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Monday, March 30, 2009

Contriving Bureaucratic Values for Goodwill...!!!

My last post invoked diverse opinions and left a little but few confused readers. This time I shall make sure I do not take you guys for a ride and be as specific to my view as possible. This paragraph may well start off the post, but apparently was the last I wrote. While reading through my own thoughts put together in this post, I am compelled to request the readers to read it rather from a global perspective than just holding their thoughts glued to any particular region/state/country. I am not being specific to any one government or sect of people. The idea behind writing this post was to be as generic in nature as possible and avoid any human unjust. I have taken into consideration many parameters, including exponential increase/decrease in population, poverty, illiteracy, etc. on a World front. In this post I try to defy at the same time defend political bureaucracy that prevails in each and every regional/state/national government, and its effort to formulize a regime. 

Few fixtures of civilization invite more derision than bureaucracy. I understand that government agencies are necessary for the smooth operation of civic life but bristle at the prospect of having to interact with them. Public offices are cold, monolithic things, operating on principles that have little regard for personal niceties and human foibles. This fact is true for most administrations through out the world, be it be a Zimbabwe or The United States of America. What would excite me most today, is the very thought that all the administrations in the World working together under a common roof, a dream that is well distanced from truism.

Defying Bureaucracy is very naïve, but to understand its real intent and direction is only a matter of intellect. International bureaucracies are autonomous actors in a broader process of global governance. Their actions are oftentimes removed from the intentions and control of their creators; they affect other actors and engage in subject matters not formerly within their reach. Their factual impact remains underestimated. Little consolation can be found in the contention that international bureaucracies merely seek the effective implementation of global goals. A yawning gap unfolds between the mechanisms of control, means and ways for contesting the actions of bureaucracies and their actual exercise of public authority. These are the primary contentions motivating research on the development and conceptualization of international law. It emphasizes law’s constitutive role in providing a space for legal and political contestation as an indispensable prerequisite for the normative desirability of autonomous international bureaucracies. Amid all this is the idea of liberalization and how bureaucracy affects its roots. Let’s now discuss this in detail. 

Universal values exist, but it does not follow that the world ought to contain only liberal regimes. The sad fact is that universal values conflict with one another. There will always be a variety of legitimate regimes, liberal and non-liberal, because there is no single right way of resolving these universal conflicts. The last thing we need now is another liberal crusade. Instead, we should be thinking with some urgency about rules of coexistence among different regimes and ways of life. The justification of such a modus operandi cannot be the ideals of our own liberal cultures, but rather the values that are shared by all, or nearly all people. Among these, peace is primary. The argument between liberal fundamentalists - who claim universal authority for their values - and liberal relativists is particularly profitless. This is a good example of one of the besetting weaknesses of contemporary debate, i.e. lack of historical perspective.

“One can be an ethical Universalist whilst rejecting many liberal values.”

Though the theory that ethics is entirely a cultural creation has been cemented well in the minds of the people around the World, it should not be taken seriously. Some evils are human universals whose contents don't vary significantly across cultures. To suffer humiliation because of one's religion or culture or to be denied access to the basic necessities of life - these are evils for nearly everyone and they can be just as disabling as the risk of fatal violence. The same point can be put more positively by saying that there are some goods that all human beings need if they are to lead tolerable lives: peace, security, the rule of law, not to mention clean water and medical care. Such a list can never be complete, or beyond reasonable dispute, even so, the notion that it is bound to be arbitrary, or heavily culturally skewed, is silly. Human beings are not that different from one another. As with other animals, the conditions under which humans thrive can be known with a fair degree of accuracy.

To say that we can know the conditions of a human life which is worth living is not to say we can come up with anything like a universal morality or political system. Still less does it mean that western liberal morality ought to be imposed everywhere. Can anyone really believe that the highly individualistic type of family life found in some western countries is the best for all human beings? Is it seriously proposed that our temporary moral fashions be made law for all of humankind? In matters of personal morality, my own views are liberal, even ultra-liberal.

 

To have to choose between anarchy and tyranny is a common human experience. Looking to strong government to stave off anarchy may lead to a brutal dictatorship. On the other hand, overthrowing a tyranny may trigger a terrible civil war. There is no way of avoiding these conflicts. They go with the human condition. They are not found only in extreme situations. They occur whenever we have to choose between incompatible freedoms. So, Should the freedom to use racist speech be protected, as it is in India (well, not if BJP and Varun Gandhi continue to raise racial and communal slur with their hate speeches), or should it be curbed, as it is in virtually every other liberal democracy - including Britain? Perhaps unsurprisingly, I tend to the Indian view that freedom of expression should be limited by other freedoms, such as freedom from racist offence. But the idea that we can come up with an ideal constitution in which such conflicts are somehow conjured away is deeply ingrained

 

No single form of government is feasible, or legitimate, everywhere. The idea that only liberal democratic nation-states can be legitimate is a late 20th-century error. Now, as in the past, the legitimacy of states turns on how far they meet vital human needs. It is the failure of the Taliban state to keep the peace, secure prosperity and give recognition to the cultures and values of its citizens which undermines it legitimacy - not its failure to conform to the norms of a liberal nation-state. Nation-states may have some advantages over multinational states and empires, as you say - but I think the balance of advantage is patchier and has more to do with historical circumstances than you allow.

 

Whether nation-building is desirable is a question of time, place, and circumstance, not a matter of principle. Of course one might be right that “ethnocentrism” ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnocentrism) is nothing new. At the same time, self-governing nation-states have always been exceedingly rare - and they always will be. China may develop into one -- but it is doubtful that India will (or should) and it is certain that Russia won't. Is there anyone who imagines that the Middle East can be made into a series of self-governing countries, in each of which the state is identified with a cultural majority? As a way of transcending or accommodating ethnocentrism, self-governing nationhood is a non-starter in much of the world. For better and for worse, the future of large portions of humanity lies in various kinds of multinational state, as much diverse as India.

 

The undoubted success in nation-building of countries such as the USA cannot be used as model in the rest of the world. A more modest, piecemeal approach is needed, with peace as the overriding objective. In some regions, that will mean defensive protectorates. In others it may mean long-term alliances with established imperial powers such as Russia. (India is one such example.)

Perhaps there is a reason we Indians seem resistant to government intrusion in our lives which is not a factor in other countries. Perhaps it is that we get the wrong people and structures within our government bureaucracies and other nations have somehow avoided this fiasco. Who amongst my Indian friends has not had some simple task turned into a nightmare by some surly, apathetic, government bureaucrat? I'm a contractor. If someone doesn't like my work, they can fire me or not renew the contract. If you get an attitude from a car salesman, you can go to another dealer. If you get an attitude from all dealerships, you can buy a motorcycle. But there is only one entity that can grant me a passport and that is the Government of India.

Over and over we see cases of incompetent and the apathetic ("What's the difference between incompetence and apathy?" "I don't know, and I don't care!"). To the bottom line...are we the exception? Have other nations figured out how to hire government employees who understand service, correct and sane procedure, and getting things done? Maybe that is why they can't understand our resistance to a growing governmental bureaucracy.

Comments Please!!!.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Culture or Tradition...What is 'Indian' to it?

I am not here to review a film like Monsoon Wedding which is a true mirror of the contemporary Indian culture, or to discuss anthropology or sociology. But to throw light and reserve my thoughts on the content and ideology that these elements share in common, that is the contemporary and cosmopolitan Indian culture, and doing it without taking any moral stands. Before we start off, the first thing that might strike the readers, looking at the heading is that, aren’t they both supposed to mean the same, “what is India without its traditional culture?”. Not to be mock my readers, but this notion is typical to every “Indian”. But why??? 

Recollecting the attacks in the Mangalore pub which I watched on Internet TV, in earlier days, when I was feisty and change-the-world kind of attitude, this would have earned a nice long blog post all by itself, though I have a post that details the irateness in me. Not that it makes me any less angry today, but I've sort of given up ranting on subjects I'm going to do nothing about. I'm also a little weary of people who send me email forwards about China while acting mean to everyone else around them. This is not to say that you ought to wash your hands off the world. But merely agreeing to be angry in little cliques changes nothing.

But I can rant about what I can change. That's allowed. So when I was watching the Mangalore attacks and listening to these Ram Sene people vowing that they were doing their duty by saving Indian Culture from the corrupting influences of the West, I was reminded of the conversations and snarly email exchanges at my school. Culture, somehow, has become a thing of the past, something that remains beautiful because it is veiled from the present. I had to struggle quite a bit to include the contemporary section in a revamped blog. Contemporary stories are, apparently, not part of Indian Culture because well, how can children learn the Right from the Wrong in this Godless age? I have nothing against mythology- on the contrary, I read as much of it as I can because I delight in ambiguity. I love the same tale recast in several moulds. I love folk tales and the whole Akbar-Birbal witticisms. But I cannot see why contemporary writing should be treated with disdain just because it is set in the here and now of things.

I watched Slumdog Millionaire last month. I loved the O Saya song in which the kids race from the airport to their homes in the slums. This is perhaps one of the not-okay scenes for those branding the film as 'selling poverty to the West'. And yet, the mood of the song does not dwell on the squalor. The filth is in the background, something that the children hardly notice in their mad, joyous scramble to safety. This is not to romanticize poverty at all- I think the film had enough gut-wrenching material ('feel good' movie it certainly isn't, improbable perhaps) to demolish such notions. Instead, what I found interesting was the script's genuine attempt to engage with the children's reality. The fact that Salim tells Jamal he dropped a sitter- the noisy plane that flies over Jamal's head is of no significance to the cricketers because it is the everyday, the unremarkable- shows an understanding of their lives and their realities. Cricket everywhere, cricket anywhere is a scene that we are all familiar with and it's not surprising at all that the audience unanimously cheers for the players, no matter how many rules they break in the process. Because this is such an integral part of our culture, and this is a story that is set in its here and now.

I find this self-imposed alienation from everyday culture indigestible. That by writing a story in which I mention a mobile phone or a packet of Lays, I have somehow squandered away the wisdom of my ancestors. That by mentioning incidents that happened in real life which can serve as reference points in chronology for children, I have somehow killed their value systems. You can't teach culture to someone. You learn it by observation and through experience. You can tell a child not to spit on the roads till your face is blue, but if you spit on the roads right after the lesson, chances are that he/she will remember your deviance more and devalue the lesson. This whole thing inflames me even more if my fellow mates of the same age think the “Culturally Traditional” or “Traditionally Cultural” way. What a farce? There were instances when I had to defend myself for being as contemporary as I am. Whether it is justifiable or not, I am what I am today and want to remain the same through the journey of life. I do not wish anybody to play my cards and in the same way I do not intend to play some one else cards. Be it what I am, and I am proud of myself.

A refusal to talk to society about everyday reality and contemporary culture is a dangerous trend. We have somehow convinced ourselves that the word 'culture' means 'tradition' and that anything traditional is compulsorily good. And by the same logic, anything 'modern' becomes compulsorily bad. Its funny how 'modern' has come to have such heavy negative connotations. There is no creature more dangerous than the Modern Young Woman. She is an indiscipline child who has set out to wreck the cultural ethos of entire nations. Whether it be Arvind Swamy inRoja who wants to marry a 'simple, village girl' or Raja in Anand exhorting Kamalini to wear silk sarees, our movies have made it amply clear that Modern Young Women are undesirable in the family scene. They are great for item numbers to show the hero's unbridled sexuality, of course. While the issues I've mentioned here might seem different, they all hinge upon the rhetoric of Indian Culture- an increasingly saffron and ironically Talibanesque ideology that is being allowed to grow. While the obvious reasons for this growth are political, it is also true that such ideologies receive some degree of support from the societies that they thrive in- not for political reasons but because the people believe they are indeed the protectors of Indian Culture.

If we as responsible humans and adults- must produce literature for society that teaches Indian Culture, let's not play down the value of a culture that they see and experience around them. Explaining contemporary culture does not translate into morbid and scary realities alone. While it is important to discuss child sexual abuse with children, discussing issues such as these is not the only claim to contemporary culture that we have. There are so many stories tumbling out of everyday World that children will take pleasure in reading. I say this with some degree of evidence since month after month; I see stories that reflect this view on the Internet. And contemporary stories figure heavily in the lists. If these stories did not touch a chord in the lives of the people in the society (again, not necessarily a chord of tragedy), they wouldn't have stayed in their memories. It is difficult to explain content to people who ride the Holy Cow of Indian Culture. Who assume that contemporary stories lack values because they don't come with a moral at the end.

This strange appropriation of Indian Culture that has turned its back upon so many of our realities must not be allowed to continue. Whether it is a question of beating up pub-goers in Mangalore or insisting that children don't know what Sex is.

So my dear colleagues, I am not writing this post because this Young Man has hope that you will read it with patience. How will you when you don't read your own magazine or newspaper? But I do intend to go after you with my claws out, with every rage that is worthy of a shrew. You have no right to define my India for me. And so I will rant here about this and not about Mangalore.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Secret of a Brimming Jar!!!

An expert on the subject of time management was speaking to a group of business students. He stood in front of these high-powered overachievers, pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed Mason jar, and set it on a table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, "Is this jar full?"
Everyone in the class said, "Yes."

Then he said, "Really?" He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar, causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. Then he asked the group once more, "Is the jar full?"

By this time the class was on to him. "Probably not," one of them answered.

"Good!" he replied. He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, "Is this jar full?"

"No!" the class shouted.

Once again he said, "Good!" Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim.

Then he looked up at the class and asked, "What is the point of this illustration?"

One eager beaver raised his hand and said, "The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard you can always fit some more things into it!"

"No," the speaker replied, "that's not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is this: If you don't put the big rocks in first, you'll never get them in at all."

The big rocks symbolize our top priorities. What are the "big rocks" in your life? Are you putting them in first?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

And We Thought the Skies were Empty !!!


                        

What you see above is a video made by the Zurich University of Applied Sciences showing worldwide commercial flights over a 24-hour period. Watch as flights start in the morning in the western hemisphere, and as the sun starts to come up in the east, more flights begin in the east.

And yeah, we thought the skies were empty!!!

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Myth of the Elegant Left-Hander!!

Inspired from Suresh Menon, Cricinfo

This is a very interesting topic, one me who is a staunch admirer of Left Handers, is forced to accept that the whole gaga about a left hander’s grace is a myth. I read this article “The myth of the elegant left hander” on Cricnfo, realizing how foolish I was to say that left-handers are more elegant than right handers. Maybe they are, but are the right handers any behind. Let’s find out.

As batsmen discover new strokes, new ways to get to the boundary (or into the stands), some of the old ones seem to have fallen off the charts, taking with them the words used to describe these. We no longer read of the elegant late cut or the stylish leg glance; instead we have the effective upper cut or the productive reverse sweep. It is not that grace has deserted the game and batsmen have put efficiency before charm, but in recent years a Michael Clarke has become the exception, a visually pleasing batsman incapable of playing an ugly stroke.

It’s astonishing to realize that there are innumerable right handed batsmen to name but none could be picked and compared over the last several years. Were they all living in the shadows of our ignorance? His prodigy, Sachin Tendulkar the master from Mumbai was never classified as elegant or graceful, but rather was compared to greats like Richards, Bradman and their stroke play. Are we as cricket lovers, fare enough to think that left handers are more graceful and elegant than the righties?...A Mark Waugh was in several ways more graceful than any average left hander. But then, why this perception of lefties being more elegant and classy, let us dig a little deeper.

If you are a left-hander, it is automatically assumed that you are graceful, artistic, and delicate and all those wonderful things that romantics like to burden cricket with. This is one of the game's most common myths - that left-handedness is by itself the reason for grace and elegance.

According to statics, around 10% of the population and perhaps 20% of top sportsmen are left-handed. The stats make the point that left-handers have the advantage in asymmetric sports like baseball, where the right-handed batter has to run anti-clockwise towards first base after swinging and facing to his left.

It is the comparative rarity of the left-hander that gives the illusion of grace. David Gower most graceful of batsmen used that very word, "illusion", to describe the left-hander's apparent grace.

"The fact is," he once told an interviewer, "both (the right-handers and the left-handers) have been horribly misnamed because the left-hander is really a right-hander and the right-hander is really a left-hander, if you work out which hand is doing most of the work. So from my point of view, my right arm is my strongest and therefore it's the right hand, right eye and generally the right side which is doing all the work. So if there is anything about this, then the left-handers, as such, should be called right-handers."

"It's the top hand which is doing all the work. It appears there's an illusion about this aspect too... they talk about left-handers having grace. Not all of them do. Though Allan Border was a wonderful player, he was short on grace."

What a mindful thought to actually make the cricket lovers realize that lefties are indeed righties and vice versa. When it comes to cricket this is more than true.

Graeme Pollock from South Africa, many years ago, explained that he played tennis right-handed, but golf left-handed (he signed an autograph with his right hand). Garry Sobers, on the other hand, was left-handed in everything he did. I don't know what conclusions can be drawn from this. Perhaps the left-hander whose right hand is the stronger hand plays the top-hand shots like the drive better than most. And the one with the stronger left as bottom hand plays the shots square of the wicket, the cut and pull, better. And since there is no more beautiful stroke in the game than the cover-drive, left-handers who play this well look most attractive.

Four of the five highest individual scores in Tests have been made by left-handers, two by Brian Lara who was thrilling to watch, though not quite pleasing in the Gower sense. But even if we include him among graceful left-handers since Woolley, the list is still rather limited: Pollock, Sobers, Gower, Lara, perhaps Alvin Kallicharran, who, if he had played tennis, would have been known as a touch player. India's Salim Durani batted with an apparent lack of effort - an important ingredient of elegance - and Sourav Ganguly has been described as having a lazy elegance, but again, these players were not in the Gower class.

But look at the left-handers, some of them great players, who were and are innocent of elegance - Border, Matthew Hayden, Clive Lloyd, Arjuna Ranatunga, Kumar Sangakkara, Chris Gayle, Sanath Jayasuriya, Justin Langer, Graeme Smith, Mark Taylor, Gary Kirsten, Bill Lawry, Marcus Trescothick, Aamer Sohail, Lance Klusener.

Left-handers play shots that right-handers do not play quite as easily, because more left-handers play right-arm medium-pacers bowling across their bodies from round the wicket than right-handers play left-arm bowlers. The not-quite-glance, not-really-a-hook that left-handers play fine off their hips is unique to them. Both Gower and Lara played it exceptionally well.

Ganguly didn't - but then he was a converted left-hander, someone who began that way so he could use his left-handed older brother's equipment. Sadiq Mohammad was a converted left-hander, whose older brother Hanif understood that as a left-hander Sadiq had a better chance of getting picked.

Too much has been made of the left-hander, and his alleged grace. A Gower was graceful because he was graceful, not because he was a left-hander. A Javed Miandad lacked grace not because he was a right-hander but because that was how he batted. One doesn't automatically presuppose the other.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Puffed Up C Ronaldo...Major No-No!!!

As I am about to start writing this post here, I am forced to imagine how my dear footballing friends- great fans of this much hyped winger Cristiano Ronaldo, would get ready to itch their tongue out when they see me next. Lolz. But I cannot help but pen down my thoughts and frustration on this boy genius, one that he is, but well hyped by drawing comparisons to true legends as Pele and Maradona.

Reacting to Sir Alex Ferguson's comparisons between Ronaldo and all-time greats Pele and Diego Maradona, the infamous Inter coach Jose Mourinho claimed that the United ace is over-rated. He said and I quote, 

“Ronaldo is a good player, but he is not the best in the world,"

"He deserved the Ballon d’Or this year because his club side won the Champions League, the Premier League and he scored many goals."

Mourinho then stressed that Ronaldo could not be placed in the same class category as Lionel Messi, Kaka and his own star Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

“When I think of how a player should be, I think of Kaka, Ibrahimovic and Messi [not Ronaldo]," he explained.

“Messi is a phenomenon, but in my opinion, Ibrahimovic is the best.”

Now one might be thinking, exactly, its ones opinion that rates CR as high as they do, but does he really deserve it. Let us take few minutes in analyzing this. 

Cristiano Ronaldo, the young talent who has taken the soccer world by storm in the past 2 years. The fans hold their breath as the ball graces his nimble feet. The commentators let loose their excitement at the sight of the young lad out running the defenders and the managers get off their seats to see what he is up to.

His presence is enough to boost the TRPs of any event or match. But seeing him on and off the pitch, one question arises- Is he really worth all the praise heaped upon him or is he just another of the hyped footballers? On going beyond the face value of his quick stopovers and entertaining rabonas and back heels, we get to know a lot about him that dispels many of our beliefs about him being a ‘great footballer’.

What makes a great player is more than just his skill. A player's grace, elegance and the way he carries himself on and off the pitch is what separates a great from the rest of the players. We in the cricketing world have a great of our own; his name stands out among the best of the best, Sachin Tendulkar. His great rivals in the game hold him higher than any other cricketer in the world, for a reason as dynamic as of a true legend.

The first major problem with Ronaldo is his arrogance. He has it in excess. Football may recollect, San Siro, Milan 2 years ago. The 20 year old C Ronaldo pushed the Brazilian Great, Cafu, a player who has to his credit 3 World Cup finals, 2 World Cup triumphs, the Scudetto and Champions League, a player with great sense of passion for the game. For this act CR pledged innocence for a push which surely deserved a yellow. Ronaldo’s angry glare was returned with an understanding smile from Cafu.

Also, he was involved in a nasty case in which he allegedly ‘showed his middle finger’ to Benefica fans at a match. On the pitch, aggression (something that he does not lack either) can be understood, but vulgarity crosses all the limits. This incident spoke a lot about his personality. People, if wondering when was this? It was a Champions League group stage tie during the season 2007-08.

The biggest fault found in him today is his cheap act of diving to win free kicks and penalties. He has been repeatedly accused of diving in EPL matches and more recently, against Middlesbrough in November ’06, against Tottenham Hotspurs in March ’07 and against Fulham in Nov ’07.  


The comparison with likes of Ronaldinho, Robben, Messi though may well not be justified, it is really sad when he is compared to the Brazilian living legend Luiz Ronaldo. The comparison, which started with the name, has today reached comparisons of skill and personality.

It is unfair to compare a young footballer to a player who has won innumerable laurels and trophies, scored 15 World Cup goals and what not. It feels bad when we have to mention the legend as Ronaldo (Brazilian) and not the youngster as Ronaldo (Portuguese).

Well, we sure have a lot more of him to see. Maybe, and hopefully, he will prove all his critics wrong and do justice to this image of his’. But as of today, I do not htink he deserves anything but the tag of a "Very Good Player".

He sure has the potential to be a great, but today, he is not one. The day has to wait when he earns the right to be inducted into the glorified list of the game’s elite.

So while C Ronaldo will continue to impress at Old Trafford or in Madrid, and YouTube and elsewhere will continue to fill itself with videos of C Ronaldo stopovers, goals and “dives”, until he’s capable of taking a game in his hands and shaping it, he’ll never be the best player in the world.

Monday, March 2, 2009

At. Madrid: Finding the right mood

By Eduardo Alvarez

During the last decade, football fans around the world have witnessed a phenomenal growth in the number and the depth of the statistical categories about our favourite sport. In most cases, this endless pile of numbers and statistics brings us great comfort to try to predict the outcome of matches.

Sergio Aguerro

Aguerro celebrates after netting the winner

However, only last week Espanyol beat Barcelona at the Nou Camp. The bottom-of-the-table squad had defeated another which had dominated the rest of the division for the whole season. Barcelona were the best performing league leaders at their own stadium in the history of La Liga, therefore officially finishing off anyone's hopes that we can actually predict the outcome of specific matches based on previous data. We would have to find a more qualitative way to determine the likely outcome of matches.

A legend that he is, Johan Cruijff coined a fantastic definition of a team: "A team is just a mood." He was referring to the collective state of mind of a group of players at any specific point in time, and that obviously varies from match to match. His definition also tried to explain why technically superior teams can lose matches to clearly mediocre sides: the importance of motivation cannot be understated.

Derbies are probably best defined this way: tons of statistics prove that history is pretty much worthless in those matches. Motivation outweighs differences in skill, form and tactics, and it is actually when the game goes back to being a game and deserves to be watched with pure passion.

And if there is a match in which teams depend almost exclusively on their moods, that is Barcelona against Atlético Madrid. This encounter has achieved its own status in the difficulty of predicting not only the outcome, but even the number of lead changes during the match.

Based on recent experience, Sunday's match had to be won by Barcelona. Their previous three encounters this season ended in clear victories for the blaugrana, including a 6-1 humiliating rout in Barcelona. In addition to this, Messi has repeatedly shown that he loves to play against Atlético, and that by itself should be more than enough to decide any match.

A superficial analysis of the colchoneros' mind would also point at a Catalan victory. My friend Jesús (yes, I have a friend named Jesús) distinguishes three levels of happiness for the Atlético supporters: the simplest is achieved when their team wins. The second level, a bit more fulfilling, is accomplished when Real Madrid is defeated. The third one, a complete nirvana for the Atlético faithful, happens when Real Madrid win with perceived support from the referee, as this gives any Atlético supporter to feel victimised and pester Real Madrid fans all week long.

Given this context, any Atlético fan would rather see their team defeated to Barcelona than have them collaborate with Real Madrid, even if it goes against Atlético's interest in qualifying for European competition. We even have empirical evidence to support this: two years ago, Atlético and Barcelona played in Madrid under exactly the same circumstances (Atlético trying to get to a Champions League spot and Barcelona in the middle of their title run against Real Madrid).

The result, a flabbergasting 0-6 Barça win, was not as surprising as Atlético's supporters reaction, simply leaving the stadium without a single boo or hint of protest. Their team had done just what they were expecting. Later on Fernando Torres admitted that this infamous match led him to leave for Anfield, frustrated by Atlético's lack of ambition.

Pep Guardiola

Pep Guardiola: Testing times ahead

Therefore, a shallow examination would conclude that statistics and mood were on Barça's side on Saturday. But any Spanish football fan knew beforehand that things would not be that simple. Atlético playing Barça has always been a thrilling encounter, reaching its apex in the mid to late 90s, when they became crazy rollercoasters in which anything could happen. One remembers a 4-3 Atlético win at the Calderón, in which Barça were leading 0-3 at half-time. Atlético's comeback in the second half was nothing sort of a miracle. Or a 5-4 Barça Cup win at the Nou Camp, in which Atlético was leading 2-4 at one point in the second half.

Those matches officially removed the ceiling of what could be expected from these two sides on a football pitch. Their recent history was not doing any justice to the fond memories most of us had about them.

And then it happened again. Who knows what passed through the minds of Atlético's players before the match. Probably they wanted to erase what occurred two years ago, or were frustrated about their poor Champions League outing against Porto. Whatever the reason, you could tell their mood was different, even when they were down 0-2 and 2-3. They were out to win the match no matter how, while you could also feel Barcelona were not that terrific side that made a habit of killing opponents.

Despite Guardiola's policy of resting players during the season, the team looks far from being in their best physical shape, and seem to be psychologically impacted by Real Madrid's superb form. Guardiola's main challenge will be to recover his team's attitude from the first half of the season, getting their mood and swagger back. We have seen a great Guardiola when things go well, now his endurance test has started.

And at this point of the season we (including myself) should all make a very simple mental note: the champion shouldn't be crowned until the tournament is over. Football seasons are long and it is difficult to maintain such a high level of performance for nine months. Great teams know how to come back, as Cruyff's Barça team of 1994 and Capello's 2007 Real Madrid side proved.

For the time being, La Liga has become a two-horse race once more. That is at least until themadridistas play a born-again colchonero team next weekend in Madrid's most anticipated derby of the last few years. We will have another enjoyable chance to check whether mood is more important than statistics.