The woeful plight of sporting ‘widows’

Charles Beningfield

One Sunday morning a little while ago, my wife Naomi came out of the kitchen and found me on the couch watching the Proteas batting on the television.

I was padded up in my whites with my bat, gloves and helmet beside me.

By way of explanation I said: “I got a call from the convener of selectors asking me if I was available for this Test match and I said, ‘of course’.”

“But you’re over 80 and I thought you said you had retired from the game,” she threw over her shoulder, wiping her hands on her apron as she returned to the kitchen.

“This lockdown business really has got to you, hasn’t it?

“Anyway, where are they batting you?”

“At No 4. as usual. They want me to use my calming influence and bolster the middle order.

“If your country needs you, they need you,” I flung back defiantly.

Sarky woman!

Of course, this never happened. But I am something of a sports nut and as I enter the sere and yellow of life, I am prone occasionally to Walter Mitty (look him up) moments.

So the Olympics in Japan are finally over. A fortnight of television saturation has duly been broadcast.

We won three medals, I think, and normal business can be resumed.

In many households, the television remote control gadget can at last be handed back to the rest of the family.

Naomi – who is quintessentially English, bless her – thinks nearly everything about South African life is wonderful, but there is one thing she has simply never been able to get her pretty little head around and that is our obsession with sport.

Our three sons all represented Border in one or other of the sporting codes and Naomi in those years made enough “sarmies” for Selborne and Queen’s teams to feed an army but still doesn’t know a rugby ball from the Darktown Strutter’s Ball.

And frankly I imagine, she couldn’t care less.

So, like television sporting widows everywhere, she clutched her forehead in despair and threw her eyes heavenward when I informed her with eyes bright with anticipation at the start of the rugby and football season that all matches would be broadcast live with analysis before and after each for good measure.

Oh, the joys of sporting widowhood!

Sociologists and people such as marriage councillors like to publish erudite papers from time to time explaining reasons why marriages founder.

The bar at the club would, I think, come pretty high on the list and the man who prefers his beer to his boudoir so to speak, is likely to be heading for the divorce court.

Undoubtedly there are other reasons for marital strife and one has to wonder how far up the list is the television sportaholic.

Though many of us (males) consider ourselves reasonably controlled sports fans, there are men out there who turn into monsters in front of the weekend TV screen.

During a Test match, a normally docile and manageable husband succumbs to a sort of sporting madness.

A charming and affectionate Jekyll becomes a dangerous Mr Hyde from whom his offspring retreat to the far corners of the house.

As the Springboks strive to cross their opponent’s goal-line in yet another blood-and-guts assault, the television set becomes a god before which the most alarming contortions and rites are performed.

Were a stranger to whom rugby was an unknown quantity to see the head of the house wailing and writhing, clapping and jumping and swearing and screaming in front of the little screen, he would be duty bound to call a doctor.

And that’s not all.

When the rugger buggers have put away their blood-stained kit and wives can heave a gigantic sigh of relief and enjoy a well-earned break from constant instruction on the importance of finding touch, the merits of the substitution system, the gross ineptitude of northern hemisphere referees, they can brace themselves to have runs, wickets, boundaries, the merits and demerits of the review system and the ineptitude of northern hemisphere umpires thrust down their throats.

Furthermore, our beloved but by now spaced-out spouses will be mesmerised by the Supersport honchos who solemnly declare: “Our aim is to give viewers what they want!”

Be that as it may, they can always retire to the bedroom to knit or consult their friendly neighbourhood lawyer on the best divorce deal they can get _ or subscribe to the “join ‘em if you can’t beat ‘em brigade!”

Tailpiece: Now here’s one for the lads at the golf club.

Tom married a beautiful 22-year-old redhead but before they left on honeymoon, he thought he would be completely honest.

“Look,” he said, “I have a confession to make. Golf is the most important thing in my life. I sleep golf, I dream golf, golf is all I think about 24 hours a day. Just golf. I just wanted to get things straight with you right from the start.”

“Good,” said his redhead bride. “I also have a confession to make. I’m a hooker.”

“Oh,” he replied, grabbing her wrists. “I can fix that. If you hold your left hand over your right like this …”

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