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Op-eds

United by rugby

  • Howard Feldman 2018
Ever since the security guard at our complex drew his weapon and pointed it at Fred, we haven’t been friends. It’s not to say that he was completely without justification, and not to say that there haven’t been times that I too could have acted aggressively towards him. But I was bothered by the incident nevertheless, primarily because being a Yorkshire Terrier, Fred had no idea what a weapon was. Which meant that it wasn’t a smart thing to do.
by HOWARD FELDMAN | Nov 07, 2019

It ended with an apology, a new pair of trousers, and the assurance that Fred would stick to chasing hadedas, which we all agreed he would never catch.

In spite of the truce, things haven’t been easy. As a serial greeter, I find it hard to handle it when my cheery “good morning!” is met with a grunt. There is no doubt that I am still being held vicariously responsible for Fred’s rude behaviour and that as a result, I will be the last person saved in the event of a real incident occurring. And yet still, day after day after day, I smile and greet without success.

Until Saturday around 12:40. As an observant Jew, I observe the Sabbath as a day of rest. One of the prohibitions is the use of electronics. This meant I wasn’t able to watch the Rugby World Cup final on TV or computer or anywhere else.

Although I was at peace with my decision, it wasn’t easy to avoid knowing the score. By the time the game was nearing its end, I had become anxious to hear how we had done. And so, I left my house and walked to the guard house where I was hoping to find another security officer on duty. No such luck – the non-greeter was on duty.

The sound of the radio confirmed that he was listening to the game. “Hey,” I said, “how are we doing?” “Thirty two-12!” he replied, “with two minutes to go!” His grin was broad, and the surly sulk I had expected was nowhere to be seen.

Mine matched his, and for that moment at least, Fred was forgotten. We were just two South Africans overjoyed that we had achieved the impossible.

I floated home joyous about the news of South Africa’s success, and the fact that sport had the power to unite us. If sport could do this in our complex, imagine what it could do in the streets of Johannesburg.

Saturday night confirmed this. The power of the positivity that I observed after Shabbat was immense. Aside from a few negative tweets (the Economic Freedom Fighters trying to remain relevant), it was evident that the 2019 Rugby World Cup had united the country.

We laughed about Faf’s Speedo, we shed a tear when we heard Kolisi’s story, and we even became fans of Prince Harry who showed real warmth and grace when he paid a visit to the boys in the changing room.

As Jews, we are taught that in the height of our joy, we need to still remember the destruction of the temple. We need not have worried: the “realists” told us to be cautious, the racists reminded us to hate, and the miserable took comfort in the fact that things would never be this perfect.

But in truth, we didn’t for one minute forget that Moody’s had placed us on notice and that the mid-term budget was horrible. We didn’t forget about Zuma or the Guptas or Bosasa, and we certainly didn’t think that Eskom had pulled itself together. We simply made a decision to suspend negativity for the weekend, and just enjoy being a success.

In doing so, we wore our joy with pride, and it suited us.

And so, I wasn’t at all surprised on Sunday morning, that when I waved a cheery “good morning” to the security guard, all I received was a grunt in return. We both knew that we had shared a moment. Even if we pretended we hadn’t.

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