The Fred Lantern…

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The Green Lantern is an unfairly lambasted movie in my opinion. It has all the elements inherent in any good origin story for a super hero, flawed, hot-headed hero with immense power, love interest, far off planets, space ships, villains and tight crotch punishing outfits.

The story follows a predictable path. Normal guy with issues is minding his own business and then bam! He’s chosen by some force or the other to be a guardian of the universe, not to be confused with guardian of the galaxy, lest we become subject to legal wrangling over naming rights. Once he has his power he has to learn to use it. Enter a montage of training clips where he is mentored by a great and powerful leader. He is constantly reminded about how great the guy before him was and how he’ll never be able to fill his shoes and at first he fails and is useless, and then slowly but surely he masters his powers and you think he is going to become the hero that he is destined to be. Then he faces a powerful foe and is beaten, or something, loses his confidence and runs away like a little b*tch.

After some soul searching the hero realises that it is within himself to triumph over evil, that all that stands between him and the hero he so desperately wishes he could be is his own fear, his own doubts in his own abilities. In a crescendo of uplifting music and slow motion action shots, he takes his place besides the other Green Lanterns after re-earning their trust by doing something selfless and saving the day. He gets the girl and a standing ovation for being the awesome guy that he is.

It isn’t a stretch comparing professional sportspeople with super heroes, especially the flawed ones. Earlier today I read a column by Khanyiso Tshwaku in which he examined the plight of under fire Sharks flyhalf Fred Zeilinga.

Fred has had the unenviable task of filling Pat Lambie’s shoes. Pat is an exceptional rugby player, made even more so by his calm head and eye for space. He seems to have that extra few seconds to make decisions that other players envy. Unfortunately he got injured and Fred had to take over, after very little game time. This came after the Shark’s other flawed heroes were sent to the naughty chair for a few weeks after losing their head, in one instance, and in the other simply being too strong for their own good. Having lost Pat Lambie and Frans Steyn, Fred was asked to take over the mantle and lead the backline unit and he hasn’t been done any favours. He has an inexperienced 12 outside him and an unsettled backline with little to no idea how they’re supposed to be playing. He too is young and lacks experience, yet he was asked to do the impossible.

This is where we find ourselves in his superhero journey. He is down, he is under pressure and he’ll probably be benched this weekend in favour of the returning Frans Steyn. Fred will have time to reflect on what has happened and perhaps, like Ryan Reynolds, he’ll have that moment of clarity that frees his mind so that he might play the way he knows he can.

Hopefully then he’ll get his crescendo of uplifting music and slow motion action shots. Maybe we’ll see him slicing backlines to shreds, making amazing passes, kicking impossible kicks and scoring brilliant tries. Maybe then he’ll get that standing ovation for being the awesome hero he can be!

In the end it will be up to him to make that happen. As for the rest of us, all we can do really is keep supporting the guy and the team, keep going to the games, keep cheering so that maybe he and his team mates know that they are not alone, that they are fighting for something bigger than themselves and whatever nonsense is going on behind the scenes, let them know that we are their fans and are behind them all the way, win or lose.

Tough Times for the Illuminati

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Whilst walking home from gym the other day I noticed something bizarre. Anyone who lives in South Africa has seen the crude flyers pasted to any and all available public spaces. Usually they advertise silly things like penis enlargement cream or a variety of services from the local witchdoctor, which include but are not limited to “make strong the body”, “win lotto”, “revenge against cheating husband”, “attract women to the body”, and so on and so forth. There are also more sinister ones that advertise cheap back-room abortions which should be illegal. It’s not that hard to track the people down, I mean they put their phone number on the flyer…

On this day however I saw one that stood out from the usual witchdoctors, penis creams and “safe” abortions advertisements.

The Illuminati are recruiting.

When one thinks of the Illuminati, that underground secret society of rich people who secretly control governments and the world economy, one thinks of dark underground clubs with big leather chairs and roaring fireplaces, rituals involving the sacrifice of ducks and bizarre secret handshakes that make no sense. They’ve obviously run out of seedy rich people from ancient families and are looking to recruit, hence the flyer.

To that end, I’d like to help the Illuminati with a few candidates that they should consider contacting from the world of sport.

1 – Haroon Lorgat – Chairman of Cricket South Africa. He is rich, he is shady and while I’m not sure about his family, he does have political connections that could be bent and moulded to suit the needs of the Illuminati. We know he has a direct line to the South African minister of sport.

2 – Peter Moores – England cricket coach. Now we all know a big part of the Illuminati’s modus operandi is to break down the economy so that they can buy up cheap shares after the collapse and then cash in when they increase in value again. Peter Moores has managed to take England from the number one test team in the world (however short lived) and T20 world champions to a mediocre joke of a team that can’t even beat the West Indies, a proud but currently struggling cricket team. He’d be great at crashing the economy if propped up in a government position.

3 – Jake White – Former Springbok, Brumbies, Sharks and Montpellier coach. If the economy goes down it has to go back up, otherwise the Illuminati wouldn’t be able to cash in. If you want short term success then Jake White is your man. He’ll come in, turn things around and then leave before he gets any ideas that he might be bigger than the organisation itself. They say no man is an island, but with Jake, that simply isn’t true. He does what he does and then he moves on.

4 – Finally – Richie McCaw – The Illuminati need people who can do shady things out in the open without being noticed. Richie is the ultimate illusionist when it comes to that sort of thing. He can play an opposition man from an offside position, off his feet, with his hands in the ruck illegally, whilst obstructing two more players and still escape the referee’s eye.

So there you go Illuminati, please don’t lower yourselves to the level of penis enlargement cream salesmen, witchdoctors and illegal abortionists. There are other means of recruitment that don’t involve pasted flyers in public spaces, just take a look at the sporting world and you’ll find all the talent you need.

TRANSFORMERS – MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE

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We’ve all seen the movies, cars that transform into huge battling robots. There are good transformers, and bad transformers, Autobots and Deceptacons, one side heroic, the other megalomaniacal and power hungry. I remember watching the cartoons when I was younger and I think they were a far more accurate reflection of what the creators of the show wanted to portray.

They touched more on the moral ambiguity and also on the sometimes sticky topic of having a villain more powerful than the hero. Generally the Autobots prevailed not because they were more powerful, but because they worked as a team, whereas the Deceptacons were fractured, filled a with selfish desire for power and as likely to turn on each other as they were to fight the enemy Autobots for whatever it was they were after that week.

Transformation is South African sport echoes the themes so effectively revealed in those Transformers cartoons. On the one side, you have the people who genuinely want our sport to transform for the good of all the people, probably best illustrated by people like Ali Bacher, and then on the other side, you have those that push the transformation agenda simply to further their own ends, and are as likely to turn on each other as they are to turn on a sports team that is “too white”.

From my perspective, I think transformation in sport is a wonderful thing. Nothing fills me with more pride than watching a truly united South African team made up of all the races in our country fighting it out together against whomever they’re playing, if those players are picked on merit.

In my mind, however, I can think of nothing more unfair than picking a player of colour as a quota selection. It is unfair on the player, it is unfair on the team and it is unfair on the fans.

The details around the 2015 cricket world cup semi-final are sketchy at best. Rumour has it that Haroon Lorgat, that sycophantic blood-sucking cricket administrator, sent a text message overruling the Proteas selectors. Not only was that message entirely unnecessary, as all the players at the world cup were selected on merit, it was downright disrespectful to all of the South African players, selectors and fans and, if the rumours are true, Haroon should be fired and flogged by a hundred ten year olds for sabotaging their heroes in their mission and messing with things best left alone.

In the end, Vernon Philander, nursing an injury and with little playing time under his belt, was selected ahead of Kyle Abbot. Vernon has never been a quota player, and to paint him as such does him the ultimate disservice Mr Lorgat. You are a Deceptacon of the highest order, using the sensitive issue of race and transformation to further your own agenda and you should be ashamed.

This is the issue I have with transformation in South African sport. Nobody can deny that transformation in sport is a good thing. It means more players to choose from, it means more people from all different backgrounds playing sport and learning all that it has to teach about teamwork, pride, playing for your fellow man, discipline and all of those good things.

When it used as a political tool it becomes something ugly. It tears at the heart like an angry divorce between common sense and necessity. It builds up the very barriers it is intended to tear down. Instead of fostering unity, it ignites distrust and enmity. If we as South Africans work as a team to encourage natural transformation in our sport then success is certain, but if we, like the Deceptacons, turn on each other at the first sign of trouble, if we stab each other in the back on the eve of battle just to win some political points, if we put our own needs before that of the players and fans, then, I’m afraid animosity and spite will infect our sport and slowly but surely turn it into something horrible.