Cricket Loyalties and The Human Brain

Continuing with the trend of shamelessly ripping off others’ work, I give you New York Times columnist David Brooks’ take on neuroscience.

The article’s more about the latest trends in “social cognitive neuroscience,” that is, the study of the effects of culture and social interactions on the human brain. The relevant paragraph here:

Mina Cikara of Princeton and others scanned the brains of Yankee and Red Sox fans as they watched baseball highlights. Neither reacted much to an Orioles-Blue Jays game, but when they saw their own team doing well, brain regions called the ventral striatum and nucleus accumbens were activated. This is a look at how tribal dominance struggles get processed inside.

This is in reference to Dileep Premachandran’s column on cricket loyalties, as well as my post on why cricket should stay international: our brains are already wired to root for countries, not made-up IPL franchises.

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6 thoughts on “Cricket Loyalties and The Human Brain

  1. achettup says:

    “our brains are already wired to root for countries, not made-up IPL franchises.”

    And this simply cannot change, correct? Because if we have learned one thing about the human brain, it is its inability to adapt.

    Why is it that there are passionate fans for club football even in countries which originally only had a national representative?

    I’m sorry, but in my estimation you have either misunderstood your own quote or have skewed it essence to suit your argument. If people have grown up supporting one team, would it not only be natural for them to be more interested when that team plays? A lot of people may not like it, but club cricket will end up being the future, the irreversible steps taken in this direction have had substantial levels of success in India, and even once the IPL teams were eliminated in the Champions League, there was sufficient interest (outside of India) for the teams that had made it through.
    Looking at football (soccer), there are passionate fans for both club sides and national sides, both levels of the sport are able to coexist. As the international cricket calendar (mainly the FTP) gradually breaks down to a few marquee Test series, I anticipate people will embrace both the club sides and international cricket with the same fervor. You can quote this comment in three years either way, but I’m reasonably confident that I will win this one.

    • Ducking Beamers says:

      Fair enough — though I think the future you outline will need more than three years. Some of the most popular football clubs, like Manchester United, have more than a century’s worth of history behind them, enough time to build intense tribal loyalties (to use David Brooks’ phrase).

      The point of my post wasn’t that IPL had absolutely no prospective fan base (though I wish that were the case). Yes, as you rightly — if too snarkily pointed out — successive generations will find a new marketplace, and their loyalties will change.

      But when will that time arrive? Looking at the current ODI series between Australia and India, I find the international context thriving, perhaps even more so than the Champions League did (at least in India). Moreover, given the intense nationalism often portrayed in middle-class, modern India, I cannot believe that international contests will be knocked off their pedestal as quickly as you think.

      Who knows? The future will look different from the present, but I hope the cricket world I grew up with sticks around just a bit longer.

  2. Russ says:

    I’m with achettup on this. The franchises are made up, sure, but they are rooted in local loyalties, which are strong, even in cricket.

    Furthermore, contrary to your previous post, the economics strongly favour a club format. For reasons that are easy to see, cricket administrators and top players have a vested interest in making cricket an elitist narrow sport, where they skim the cream off the economic pie. But outside that narrow band, club cricket is a far superior model for several reasons:

    1) More fans can attend games. The Indian national team can only play once or twice a year in each of a dozen or so cities. In a club model, you can stage a game every few days. Even if the crowds are smaller on average, there will still be more money floating around.

    2) More players can get paid well. In the national system, the wealth is distributed between 100 odd players. In a club system with several dozen teams world-wide, professional cricket becomes possible for potentially 1000s of players. As the ICL showed, all the fringe players outside the national team, or players from smaller nations (particularly those excluded from test cricket) have an interest in moving away from a national system.

    3) By limiting national cricket to say four months a year, it becomes more essential to structure competitions that are meaningful (world and regional championships with qualifiers, marquee tours, and the odd friendly at a national level; leagues and champions trophies at a domestic level) and allows the the game to expand beyond the current 10 (8, really) test sides.

    There should be pressure from below, therefore, to change the structure of the game towards club/domestic cricket and limited meaningful national competitions. Whether and how long it will take for that pressure to emerge and come to bear is hard to say though. I am not as optimistic as achettup that it is going to happen.

    • duckingbeamers says:

      Russ — excellent points. But even if the economics favors the club circuit, should we as cricket fans do so as well?

      • Russ says:

        DB, you personally can favour whatever you like. If the game is larger and stronger under a club model then that is good for the fans, because there are more of them, watching more cricket. The international game won’t die. If anything will be stronger, more meaningful and more competitive if it was limited. But I might be stating that from the perspective of someone tired of watching the treadmill of meaningless series (be they test, odi or t20).

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