Welcome to The Jerky Loudspeaker - an independent sports and culture newsletter, I’m super excited to have you here! Before you dive in, let me quickly break down how the newsletter is structured. Think of it like a mini newspaper, with three sections:
Deep Dive - Each piece/series in this section will be an in-depth analysis of the thoughts and emotions that arise from my interactions and experiences with the arts
Consumption Corner - A weekly review of what I’m watching, reading and listening to.
Balls, Bats & Baskets - As always, sports on the back page. In this section I’ll geek out about the happenings in this world of balls, bats and baskets.
Passion Projects - Once a month, I feature Q&As with creatives from different professional and personal backgrounds.
The World Test Championship Final, the NBA playoffs, Copa America and of course, the EUROS - these are just some of the sporting events lined up for the month ahead. So as you can imagine, the newsletter will be quite sports heavy for the next couple of weeks. The Deep Dive section may be sacrificed on certain weeks to keep up with the relentlessness of the sporting calendar.
I’ve been hosting rooms on Clubhouse to discuss, argue and opine about everything EURO related. You know how groupchats go into overdrive during major tournaments? These rooms are essentially of the same vibe. It’s a place to debate, argue and opine about everything EUROS related with likeminded football fans. Follow me on Clubhouse using the link below and look out for the next scheduled room!
Balls, Bats & Baskets
Voluntary & Involuntary
The events and emotions of Saturday afternoon in Copenhagen can broadly be put into two categories - Involuntary Reactions and Voluntary actions
Involuntary Reaction #1
‘If you could go back in time, which sporting moments from the last five years would you watch live?’ - this was the question my father and I were discussing early Saturday evening.
The Barca comeback against PSG in 2017, the France-Argentina game in the 2018 World Cup, the 2019 Cricket World Cup Final, the 2019 Wimbledon Final were just some of the moments that came up in discussion. I put forward Kawhi Leonard’s Buzzer-Beater from the 2018 NBA playoffs. My dad hadn’t watched that game and I pulled it up on YouTube for us to watch. Now, I’ve seen this last play umpteen times before from various angles, but I again had goosebumps watching the ball bounce on the rim as the entire arena fell silent.
In fact, each of the moments we’d put forward could be categorized as ‘goosebumpy’. I have a theory that if a sporting moment gives you goosebumps on your first viewing, it will always continue to do so.
The greatness of sporting moments should be measured in their goosebumps evoking capabilities, I thought to myself as I once again found myself caught in Kawhi’s thrall. This notion was quickly discarded a few hours later after what transpired at Parken Stadium.
Watching Eriksen collapse gave me goosebumps. It was spine tingling in the worst possible way. I didn’t feel any buzz of adrenaline. Just chills down my back.
In major tournaments, the concept of a talisman is especially pronounced. A country’s identity becomes inseparable from that of its star player. Christian Eriksen was Denmark’s talisman. It shouldn’t have mattered who collapsed, but it did.
And it wasn’t just the collapse that triggered this response. It was from Schmeichel biting his hand, channeling his shock in the most primal of ways. It was from the steady flow of tears down Thomas Delaney’s face. It was from Andreas Christensen’s dazed expression. It was from Simon Kjaer kissing the forehead of Eriksen’s wife.
I realize now that goosebumps aren’t evoked by the presence of greatness. It’s just our body’s response to something that our mind can’t comprehend. As was the case with Kawhi’s Buzzer-Beater, I know the images from Saturday afternoon in Parken Stadium will always give me goosebumps. But, for completely different reasons.
Voluntary Action #1
‘The game must go on’ is a dated concept. In the Clubhouse Room I hosted the day after the game, there was a valid point raised that it’s a phrase that only sounds good in rhetoric.
The fact that the game went on is an absolute disgrace. UEFA gave the team two options - either finish the game the same day or at 12 noon the next day.
“We knew we had two options. The players couldn’t imagine not being able to sleep tonight and then having to get on the bus and come in again tomorrow. Honestly, it was best to get it over with,” said Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand after the game.
The fact that completion was the driving factor behind playing tells you everything you need to know. It displays a complete lack of sensitivity by UEFA and blatant disregard for trauma. This wasn’t a freak injury, it was a near death moment.
The players shouldn’t have been put in such a situation. UEFA’s actions are part of a broader trend that’s become increasingly prevalent in all sports in the past year. Athletes aren’t seen as humans, but as props. Governments have depended on the galvanizing effect sport can have on people to uplift morale in the pandemic. The morale brought on by their ineptitude in handling a crisis. Just take a look at the IPL this year for instance - in the throes of a debilitating Second Wave, cricketers were forced into oppressive bubbles away from their families and put themselves at risk just so they could provide ‘distraction’.
The trauma at Parken Stadium wasn’t restricted just to the players. While at home, we had a chance to switch off our TVs and phones to disengage, those in the stadium didn’t have that option. While many fans left, most stayed behind just to know what would happen. There was external compulsion to play for the players and hence, an internal compulsion to stay for the fans. No matter how disturbed you are by what had transpired, the chances of you leaving the game you bought tickets for months in advance (and probably paid through the roof for) are unlikely.
Voluntary Action #2
Let’s not forget the Finns in all of this.
After years of heartbreak and near qualification misses, Finland finally made it to the big stage. It was what they’d been dreaming of since that night of catharsis in Helsinki in November 2019 when their qualification for the EUROS sparked scenes of unparalleled ecstasy.
This was their moment. They did win the game and create history in the process, but the scenes of jubilation will always have a blemish. It’s a moment they won’t forget, but it’ll be tough to savor it.
Joel Pohjanpalo’s reaction after his goal captured this dissonance. After heading in, he burst into a sprint before checking himself and stopping in his tracks. He put his hands up in respect, mellowing the guttural euphoria. To let a moment of such historical importance pass by and curb natural instinct isn’t an easy thing to do. It’s an act of greatness that should go down in the annals of sport. The Finnish team broke into a quick huddle as a means of celebration. As if to collectively share their conflict of emotions.
Involuntary Reaction #2
The Finnish fans weren’t able to display the type of restraint their players did. The celebrations at full time may have felt jarring, but they were by no means disrespectful.
“The history of Finnish football is not the rosiest one, but neither is the history of our country. Living with hardship is part of a Finn’s DNA. Despite wars, financial recessions and famines we are still standing tall. Despite last-minute defeats and years of underachievement, players and fans alike did not give in. We’re a resilient bunch of people, on and off the pitch,” Finnish captain Tim Sparv wrote in the Guardian ahead of the tournament.
The scenes of celebration were instinctive. For those few minutes, nothing mattered to those Finnish fans in the stadium. They were submerged in the moment, riding the crest of a wave of which they’d only experience troughs.
Involuntary Reaction #3
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg crumbling to his knees after the penalty miss. In that moment, it felt like he carried the entire weight of the nation’s emotions. It was a heartbreaking sight.
It might be reductive to put down Højbjerg’s penalty miss and Schmeichel fluffing his lines for the goal to the state their heads were in, but Schmeichel’s comments the next day are telling.
“We were put in a position I don’t think we should have been put in,” he said. “It probably required that someone above us had said that it was not the time to make a decision and maybe should wait for the next day.”
Forward Martin Braithwaite shared this sentiment - “We had two options. None of the options were good. We took the least bad one. There were a lot of players that weren’t able to play the match. They were elsewhere [mentally]. You could have wished for a third option in this situation”.
One of the players unable to take the field was captain Simon Kjaer. Manager Hjulmand said the player was '“deeply affected” and “gave it a shot, but it could not be done.”
Not all heroes wear capes. And no heroes go out and play a half of football after watching one of their best friends have a near death experience.
I’ll be praying for Christian Eriksen and I wish him a speedy recovery. But, I’ll also be praying for everyone who was in Parken that afternoon. I hope you do too.
What I’m reading: This is an important thread. I found it quite comforting.
What I’m watching: Not sure what led to me searching for this video, but I didn’t expect to be hit by such a wall of nostalgia.
What I’m listening to: The recently released 22 Yarns episode with Yuvraj Singh. Host Gaurav Kapur and Yuvi’s obvious chemistry makes you feel as though you’re sitting in a living room with them as they recount stories from the annals of Indian cricket.
Here’s an interesting anecdote Yuvi told on the episode - In the 2007 WT20 Final, the final over was offered to Harbhajan Singh, but he refused. He’d been hit for 3 sixes in his previous over and said his yorker wasn’t landing. He told Dhoni he’d be better off handing the ball to a pacer. And that’s how Joginder Sharma ended up bowling the last over.
I’d love to hear what you thought of this week’s edition! To share your thoughts, comments or if just want to chat, hit me up at email@example.com!
In last week’s edition:
Deep Dive: How my mother’s acting teacher inspired me to foray into the martial arts
Consumption Corner: A New Yorker essay on Korean supermarkets, a video on how to track our calories & a Twitter thread on why Google Search might become a thing of the past.
Read it here!