Lo­cal sports fans need to get a grip

CityPress - - Sport - Simnikiwe Xabanisa sports@city­press.co.za Fol­low me on Twit­ter @Simx­a­ban­isa

As some­one who was in­tro­duced to so­cial me­dia via Face­book, I’m not a big fan of Twit­ter.

While one can see the point of a plat­form through which peo­ple from all walks of life in­ter­act, Twit­ter is prone to crass ar­gu­ments.

Be­cause you get to choose with whom you share your time­line, there seems to be a lit­tle more tol­er­ance on Face­book. Twit­ter has be­come a bit like driv­ing in Jo­han­nes­burg: you know you should be en­raged on the roads, but you don’t re­ally know why, so you get hot and both­ered just in case you’re miss­ing out on some­thing.

Of­ten peo­ple don’t have an opin­ion about some­thing on Twit­ter, but some­how feel they have to de­vise one, mak­ing ab­so­lute moe­goes of them­selves in the process. The motto seems to be: “Have data, must tweet.”

The lat­est un­wit­ting vic­tim is the leg­endary Proteas all-rounder Jac­ques Kal­lis, whose re­la­tion­ship with his cell­phone key­pad ap­pears not to be as steady as it was with bat or ball in hand. Some time ago, he waded into the tricky trans­for­ma­tion de­bate with dis­as­trous re­sults.

This week, in a rush to con­grat­u­late South African-born Eng­land bats­man Keaton Jen­nings on his de­but cen­tury, Kal­lis penned a rider: “Yet an­other one slips through our sys­tem...”

What­ever the real mean­ing of that line, it got buried in the tyranny of Twit­ter’s 140-char­ac­ter rule, which has robbed many an in­tel­li­gent per­son of con­text in their tweets. To the lay­man, it sounded like he was hav­ing a go at the pow­ers that be be­cause Jen­nings is not play­ing for the Proteas.

Need­less to say, the trolls de­scended upon him and the name-call­ing be­gan. Just to be sure, this col­umn is not re­ally about Kal­lis, but about how overly sen­si­tive we’ve be­come as a nation.

A brief in­tro­duc­tion to Jen­nings is in or­der. The son of for­mer “Mean Ma­chine” wick­et­keeper and for­mer Proteas coach Ray, he was des­tined to take the path less trav­elled.

With his mother hail­ing from Sun­der­land, the op­tion to play for Eng­land was there from day one. And when one learns that Jen­nings se­nior in­sisted that he call him “coach” in­stead of “dad”, it be­comes clear that he was never go­ing to grow into a typ­i­cal boytjie look­ing to “aw, shucks” his way through life.

The point is, Jen­nings was bred to play pro­fes­sional cricket – his fa­ther started ac­tively coach­ing him when he was five – even chang­ing his bat­ting stance from right to left. He was al­ways go­ing to be bor­der­line mer­ce­nary about be­com­ing a pro­fes­sional.

When he was 19 and play­ing with the likes of Temba Bavuma and Quin­ton de Kock in the High­veld Lions’ re­serve team, he didn’t like the look of the queue in front of him and took up an of­fer to join the Durham academy.

Jen­nings’ am­bi­tion was never mar­ried to South Africa. It was mated to play­ing test cricket – at all costs, by the looks of it. Not every­one born in this coun­try wants to die with their boots on for its flag. It’s a re­ally big world out there.

In the same way that we get warm and fuzzy about Elon Musk, Pearl Thusi, Terry Pheto and Char­l­ize Theron mak­ing it big else­where, we should do the same for our sports­men who choose to make their for­tunes abroad.

At the mo­ment, we’re the kind of coun­try that has to im­pose its in­se­cu­rity, ar­ro­gance, ig­no­rance, stu­pid­ity and big­otry on oth­ers, with Twit­ter be­ing the weird weapon of choice to ac­com­plish this.

I might not be a fan, but Twit­ter – a vi­cious space at the best of times – puts up a mir­ror to us, warts and all. The prob­lem is, we’re so caught up in rush­ing to tweet inani­ties that we’re not pay­ing at­ten­tion to what it says about us.

We re­ally need to get over our­selves.

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