The anatomy of a mass phenomenon

Saurabh talks about two very important variables that contribute to creating a mass phenomenon. The jury on what truly propels such a phenomenon is still out. Gladwell's tipping point explanation has its skeptics, as in the case of Brad Hunter and Stephen Dubner.

Keeping in mind my post on the state of hockey and cricket in India, its now pertinent to look at the issue from a different perspective. Lets try and figure, why a movement DOES NOT acquire a mass phenomenon proportion.

In this case, the subject being hockey in India. Why wasn't there 'the network effect coupled with a feedback loop'? Why did the first wave of people not talk about hockey? Why did the media not pick it up? Why did most people not want hear about it? Why wasn't the mass hysteria not generated?

Take another sport as a comparable example, Football. Its one of the easiest of games to play if you wanted to. All you needed was a football and some space. I remember as a schoolboy the hassles of playing cricket. You needed the kit, you needed a pitch, you had to have the larger set of participants engaging in the act of 'fielding' which most people didn't want to, as everyone either wanted to bat or bowl..and so on. In fact during my school days, one and a half decade ago, I remember a fair share of kids actively playing football, cricket and even hockey. Those numbers dwindled over the years, especially for hockey and football. Conversely the number increased for cricket. Why?

Is it because the game caught the fancy of most kids? Again, why did it? Can we safely conclude that the rising performance graph of Indian cricket team is what propelled the number graph (people fancying the game) to climb? Conversely, did a dipping performance graph for both football and hockey ensure the number graph plummeted?

Did we as nation collectively find solace in the victories of the Indian cricket team at a time where our performance in all the other sports put together turned worse than pathetic? Where does a nation of a billion people then satisfy their 'need for pride' from? Surely not from sports where we get beaten black and blue! Therefore its only obvious that we as a nation turned to cricket. We looked to the cricket stage to help us derive a measure of our need for 'esteem', our need to be seen as 'performers' in a globalised world. Its an emotional 'well being' that we desperately sought. Cricket turned our saviour.

Of course, all of this would vanish, though it would a considerable period of time, if we get beaten at cricket too, and if those losses persist for a considerable period of time. Now, that's a distant possibility. We genuinely seem to be doing well. Plus, after all, its a just a few countries we need to deal with.

Hail cricket!


SG said…
Hi Prof. Titus,

I am myself interested in mass hysteria and other group decision making.

Coming back to Hockey and Cricket and Football, can it be because Cricket was always a game then Britishers played (when they were ruling India) and most of the people aspired to move a notch in life? These people encouraged their kids to play the sport that gentlemen played?

I am just speculating - I am no social scientist.

Rising performance might be a factor but again, there are a lot of other sports where we are amongst the best (Hockey used to be it), Chess is and there are others too. I dont know.

Then I think Hockey and Football are very popular in certain pockets in India. Where as Cricket is universally accepted. Again I dont know why.

Too many opinions from my side and too less answers ... Wish I knew !


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