The Ugly Side Of B-School Sports Tournaments
Sangram 2017; the annual sports meet between the south IIMs (IIM Bangalore, Kozhikode, Trichy and Vizag) ended on Sunday. It was hosted by IIM Kozhikode who were eventually crowned the champions. This seems like an arbitrary article up until here. But there is more to it than what meets the eye. Although the trophy was presented to IIM K at the end of the tournament, it would have been in everybody’s interest to award them the trophy at the start and then play the tournament! Read on to find out why…
Coming from an IIM Bangalore student, this might seem like crying foul. Hence, I will restrict myself to presenting facts rather than my opinion and leave it up to you to form a judgement.
IIM Kozhikode won their maiden trophy and they left no stone unturned in reaching there, both on and off the field. I will narrate two most prominent incidents which support my now foregone conclusion. The first one happened with the swimming team. There were a total of 22 swimming events spanning 25m, 50m and 100m across various strokes and relays. The event was scheduled to start at 6 A.M. and had a cutoff time of 1:30 P.M. The buses of the various teams left from IIM K to the NIT Calicut swimming pool where the event was scheduled to happen. Everyone was pumped up and raring to go. But then, unfortunately, they saw the pool. That sight was horrifying at best and torturous at worst. The swimming pool was half filled with water. The rest of it was covered with worms, oil foam and algae. The only swimming competition in that pool was by the various aforementioned creatures. IIM B, T and V backed out immediately, obviously. IIM K started asking for a walkover, obviously! They claimed that the pool was fine a couple of days back when they practiced and denied shedding light on the current condition of the pool. But they were unsuccessful in this attempt as even they did not have the guts to enter that pool. Hence, the event was rescheduled at 9 A.M. at another swimming pool.
The entire contingent had to make their way back to the campus and wait for further instructions. Nobody had even had breakfast. It was 8:15 A.M. and IIM K’s Sports Committee started negotiating for cutting down the no. of events from 22 to 12. They cited lack of time as the reason for this. Now this might seem fair. But since the pool was available for 3 hours, the argument was hardly cogent. 22 events can be conducted in less than 2 hours. So why were the events being cut down? It is interesting to note that 50m and 100m laps across 22 events require a lot of practice and stamina. When it comes to 25 m sprints, it is just about one sprint. Thus, it is easier to win. After a lot of rigidness, finally all teams had to give in and swimming was reduced to just 12* events! And you guessed it right, all 10 were 25m! But this is just the tip of the iceberg. The least that a hosting IIM can do is ensure that the sporting facilities are up to scratch.* By the way, if you are forming a judgement of lack of sportsmanship by now, then I advise you to wait. There is more. The people recording the swimming timings were the sports committee members of IIM K. In the 25 m freestyle, they switched the timings of IIM Trichy and IIM Kozhikode hoping no one would notice. But to their surprise, IIM Trichy came to know about this. IIM K defended themselves saying that they had simply recorded the timings as they happened. To their horror, IIM Trichy had the event recorded on video which clearly showed IIM T’s swimmer finishing before IIM K’s swimmer. The sports committee was shocked to see this. They now started claiming that it was a clerical error. Sheer disgrace. Furthermore, after all the events were done, they took more than a day to confirm the final results. They performed all possible statistical operations on the timings. An attempt which managed to get them the Bronze Medal in Men’s Swimming. The Gold Medal which they earned in Women’s Swimming was very well deserved though. They had a national swimmer and she truly showed her mettle.
If the above incident has come as a shock to you, then you will certainly enjoy this one. The traditional Indian sport of Kho-Kho brought about the true spirit of Sangram (no puns intended). The finals of Kho-Kho between IIM Bangalore and IIM Kozhikode started at 1 A.M. as scheduled. A crowd of over 150 from both colleges was witnessing what was to come. The game started exactly as a final should. Fiercely fought between 2 great teams who deserved to be in the finals. It was a close contest fought by 12 people from each team. The crowd was doing its best to act as the 13th Man through immense and non-stop sledging. Sledging off the field is a part and parcel of the game and did not come as a surprise. However, what was shocking was the way IIM K players were conducting themselves on the field. In an attempt to get people from IIM B out, they were literally treating it as a boxing game; punching and kicking repeatedly. They did not refrain from verbally abusing girls either. The crowd was on the edge looking at what was going on. After a few minutes, an IIM K player kicked an IIM B player on the chest right in front of the IIM B supporters. This led to an onslaught by the entire IIM B supporting contingent as well as that of IIM K. More than 150 people were on the field exchanging kicks and blows while a few tried to stop them. It was really shameful that a closely fought contest had to be interrupted like this. IIM K was leading at that stage and was clearly the better team. Their 13th Man was probably doing his job very well. This may be due to the fact that he was supported by 2 more men. Confused? I will explain that in a minute.
Let me back up a little bit. When the game was interrupted due to the invasion by the supporters, it led to a discussion between the two teams and the referees as to what is to be done. An interesting sequence of events followed. IIM Bangalore alleged that IIM Kozhikode was using 1* extra player (beyond the 13th Man of course). IIM K obviously denied it. The IIM B captain also showed the 1 extra player* to the referee to which IIM K replied that he was not a Kho-Kho player but indeed a Hockey player and had nothing to do with the game. The referees had no reason to give any importance to the allegations and IIM K was very confident of their stand. But, to their horror, yes you guessed it right, IIM Bangalore had video recordings of the game! The videos and pictures clearly showed that IIM K was actually using 14 players instead of 12. IIM B asked for immediate disqualification of IIM K citing that the evidence was beyond all doubt. But it was not going to be that simple. The arguments that followed ensured that Sangram was no longer a sports competition. It was all about negotiating. IIM K put forth their stand saying that the rules allowed 14 players. This was checked and turned out to be false. Their next argument was that they are ready to take a penalty of 3 outs and continue with the match. This too was denied. The next argument was pure desperation. They said that since both teams’ supporters invaded the ground, both teams should be disqualified. IIM B threatened to back out of Sangram altogether. 4 hours of negotiation followed 30 mins of Kho-Kho after which IIM K accepted to have cheated and was disqualified. The gold medal went to IIM Bangalore. Now again, lets back up a little bit. Why on earth was anyone recording a Kho-Kho game that was so much fun to watch and be completely involved in? A few IIM B students were recording the game on instructions from a few seniors. They knew it would be handy later on. And why did they think so? Because IIM K had done this every year! Even IIM Trichy and IIM Vizag agreed to this. It was high time to catch the thief red-handed. And as is always the case, the thief was overconfident on never getting caught. There is a famous saying that applies here, “The bad guys need to get lucky every single time, but the good guys need to get lucky only once!”
IIM Kozhikode won Sangram handsomely and probably deserved to win it too. They had a very strong contingent and some exceptional sportsmen across sports who scintillated the crowd. If whatever happened, had not had happened, maybe IIM K would have still won it handsomely. There is no doubting the sporting prowess of IIM K which was clearly displayed in this tournament.
Woodrow Wilson once famously said, “If you lose your wealth, you have lost nothing; but if you lose your character, you have lost everything.” At the end, I stick to my promise and leave it to you to form your own opinion. IIM Kozhikode won Sangram 2017 by winning 11 Gold Medals as highly touted on their blog. However, who were the true winners of this tournament? Or a probably more apt question would be, who were the biggest losers in this tournament?
P.S.: The 2 incidents I have cited are on purpose. This is by no means an exhaustive list. However, I chose these 2 because IIM Bangalore won the Gold Medal in both of them. It was just to reinforce that this article is not a case of crying foul. It is for preserving what sports mean. I am an out and out sportsman at heart and I hate losing more than I love winning. But what I hate more is when the image of sports is tainted. This article is just an attempt to reinforce the image of sports and sporting events. Especially when the most prestigious Indian b-schools are involved.
Author’s Note :
Some of the factual inaccuracies pointed out to me have been corrected.
For all those questioning my sportsmanship and asking me to accept defeat with grace, I request you to read the part where I have mentioned that IIM Kozhikode had an exceptional sporting contingent and deserved to win hands down. This article is not about winning or losing Sangram. Every year, the Sangram trophy goes only to those who deserve it and this year was no exception. If you want me to say it, then here it is, “I accept defeat in Sangram, with Grace!”
*This article was edited on 24th November 2017 at 2:27 pm as requested by the author of the article.