What’s with the alcohol?

2014-03-05 00:00

ALCOHOL. For some, it’s considered one of life’s pleasures for reasons only they can fathom, while in general, it can make the world go round (in more ways than one), bring it to the point of collapse, ruin lives and destroy dreams.

Since the beginning of time, man has been after the ultimate drink; something wicked that will make his body buzz, his mind fizzle and conquer his fear. A walk around the inside of a bottle store has the mind boggling as to what we throw down our gullets week in and week out, finding any excuse to poison our bodies.

It’s a mini laboratory. There’s red stuff, green stuff, blue stuff — all guaranteed to make you feel good, take away your troubles and, something that’s always forgotten, empty your wallet. Making your choice is made easier with labels on the bottles informing you of the alcohol percentage, helping you to work out roughly how much will need to be consumed before the rocket ship to outer space is fired up and set on its way.

Most of us enjoy a drink every so often and that is the key — every so often. For many, “often” has no definition. It becomes infinite and moulds into something that lingers on forever and ever. Moderation: that’s the key factor.

Most of us enjoy a beer, a glass of wine, a scotch perhaps, with an old friend or at a function, where a drink spurs us on and takes away any shyness or doubt in order to mingle.

But it’s at sport events where drink tends to flow freely and nibbles at the mind, asking the question, why?

Do sportsmen have to show their worth by pouring drink down their throats? Do they have to pass an initiation test by showing how much drink they can take before they fall down, make a fool of themselves and are left to sort out their woes while team-mates go home laughing at the victim’s expense?

Surely sport is about showing off a talent, a gift that some fortunate souls have been blessed with. They are given a superb talent, yet it’s wasted, consumed by the drink factor which, over time, plummets the player into useless oblivion.

George Best, seen as on the same level as the great Pele, was football’s wonder boy in his youth. Yet he spent his life fighting alcohol, in and out of rehabilitation programmes, and dying a shadow of his former self, aged only 59.

Kenny Sansom, England football’s most-capped fullback with 86 caps until surpassed by Ashley Cole in 2011, turned to alcohol in recent years, sleeping on park benches, his world in tatters, thanks to the bottle.

Robin Smith, a Durban boy who played cricket for Natal and England, has had his marriage and life shattered by drink. He relies on his older brother Chris, who lives in Australia, to give him work, his drinking a habit hard to shelve as his brother monitors his progress.

Spectators, though, can be the most annoying when it comes to the drink factor.

It could be considered one of modern life’s most taxing questions: why people, whenever they attend a major sporting event, have to spend their time with jugs of beer close at hand, sloshing it everywhere, oblivious to the inconvenience they are causing others who are genuinely at the event for a purpose: to watch the game.

How often have spectators gone over the top with their drinking and fights have broken out in the stands? A case in point was Shaun Pollock’s farewell ODI against the West Indies at Kingsmead. The moment had to be shelved and watched on TV due to unruly spectators who had consumed a few too many.

So I have to ask why people who want to drink at sport events don’t stay at home and make fools of themselves in their own backyards instead. Why pay money to do it in a public place? Are these people so scared to drink at home that they have to get out and cause havoc on neutral ground?

For most, it’s considered a manly thing, a gung-ho experience that makes them think they can conquer the world.

In fact, it’s the complete opposite. It’s rude, it impedes on other people who have to put up with someone else’s inconsiderate and childish behaviour, and at the end of the day the perpetrators are not man enough to face up to it and scurry away into hiding until next time.

Be a real man and know when to say no.

• david.knowles@witness.co.za

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