don't get me wrong, i'm mad about rugby. i think it's the greatest game to watch and when i physically could, i really enjoyed playing it too (when i dislocated my ac joint i took it to mean my body was saying no more). i also think john smit is the best captain this country has ever seen and despite maybe getting a bit old for the physicality of it all is still playing an absolutely superb game. but yet there is a certain perspective one needs to have about exactly what the greatest game in the world is. i thought about this when i watched john's reaction to the defeat during his 100th game as a springbok, but it is something i realised some time ago when another game was in question.
a new group of students had rotated to my firm. with the first call it became clear they were hard workers and keen to learn. that is pretty much all i required of my students so i was happy. in fact we were getting on famously. then one of them approached me.
"excuse me bongi, but i was wondering if there is any chance that i could get this saturday's call off?" as i have said before, in surgery this was pretty much not an option. and yet she had proven her willingness to work so i found myself entertaining the thought. she had better have a bloody good excuse though.
"my husband is going to be home for three days and i want to spend some time with him," she said. "he has a really crummy job." she added for good measure.
i considered the options. i decided i'd let her go and try to cover for her with the prof. at least it wasn't the boss' firm so i didn't actually expect problems. but i was curious. what sort of job did her husband do if he was home so seldom? i had to ask.
"he is a cricket player." now there are times in life where if you just stop and take a moment to think you greatly decrease the chances of making a complete fool of yourself. i suspect this may have been one of those moments. pity i didn't take a moment. if i had taken a moment i would have realised that she shares a surname with one of our national cricket players. if i had taken a moment i may have been able to hide the fact that at that stage in my life i didn't really follow cricket too much and therefore wasn't sure if this player was even still in the team or not. if i had taken a moment i wouldn't have asked the next question.
"oh. what team does your husband play for?" she looked at me as if i was mad. i suppose being married to what some thought of as a national hero meant that everyone should know exactly who he was. i only had the vaguest of ideas. i considered saying if he was a rugby player i would know exactly who he was but i thought better of it.
after realising who her husband was i felt obliged to find out a bit more about the guy and to try and watch a few games at least. thereafter i could at least engage in a semi-intelligent conversation with her about her husband's profession. and this is what i did. quite soon we were chatting about cricket and cricket players. i was learning all sorts of interesting facts about the individual players in our squad. it was all very interesting.
one day we started speaking about the attitudes of some specific players that were considered stars (to the extent that even i knew them). i was interested to hear how one track minded they were about cricket and more specifically about their own opinions of themselves. they truly elevated themselves to almost godlike status in their own eyes. this fascinated me. i said the only thing i really felt i could say.
"well, in the end, it's only cricket and cricket is only a game."
"no. you are wrong. it is much more important than that." i considered this. i considered it in the light of what we had seen and done in the last while. i thought about the young lady that had developed overwhelming sepsis and died in icu despite all our efforts. i thought of the guy whose leg we had removed due to complications of diabetes and how he thought he was going to be fine with a prostheses, yet i knew that due to his age and general poor health, he would never learn to use a prosthetic limb to the point of independence. i thought about the teacher who got shot through the abdomen because he was at the wrong place at the wrong time and had also passed away after a high stress operation. i thought of the lady that had just been told she had breast cancer and the fact that she was wondering if she would live to see the birth of her grandchildren. i thought of the family that i had to tell that their child didn't survive the car crash they were all in. i thought of many things. after a while i replied.
"no. sorry to disappoint but it is really only a game."