I just don’t get it. Sport. I’m not particularly competitive. I like jogging and cycling. But not against anyone. I have no need to beat someone. Don’t get me wrong, I am ambitious. I do push myself to achieve certain goals. I guess I compete against myself.
So today there I was having a quiet lunch, quite contentedly reading my book and minding my own business, when I suddenly got this creepy feeling that someone was watching me. I slowly moved my eyes above the pages of the book, and was confronted by a whole restaurant full of people, all staring at me. Then a huge roar erupted and I realised that they were watching the big screen TV on the wall behind me. A rugby match had started. Suddenly, people that ordinarily wouldn’t give each other the time of day were shouting comments to each other and cheering together. I must tell you I felt really left out. And I looked closer at these people, expecting to find the stereotypical beer-bellied, white South African males doing the shouting. There were a few of them, but mostly the place was filled with a cross-section of our Jozi society, all on the edge of their seats.
After a few more unsuccessful attempts at focusing on my book I decided to turn my chair around and watch the match. Now I do understand the rules of rugby (I went to a government school in small town South Africa), but something I don’t do is follow the sport. I don’t know the names of the players (unless they’ve been in the news for some sordid drug-induced orgy). I don’t know anything about the various teams and I don’t support a team. I guess the “human drama” of the match is totally lost on me. I watched ten minutes of the game, was thoroughly bored so I went home, to read my book in peace.
Then there are the connotations from school. And perhaps this is where my loathing of most sports began (with rugby topping the list). Capricorn High School was the only English school in Pietersburg (now Polokwane) and as a result, our rugby teams usually got thrashed by the bigger and better kids from the many Afrikaans schools in the area. Our teachers lived for the day that Capricorn would be victorious. Sports were high priority at Capricorn High School. Academics and arts were not.
We had to attend school sports events to support “our” teams. They weren’t “my” teams! They were jocks, who had special privileges at the school because they played for one or other school team. They were lauded by teaches & idolised by girls. I hated the very ground they ran/kicked/jumped/tackled on. I was in the school band. I had an earring (this was a while back). I had a strange haircut. I wore strange clothes. Belonging to a club or supporting a team seemed to me to be a sinister way of giving up your individuality. Willingly! (I’m now well aware of the irony that my rebellion led me to join a club of sorts. Just not a mainstream one. I so wanted to be a real punk!)
I learned at an early age to always question authority. Teachers became the enemy. I bunked every single sporting event throughout my school career. I got a hiding every time I was caught. And I got a lot of hidings. Which just served to make me loathe my teachers and their sacred sports all the more.
And its these issues that I carry with me today, every time there is a big sporting event. I still can’t be bothered to read newspaper articles about teams trading players for millions, or about how the new coach/manager/club-owner has succeeded in bringing his team glory (or not). And I can’t seem to get myself to say “we” won, even if it’s a South African national team that’s victorious. I try to enjoy the game when I’m in a room full of people, but I always only manage a sort of platonic pleasure. Living in a country that is so sports mad really does make me feel left out sometimes. Perhaps one day I’ll get it?