South Africa truly is a sports-crazy country. You might curl your lip and say the word “sports” is superfluous and you’d be right, but I’m trying to be positive here and if you don’t like it, write your own damn column.
Rugby, cricket and soccer are the recreational drugs of choice for our many compatriots addicted to the thrill of the chase. Pubs fill up with partisans flying the colours and millions of litres of beer and brandy lubricate countless throats corroded from shouting at television screens mounted beyond the reach of the fundamentalists.
I, too, have been in pubs and shouted at the television. There were times it wasn’t even switched on. Some places I can never go back to.
I didn’t grow up in a sporting family, probably because we couldn’t watch any of it on the telly. BJ Vorster wouldn’t allow television into South Africa for fear that white people would go mad and try to have sex with the servants. Instead, my father would take me to the wrestling at Durban City Hall and stock car racing at Alan Ford Stadium, which instilled in me a lifelong passion for melodramatic acts of violence and reckless driving. My mother sent me to piano lessons. I was a very conflicted child.
Anyway. That’s enough about me. Let’s talk about you. How did you feel knowing there was wild partying in the streets of Ireland and across the Netherlands last weekend? At our expense. Mocking us in their ridiculous accents. Okay, Irish is quite hot. But Dutch? They sound like Afrikaners in need of a Heimlich manoeuvre.
You felt terrible, right? And not just because of the hangover. That was going to happen no matter the outcome. It’s an old South African tradition to drink heavily whether we’re celebrating or mourning.
I felt great. Okay, maybe not great. I haven’t felt great since the night I lost my virginity. But I didn’t feel sad that we lost in both the rugby and the cricket. Perhaps nobody did. I think it’s more likely there were separate sadnesses going on. I doubt rugby fans care much about cricket, and vice versa. I imagine they look down on one another for different reasons. Cricket fans are well-read, know what a soup spoon looks like and have seen a bit of the world. Rugby fans have guns, go to Margate every December and know how to inseminate a cow. Artificially, I mean. Either way, I’m not judging. Each to his own.
I watched the rugby but didn’t watch the cricket. I haven’t watched cricket since I went to Newlands a few years ago and found it so crushingly dull that I overmedicated, misplaced my wife, forgot where I parked and had to catch the last train to somewhere not even near home. The marriage wasn’t the same after that.
While watching the rugby, I found myself cheering for whichever side came close to scoring. Not because I’m not a patriot, which I’m not, but not for those reasons. Bloodsports like rugby bring out the Marcus Aurelius in me. When Maximus fights Commodus in Ridley Scott’s documentary, Gladiator, it’s the fight to the death I’m interested in. I don’t care who wins. It’s how you use the trident that counts.
While I was shouting for both the Springboks and the Leprechauns, or whatever the hell it is they call their team, I was more or less aware that an important cricket match was also scheduled. Earlier, I had picked up what the intelligence services call “chatter”. So I knew about it. I just didn’t care enough to watch. When I heard later that someone called Paul van Meekeren had bowled our captain Temba Bavuma for just 20 runs, and Bavuma hadn’t retaliated by stabbing Van Meekeren with the sharp end of a wicket, I knew I hadn’t missed much.
Why is/are the Netherlands even playing cricket? They have their own sports with made-up names like fierljeppen, kaatsen and klootschieten. They should stick to whatever that is and not humiliate us in Australia, of all places. It shouldn’t be allowed. Not after the damage done by that dodgy Jan van Riebeeck character.
Anyway, my point, if there even is one, is that I’m happy to not be a sports addict. When I woke up on Sunday or Monday or whenever it was, I didn’t care that we had lost the rugby and the cricket. Quite frankly, I felt worse not getting the Wordle word.
I don’t even care that we aren’t in the Soccer World Cup. Hold on. Come to think of it, I do. I would have loved to see Bafana Bafana lift the trophy and lead hordes of scantily-clad South Africans through the streets of Doha drinking and laughing and kissing one another with the gayest of abandon.
That’s my idea of sport.