By Neha Agarwal
Have you ever loved someone so much that it is excruciatingly painful when it is not returned?
After every failed attempt, it hurts even more than before: you end up hating the person and, often, yourself for loving them.
Well, this is the case with Royal Challengers Bangalore and its fans, too. The fans’ obsession with RCB is one that reeks of unrequited love. Each year, the loyal and patient RCB fans have only witnessed the franchise’s form go from bad to worse. And, yet, the devotees continue to go to great lengths and embrace absurd superstitions in the hope that their team would lift the IPL trophy.
Only to be disappointed, one year at a time.
The plight of an RCB fan is much like a man in love who, for years, has been trying to woo the object of his affection — without any luck.
Much like true love, supporting a sports team can often be disappointing. But there is always hope, the faith that one day the girl will say ‘yes’ and, in the same light, your favourite team will win your heart. This is when you will accept that not giving up was worth the long, painful wait.
As an RCB fan, I can almost draw a parallel with a man who is on a quest to win the heart of his lady.
The first stage - excitement: The stage in the life of a love-struck man when everything appears to be fresh and beautiful. Even the mundane chores of life seem exciting. This man, with deep love in his heart, wakes up every morning with a single mission – to try every trick up his sleeve to pursue his woman, despite hiccups.
Back in 2008, when Indian Premier League was announced, I eagerly waited for the much-awaited tournament to kickstart. Like me, millions of Bangaloreans were excited to see the team perform well. The pride of our city was at stake.
I can never forget the drubbing we got at the hands of Brendon McCullum in the heart of Bangalore as Kolkata Knight Riders left me crushed, teary-eyed that fateful night. But how was I to know that it would just be the beginning and that sinking feeling would continue to stay with me?
Every time, there was a new auction, I perked up. The induction of a Kevin Pietersen or a Mitchell Starc filled me with hope. Even this time around, when RCB had to win all their 6 matches - at one point, I felt they might achieve that feat with the late addition of Dale Steyn revitalizing the RCB bowling.
However, someone rightly said hope leads to disappointment. Yeah, that’s the next part.
The second stage - disappointment: This stage is the hardest because it comes with its own rollercoaster of emotions. A crippling affliction fills up the void within you. Here is where the lover feels dejected,having tried and failed multiple times to win a date. He faces a lot of criticism from his friends who ask him to try his luck with someone else. The incessant setbacks may even affect his self-esteem as he starts doubting whether he is capable of love.
As an RCB fan, this was the stage that truly tested my loyalty for the team. With RCB’s failure to barely make it to the qualifiers every passing year, I found it impossible to believe that something could be so terribly wrong with the team I support that it just can’t win enough.
While the team always looked perfect on paper, they more than often ended up being last. Every loss bothered me so much that I would almost give up. I would hate myself for supporting a team that brought more pain than joy for the last 11 years.
This time, as RCB ended the IPL campaign beating Sunrisers Hyderabad at a jam-packed Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore, skipper Virat Kohli’s heartfelt words still ring in my ears: “I certainly feel your pain. Hats off to this crowd. They are the best fans in the IPL.”
The third stage - blind faith: Nothing can break a broken heart: it can only be healed. From this thought springs a new lease of hope and optimism. Not everyone makes it to this stage. This is not one for the weak souls.
Here, the man is disappointed after repeated failures but his determination pushes him to try yet again. He believes that one day he will triumph and the world will stop and applaud his courage to go after something he has desired forever. Those who conquer this stage are often a source of inspiration for weaker souls who give up on love.
Fortunately, I have made it to the final stage and have proudly qualified as an ardent RCB fan. Despite a horrendous start to the IPL season every year, I was determined that the team would build up momentum later in the tournament. But this never happened.
I have laughed and I have cried, but I never gave up on this team.
After all, there is a certain kind of pleasure in aching.