07 July 2012 - Sport little less than life
Your columnist has exulted in Sport since he could crawl, reportedly trying it at the greatest possible velocity. Much later at Budo, where the school only had two tennis courts, possession was the overriding consideration. My friend Nyangabyaki and I thereby often worked out a cunning plan: have your breakfast before the others, then dash for court; same for lunch. That way we sometimes played through to dusk.
Good practice: even today, in the hot African noonday sun, I will throw myself around the court for two and more hours, additionally creating a great thirst, necessarily to be sated! On those times when the Man with the Sickle came to call, I feel in part the vast quantities of play helped send him on his way minus me. (How shall I say? I hope to play until I die!)
Enough of me, though. Beam up three scenarios with current players at the highest level of world Sport. It might inform us about Life itself, and the daily challenges it spreads before us, not unlike the dreams of WB Yeats (“I have spread my dreams under your feet/ Tread softly because you tread on my dreams”). Start with two quotes: the first from CLR James, great West Indian commentator and philosopher on Sport, especially Cricket. “What do they of Cricket know, who only Cricket know?” - meaning that to truly appreciate that game you have to study Life thoroughly. Anonymous went further: “Cricket is like Life, but more so!”
The three scenarios are about Tennis (Rafael Nadal) Golf (Tiger Woods) and Athletics (Usain Bolt) in no particular order. (As the Jews would say: “What’s not to like?!”) Nadal, I wager, is one of the world’s favourite sportsmen. Currently Number Two in world Tennis, he came to this year’s Wimbledon with many thinking he would upend Number One Novak Djokovic in the Singles.
Instead he was clobbered by world Number 100 player, “Whatshisname” Rosol. Bolt, the fastest known man on God’s earth was at the weekend beaten by Yohan Blake at both 100 and 200 metres. Tiger, first billionaire sportsman, was caught el flagrante with ladies who sell. His form equally dipped completely but you can’t often keep a good man down; all three will come again.
I have said, truthfully, that I am no longer a Christian. God knows why it annoys so many! As reported last week, in the church at Gahini Sam Kutesa called me (half in jest) an Unbeliever. My cousin Apolo went off-graph with rage. His father, Simeoni Nsibambi was one of the founders of the Balokole (Saved) Movement, along with Dr Joe Church. But I thought people’s faith was a matter between themselves and God! And, in any case, Christians, among them Balokole, are of course not the only believers.
When first Kivebulaya and then Kigozi perished to disease respectively in Congo and Rwanda, Nsibambi asked not himself but my Dad, William Nagenda (Nsibambi, Kigozi and Dad all married Erasto Bakaluba’s daughters) to follow Kigozi. My father, whose father was rich landowner Festo Manyangenda, and who had just obtained a cushy job of interpreter in the Governor’s offices at Entebbe, promptly gave it up and with his new bride hurried to Gahini in ’36, where I was born two years later.
These two parents, who had gone hundreds of miles to preach the Gospel were grievously disappointed to hear me confess (what an irony!) I was no longer a Christian. To save them the pain I might have kept the news to myself, but they were the ones who had told us never to lie, always to tell the truth. One of my favourite sayings is: “Why tell a lie when you can tell the truth?” Why then did I quit Christianity, which I had drunk with my mother’s milk?
Having taken the first step, I told my parents and anyone else who was interested that I could not be a member of a group that excluded, for example, billions of Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, a huge number of them (if it came to that) born centuries before Christianity, from going to Heaven, wherever that celestial address might be found!
What about people of our own old faiths before proselyters came to convert them? Here it made me grieve (and how much more my parents?) whom I seemed to be directly attacking. But how I loved them, and others like them, and how obvious it was that their faiths had changed them far for the better!
But the exclusion zone at the centre of the Christian faith spat me out, and keeps me out. At its centre it reduces God Himself to manageable bits which you can cut as you think fit and put in the pocket of your soul. Ask me therefore what I am, and I will tell you I am a Humanist: “Treat your Neighbours as you would like them to treat you!” I’ll follow the song: “If that isn’t Love, it will have to do, until a better thing comes along!” God to me is Unknowable in the deepest, widest, sense. Say He is a Mountain, there are a huge number of paths to the Mountain top. Try to bring Him to our own manageable level? No thanks!