sachin fan, said two days after the announcement came.

But then there are a few who do not understand the surge of emotion. “It’s not the apocalypse; a man retired from his job. It happens every day; how about some perspective,” said Jayant Singh. Jayant is obviously not a sports fanatic. It takes one to comprehend the emotional turmoil Sachin fans are going through right now. He does present a strong argument though.

So the question is, what’s causing all this anxiety? The occurrence does not directly affect the fans. Their lives are as good or bad as they were before the news became public. The following can be the possible answers.

According to a theory, sports is the modern-day equivalent of tribal wars of earlier times sans the blood and gore (some sports are an exception to this). In those days, the tribes rooted for their warriors, who embodied the best qualities of their kind. They identified with them. The tribesmen were heavily involved in the battles and consequently felt the joy of victory and the misery of defeat as vehemently as the warriors. Our sportsmen are our warriors, capable of great feats and endeavours. Watching them play gives us the rush our ancestors got through tribal wars. Basically it is old wine in a new, designer bottle.

Now, if the ace warrior decided to hang his boots, it would certainly be disappointing. “The fans will miss watching Sachin play. The addictive rise and fall in the testosterone levels will no longer be motivated by the master strokes of the Master Blaster. They feel a sense of loss. Nobody wants a good thing to end,” said Aditi Saxena, a psychotherapist from Bhopal.

That’s one reason; the other could have something to do with the social needs of an individual. The life of an average individual does not entail the drama and excitement that comes with extraordinary skill and achievement; but the heart still wants it. One of the ways to do that is to attach one’s self (concept) with someone who has accomplished the dream; then one can know the highs of success vicariously. In psychological terms it’s called basking in reflected glory (BIRGing). BIRGing brings forth a higher self-esteem (or lowers it, depending upon how well the fan’s favourite player playing on a given day). It gives the fan an improved social identity.

He now belongs to the cool group, which reveres that one super achiever; social acceptance is bound to follow.

Sportsmen become the extension of the self of the fan. The players’ victory (and defeat) is his own. “I remember when Sachin scored his 100 ton; I felt I could take on the world. I was so happy and confident. I was even appreciated in class that day,” said Neha Kumar, a college student, “but when he was going through a dry patch, I had a tough time shutting up his imbecile detractors.”“Ups and downs in the careers of their idols are bound to evoke a strong response in the fans. After all they do believe they are a part of the whole production. Sachin’s retirement means that the dream run is over,” said Debasmita Sinha, a clinical psychologist from Pune.

Well, that’s possibly how a fan’s mind works. The affiliation brings with it a natural high that only those who love intensely can know. It also brings a sorrow that is as unfathomable and imminent as death.

In the end, a word for the Little Master, who gave us a reason to celebrate for 23 years and will rule our hearts forever. In the words of Duke Ellington: “You said goodbye; no stars in the sky refuse to shine, take it from me it’s no fun to be alone with moonlight and memories. “

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