We must each do our bit for play

You should be. If you are not, you are going to be ‘ for is this not the season of cheer and goodwill to all mankind? Just note, ladies, that the “mankind” there includes you! What? Oh, I see you want me to change that? To say “goodwill to humankind”? Alright then, I have done that.

Women! Just when you begin to think that you now have all the answers to all the questions they ask, they change the questions. But I digress. Oh, what is new about my digressing? What, you are saying I do it all the time and so should just carry on when I am ready to without apologising? Alright, I will.

That is how to deal with it. Be reasonable. Never shout back. That is very important. It is. Show me a man who ever won a shouting contest against a woman and I will show you a dozen neighbours ready to lower the volumes of their radios, television sets and home theatres so that they can enjoy the drama unfolding in the cinema near them.

But why am I writing as if all my readers are male? I am sorry, my sisters, mothers, nieces and other ladies. Please do read on because now I am getting serious.

I see the model as a ball, which is the game- the sport- atop four pillars. The game comprises the players, the actors. Oh, that also includes women . . . unless you would rather I say “actors and actresses”.

The four pillars are: the media, the sponsors, the supporters and the administrators.

The pillars are what keep the ball up. If they are shaky, if they wobble, if they are not strong, if they totter, if they are weak, then the ball is just perched there. Precarious. Any time it can fall. Invariably it will. There may just be a gust of wind and down it comes.

When that happens you can imagine what happens. Obviously, the players lose their source of income. Those who look upon them as breadwinners are now threatened by the misfortune that has befallen their head.

Without the game, what do administrators administrate? So they too go home, moreso if they are full-time which nowadays more of them should be because sport has grown so big it cannot be entrusted into the hands of part-timers. So it is goodbye to the tours manager in the office, with him the downstream industry of travel agencies for sports tours, goodbye to the referee, the boy who mans the scoreboard, the lady who does the teas, the groundsman, the one who drives the team bus, the receptionist at the club office, the marketing person, the physiotherapist, coach, their assistant. The lot, folks, the lot. It is goodbye.

Without the game, what do the sports journalists write about, report on, shoot, edit? They too go home. The versatile ones among them can change beats and go to the courts desk to report on rape, murder, theft, arson and mitigating circumstances. But the rest go home. And with them the ancillary industries such as computers that supplies the hardware and software to run the sports websites.

The fans? Of course they also go home. How can you even ask me that? Can you not see it yourself that if the game is not there then there is nothing for them to see?

Huh, can you not see that? They go home to quieten the children playing on the road as they normally do when sports fans are in the stadium. They go home to kick the dog that is curled on the veranda because this is where it lies on a Sunday afternoon when sports fans are on the terraces. They go home to fight with the cat for the right to sit on the rocking chair where the cat curls on a Saturday afternoon when the sports fans are at the oval.

I hear you wondering if perhaps the fourth pillar, the sponsor, does not come out unscathed if any of the other pillars does not do its work of propping up the structure solidly and the game comes tumbling down. I can see how your mind is working; that you are saying then the sponsor keeps his money? That without the game the sponsor does not have the expense of putting their money into it because now it will not be there.

My friends, I want you to be serious with me. Why do they sponsor in the first place? Established brands such as Zimbabwe swimming sensation Kirsty Coventry, South Africa’s world-rated bowler Makhaya Ntini, all-time best athlete Maria Mutola of Mozambique, the Hitman doing the “hurt business” in Namibia and emerging ones such as the runners in Botswana, do not put revolvers onto corporate heads and give them a choice of valid cheque-book or expired life certificate.

They give the publicity-hungry or sales-seeking executives no choice by offering them a vehicle to the market: to create awareness, to elicit, enhance or maintain product loyalty, to introduce a new product, to boost traffic, to create or enhance the company image. And so on.

If the game goes, that vehicle too goes. And so the sponsor too has something to lose.

I need to look at the options for Christmas day. You know, what to do with the family. So I must end this article.

What I have said is that there are four pillars that hold up the game. I have said if even just one of the pillars does not perform its supporting role well, the game will collapse. I have said that when that happens, the ball, the offending pillar and the other three pillars all suffer.

Clearly, all that can be prevented by each of the pillars doing what they have to do.

Before the 31st of December, look at yourself and see whether, in 2006, your pillar did its best to support the ball.

December 2006
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