Fervent supporters of the South African national sports teams are no strangers to disappointment or indeed puzzled confusion about the decisions made by administrators, coaches, players and nearly everybody else involved in the various sporting disciplines.
I often wonder during moments of deep sporting introspection on my various sporting loyalties whether there is some magic recipe by which the Proteas brew their particularly bitter concoction of disappointment. I suspect that the devotion of fans that are constantly fed a steady diet of victories eventually loses some intensity, but can’t imagine that the Proteas lose games every so often just to keep the taste of victory that much sweeter.
Surely, even Manchester United football fans grow weary of the endless assured victories, or at the very least complacent and less dedicated. Manchester United has built up a head of steam in the Barclays English Premier League to the degree that only the most hopeless devotees of other football sides hold out the romantic notion that they might indeed compete to win the league. Man United fans will now all roar in approval across the land, while Manchester City fans will punt football analyses for all the reasons why they will so cruelly be denied any realistic shout in the contest.
The writer is a hapless Liverpool supporter so does not even feature in this particular debate on Premiership glory, but I can say this: I am optimistic about every game I watch because Liverpool just might win it. And that fulfils a basic human emotion – hope.
What hope is there for Manchester United fans? None. They are guaranteed victory, every game is all but a foregone conclusion and the remaining pleasure from life comes purely from hedonism a la Paris Hilton in shopping for ever more expansive warehousing premises for their trophy cabinets and frankly, Paris Hilton and shopping for warehouses are both boring.
After seeming endless years of domination of cricket, I suspect even Australians must have been happy to see the end of that tiny Poncy fellow – I recall them applauding wildly in his last game, so it must be so. One day, if Manchester United ever begins to look even vaguely assailable, their fans will only cry out more wildly because their victories will be hard-earned.
In contrast, think of Roger Federer, and how his legion fans have only grown ever more fervent in their hope that he will win a few more matches, possibly even Master’s 1000 level events, as his astonishing sporting longevity has taken its toll on his physical fitness and strength. No rapture lasts forever and it is Roger’s very fallibility and humanity that we adore, but by the same notion his immense talent still gives us hope and something to look forward to every time he plays.
While I firmly believe that fallibility and humanity generally only make sports stars more endearing to their fans, the Proteas’ T20 Squad puts me in mind of those hideous miscreants that buy leaf-blowers to tidy their garden.
Anybody familiar with those leaf-blowing machines will know that they make an enormous racket busily blowing leaves from the garden to the driveway and back again. For brief moments, clusters of organization and order appear where the leaves have been blown into several heaps, but no sooner does the gardener turn his attention to another untidy section of leaves than a brisk breeze scatters the other orderly heaps into disarray with the joyful abandon of a child kicking through an autumn playground. And the gardener’s face soon takes on the weary gaze often found on the faces of Proteas T20 supporters.
In the recent deciding T20 match between South Africa and Pakistan, fleeting moments of order were all too easily blown to chaos and while the coaching staff might have been able to point to the talent and promise of each player taken in isolation, as a team they were nothing more than leaves waiting to be scattered by the slightest breeze of resistance. Fans cannot survive on hope alone and yet the coaching staff of the T20 side apparently expect us to do so.
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