In many ways, sports can be described as the world’s best theatre that’s devoid of a script. There is dramatic lighting, unexpected segues and even sudden death situations. The euphoria it creates in the audience is a sight to behold. The idea of men battling it out against each other mimics the antagonism behind warfare albeit the killing. Sport, as such, has come a long way from its origins. Scientists have studied sport for the impact it has on human behaviour, historians have recorded its significance in mankind and artists have narrated tales of gods in the arena. As civilizations progressed and sports evolved, colour in sports became the most effective element playing different roles and has metamorphosed with an undeniable subtlety.
Taking a little stroll back in time reminds me of Gladiator battles in Rome that entertained the otherwise famished citizenry, and had the crowds celebrate in awe and exhilaration. However, thousands of people assembled in a coliseum every time not just for a casual afternoon of sports watching. The people cannot make much of the battle unless they grab sight of red. A bleeding gladiator sent the crowd into madness - never before would have several thousand men anxiously anticipated to catch a glimpse of the red from so very far away. Apart from being a sign of imminent death, red in this ruthless sport more importantly meant a good entertaining game. Humans have since evolved to keep out such barbarism at least from the sport. Colour, however, has forever stayed a quiddity of it.
Fast forward a few years, cricket - a colonial product of an empire on which the sun never set - is an elitist sport that was predominantly played by the ‘privileged’ British who strutted out in full whites. The white was symbolic, it was a message of superiority and more importantly, it was a culture that will be carried on for centuries. The worshippers of whites in cricket were met with a shock when a certain Kerry Packer proposed to introduce coloured clothing into the game.The disdain that proponents of orthodox white attire led them to believe anything to the contrary was clownish and branded Kerry Packer’s effort as a ‘Circus’. Little would they have known that this circus was soon to be the norm.
We often associate several faiths and religions also with a set of colours. Sports, for many, is no exception. At 12 years of age, I was furious when Chennai Super Kings rolled out their Jersey in a bright, in-your-face kind of yellow. Yellow was not right, yellow was the colour of Aussies who played with springs in their bat to knock us out of the world cup! MS Dhoni cannot be seen in yellow. Add to the fact that other teams had blue and red, stripes and bows, while we laid out plain yellow made the whole ensemble feel incomplete. Yellow was just not right. It was set up perfectly in my pre-teen mind – “Yellow yellow dirty fellow” will be everyone’s comeback for posterity. Yellow was even the least common power ranger!
Years rolled by, Yellow yellow dirty fellow became puerile, black became the least common power ranger and CSK yellow, well it was my yellow now, it is namma CSK yellow. MS Dhoni was the proprietor of the colour yellow. Two years of CSK ban and two years of watching our Thala in a Jam based colour was painful. No stripes, no bows and nothing flashy, an entire field of in-your-face yellow that was congruent with CSK itself, a team with no big Bollywood names and flashy players always at the top. ‘#Yellove’ became an emotion.
It is interesting to note that jersey and outfit colours have an impact on the performance, much less disputed is its impact on sports. In England, sporting colour is a time-honoured tradition which athletes earn from their universities for excelling at their sport such as the Cambridge Blue and Bristol Red. Fans of the American Oakland based NFL team Raiders sued to retain the Silver and Black uniforms after it was decided the team was going to shift base to Las Vegas. Almost two decades ago Fans of the Cleveland Brown successfully retained their colours after the franchise moved out.
I am not the first to pledge my allegiance to a particular colour and certainly won't be the last. We have continued to associate ourselves with our sporting icons and teams through the colours they parade.
It was in 2016 when an unfortunate plane crash carrying the Chapecoense football team sent shockwaves to the world including the football-loving community. The following day a bunch of friends decided to play football in the Chapecoense team green as a mark of respect. And just like that, I found myself in green along with a few football zealots in a remote corner of the world playing a sport that I have never played before in honour of a team I have never heard of before. The experience was surreal because it made me feel like I belonged. I knew no rules or names but at that moment I was a footballer as I wore the Chapecoense green, the green that incarnated something greater than the sport itself.
We always take joy in the little things, we seek solace in the familiar. There is a reason my little brother always went for blue while we played ludo, the same reason Aussie legend Steve Waugh carried a red kerchief to every match. They believed that it played a small part in their big success. It was a surreptitious trick up their sleeve, an obscured piece of a larger puzzle. Colours will always matter - especially in a realm like sports where there is nothing but lifelong fidelity, brotherhood and unity. Colour unites, colour evokes affiliations like no other. Hence, colour will always matter.