Local sports fans need to get a grip
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.