In & Out: Factotum wanted, doesn’t need to try

2014-12-07 15:00

Inscribed on American novelist and poet Charles Bukowski’s tombstone at his gravesite in Green Hills Memorial Park, California, are two simple words: “Don’t try.”

I was reminded of this when thinking about the very near-pathetic results we’ve witnessed from two of our supposedly premier sporting ­enterprises, the Proteas and the Springboks.

As a boyhood Bukowski fan, I always wondered what was intended by the inscription. Is Bukowski challenging us by saying “don’t try, just do”? Or, given his nihilistic bent in life, perhaps what he’s saying in death is no one should bother at all because nothing really matters.

Based on their recent performances, it would appear the Proteas and the Springboks have ­taken a cue from the latter interpretation. In fact, I don’t doubt it.

On a weekend on the heels of two disappointing outbound tours in both sports – the Proteas being mauled 4-1 by the Aussies and the Boks losing half their matches in the northern hemisphere – we were treated to a veritable “clash of the disappointments” at the Wanderers on ­Friday night.

The Nelson Mandela Legacy Cup T20 gave us some fast-paced, big-hitting action on Friday night. Despite being utterly inconsequential, it was most welcome to see the boys in green sauntering out on to the pitch hoping to scalp some part-timers. But that was not to be.

The Proteas have grown too accustomed to losing, it seems, to care much about winning. As their batsmen lofted shot after shot, the Springboks dutifully caught them out, and when it was the Boks’ turn to wield the willow, they used their brawn to wrest the match away with five wickets to spare.

The Proteas might protest they did not have a full-strength squad, but in a battle between ­casual cricketers, even if they happen to be ­Goliaths, versus those paid to play the game, there should really be only one winner.

Nevertheless, it was an entertaining few hours, in spite of most of Joburg, except the plush ­enclave where the Wanderers is located, being in the grip of a vicious “f**k you” from our ­favourite, and only, power utility.

For a few hours, we almost forgot that 27?years in prison and a lifetime fighting an ­oppressive regime were reduced to a gimmicky cricket match between the heroes of South Africa’s favourite minority sports. Who would have thought Mandela’s name and all he stood for would be lumped into one big apathetic mess?

What Friday’s mashup (rather, mess-up) ­revealed, beneath all the forced camaraderie and sentimentality, was two teams limping towards their respective World Cups: the Proteas, who seemed on course as recently as October, having their navigation systems scrambled by a very ­determined Australian outfit; and the Springboks, now sans their injury-prone captain, being on the wrong side of history, having most recently lost to Wales, and desperately struggling to find a mix that will get them out of the group stages.

But then again?...?nothing matters, right? Least of all a mock game played in honour of an icon.

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