Last night, Saturday night, was the Super 14 Rugby semi-final between my local team (The Sharks) and Cape Town’s team (The Stormers). It’s a rugby competition between the 14 province teams of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. In the other semi on Friday The Chiefs from New Zealand beat The Crusaders. Growing up in an almost all-girl generation (I have one male cousin), our fathers, who are avidly avid rugby supporters and played for half their lives, decided to ensure their daughters would be exposed to the sport. Thus I know the basics of the game, I know how to shout about the ref, tackling, possession of the ball, territory on the field, phases, fly halves, props, tries and conversions, along with many other terms and plays (as a ‘drama’ ‘teacher’ the irony on this word is huge for me) that are shouted, screamed and discussed in everyway possible before, during and after every game. Sometimes the games are even compared, and a game from a few seasons back will be highlighted once more for comparative, indulgent memory, or loss for conversation, purposes.
Since going to London, and returning, it appears that my rather long break from constant exposure to the sport (along with reading some fascinating books on the matter) has completely changed my perspective on the situation. I managed to lose track of the players and who’s on the teams. I’ve managed to end up on the outside looking in, as opposed to being in the front seats. This has especially been the case with hostessing in the rugby box, because I’m too busy working to be intoxicated with the 31 men running on the field. So last night, for the first time I can remember since my return to South Africa, I was in a pub watching rugby on a big screen. I happily arrived late, about 30 minutes into the first half, and spent most of the rest of the game watching the people watching. Talk about tense! A room full of people, majority men, all moving and expressing themselves in synchronization. The ‘ref’ comments, the sighs, the applauds, the cheers, the silences, the exclamations and raucous celebrations, one unified body with eyes transfixedly glued to a screen with moving images projected on it.
The women, not so much, half of them were chatting or eating, although the other half of them were transfixed too. The men weren’t eating, they were ‘beer’ing, whilst the women were drinking lighter coloured liquids from glasses that were not pint sized. One lady arrived during the second half with her boyfriend and sat near me with her head blocking the screen… years ago I would’ve made a point of asking her to move, but last night, she says, "Oh, sorry, am I in your way?" and my reply (my family would not have been impressed),
"Yes, but don’t worry, I’m not really into watching 30 grown many chasing a funny shaped ball and getting paid millions for it."
She looked at me, had a brief think, like a light went on, and said "Yes, millions."
I had a think, and thought whether or not I should carry on, and I did "Yes millions to run after a ball, and I make ends meet changing people’s lives."
She stopped there and turned away, not sure what to say to me. I stretched a little to watch above her head; and around the world people fork out money to be in a pub, to be in a full sports stadium, to be wearing branded clothing and have special TV channels so they can watch it all at home too.
Our team won and will be flying to New Zealand this week to take on the Chiefs. That means another social event will be organised around sitting in front of a rectangular shape that shows us images of other people making money.
After the game the London Olympics came on, it was the swimming events and sadly I didn’t see South Africa get a single place. They were hoping to bring home some ridiculous amount of medals, 14 or something, but one critic said we should only hope for four… time will tell. I think the most we have ever received at a Games has been four. Once again I have managed to not be at a major sporting event. I was in London for the South African 2010 World Cup Football and now I’m back in SA when the London Olympics are on. If I think of how much I detest the ludicrous amounts of money thrown into sport when people are starving, when countries are in states of emergency, when soldiers are fighting as pawns so powers that be can keep their powers, when natural disasters (like Japan’s volcano this week, so soon after their tsunami) are ruining lives, my stomach churns. Maybe there’s a reason the universe has been keeping me out of the mindless vacuum created for escapism through supporting sport. What’s awesome about the Olympics though is that participants participate for honour, to be a part of history, to be the best they can be, like humans should be doing every single day. The spirit in London right now must be incredible…wonder how expensive the hotels and flights are… wonder how much more sponsorship an athlete gets if they get a medal…
So why did I decided to write this piece? Because this morning I woke up feeling phenomenally discriminated against for something I had no control over. Rugby, chase the funny shaped ball, golf, hit the little white ball in a big circle, baseball, hit the ball and run in a circle, football, kick a ball around a field. Be physically and skillfully born with talent; practice; and be brilliant at anyone of those and you’re a millionaire, just like that… no, not just be good, be male. Where on planet earth are females earning what men are for playing with balls? I felt discriminated against by society this morning because I wasn’t born with family jewels hanging below my hip line…
As a teacher, encouraging individuals, changing their lives, impacting on who they are for the rest of their lives in a one-on-one capacity, ends will meet; and if they don’t stuff up the pension schemes and inflation doesn’t continue on the path it’s taking, then, God willing, teachers will be able to survive when they have to retire (currently many are not and they have to humble themselves to be looked after, that is, if they have such a family).