Perhaps Aussies can be persuaded to bowl underarm with a tennis ball
I COULD not help thinking as I sat in the VIP Grandstand at the eighteenth at Sun City last week that the country might be a great deal better off if Sun International ran it like a gigantic sporting event for a while.
The organisation at the Million Dollar Golf Challenge is quite simply phenomenal. People walk where they are supposed to walk. The traffic flows. The hospitality tents don't run out of food or drink and, despite the thousands of spectators, there is remarkably little litter on the ground. Most miraculous of all, though, is the silence that falls over the crowd when someone is about to putt.
The reason for this state of sporting Nirvana is that, unlike in the real South Africa, there are rules which are enforced and obeyed. Even the loftiest of chief executives are persuaded to give up their wretched cellphones for the simple reason that it will spoil not only their's but everybody else's day if it keeps ringing. The crowd falls silent when shots are being played, not only because they respect the game of golf and the players but principally out of consideration to their fellow spectators. It would be unthinkable to have a cellphone ring or to conduct a conversation while Tiger Woods is putting.
In other words, at Sun City (at least during the golf) there is a well-defined code of social etiquette. Of course, back in Joeys we revert to our appallingly loutish South African behaviour of allowing our cellphones to sing out in restaurants or during meetings and slip back into our "every man for himself bugger you mate" road manners. This is not because there are no rules. It's simply because few people seem to have either the good manners to observe them or the guts to enforce them. So now that the government has decided it is fed up with all the more challenging tasks of running a country and that it wants to run sport instead, it seems only reasonable that companies like Sun International should be allowed to run the country in a sort of responsibility exchange programme.
I have said before in this column that a Third World country which can't even afford to keep essential services like hospitals going has absolutely no business appointing and paying a Sports Minister to gad about the world at the taxpayer's expense and interfere with people's leisure activities. The ANC was surely not voted into power to dictate the skin colour of our sporting teams. One might have thought that there were rather more pressing issues like housing, the provision of basic amenities and the creation of jobs to attend to.
However, that doesn't appear to be the case and the Sports Minister appears keen to kick up as much pre-election dust as he can. He is joined by the extraordinary Mluleki George, president of some expensive boondoggle called the National Sports Council. In the world of commerce, a senior executive's worth is judged by whether he or she "adds value" to the business. On the evidence of last week's comments, George would appear to add absolutely no value whatsoever and, were he not a protected species, he would almost certainly be tramping the streets looking for real work. I have a nasty feeling that the taxpayer is paying for the existence of the National Sports Council, which seems to be about as essential a luxury item as the Sports Minister himself. Dr Ali Bacher can be accused of many things, such as delaying flights from Heathrow and saying "Sarfafcan crigget" when he presumably means South African cricket, but he certainly cannot be accused, as George suggests, of being reckless and of using blacks to further his and cricket's interests.
Clearly though, this is a no win situation as things stand and the only way to resolve the issue once and for all would be for Steve Tshwete and Mluleki George to select their own "previously disadvantaged transformation eleven" from the throng of highly talented and ignored black cricketers and for them to play the selectors' choice. Obviously the winning team would go on to represent the country at national level.
While this sounds like a neat idea, I suspect that the transformation eleven would start whinging about the use of a hard ball and the pace of the bowling before too long. Put them up against Oz and a fast leg-spin delivery from Shane Warne would probably result in a charge of racism and assault. So the selectors' team would have to use a tennis ball and bowl underarm to give them a chance in order to make up for all those years of disadvantage. The question is, can we persuade the rest of the world to do likewise?