“He was looking at the bug spray section…”

Recently an inter-school cycle race was cancelled in Cape Town because of a lack of sponsorship. Or rather, a change of mind on behalf of the sponsor which rationalised it’s decision to withdraw from the race and concentrate its resources in other areas on the basis that “cycling has a bad reputation any way.”

The bean-counters and marketeers who work for the company probably know nothing about cycling and use nothing more than ‘community equity’ and ‘exposure potential’ as indexes to determine where the company’s sponsorship money is spent. Their perception that cycling has a ‘bad reputation’ is based on newspaper and television news headlines written about yet another drugs cheat.

Those at the very top of the food chain in any high profile walk of life can struggle to realise the widest impacts of their actions, but especially when they reach the top in a hurry. When professional cyclists say ‘yes’ to their administrators who offer the syringe route to success, they cannot have any idea of what impact they could have miles further back in the food chain.

Take J-P Duminy, for example. Nothing in his life could have prepared him for the enormity of his position and the responsibilities that come with it, a responsibility and profile that he could reasonably argue that he never sought. Except that he did choose to be a professional cricketer.

The night after he was sold for $950,000 at the IPL auction, Duminy went for a quiet celebration drink and was quickly struck by the number of eyes staring in his direction – and, later, by the increase in the number of ladies displaying an interest in seeking his attention. It is just the beginning of a life he will barely recognise again. JP was asked whether the money would change him. What a ridiculous question. Would the sudden arrival of

R7million in your bank account change you?

But the sad truth is this: before such previously unimaginable wealth can even begin to have a telling effect on a player, it changes many of those around him. Previous acquaintances suddenly behave like close friends and close friends can be pushed away by a desire not to be associated with the ‘circus’ which develops around the new ‘star’. A plastic and insincere entourage can form around ‘new money’ as quickly as vultures appear on a dead buffalo. And they can be just as ruthless in stripping the carcass. One day, perhaps, Herschelle Gibbs will overcome his inately generous nature and recognise that rather too many of his ‘friends’ over the years have been more interested in their own welfare than his.

Duminy, no doubt, will find it all extremely challenging. The feral way in which the Dolphins celebrated his dismissal in the Standard Bank Pro20 could easily be taken personally rather than treated as a compliment, which it was. There will be old school friends, struggling to pay the rent and in danger of losing their jobs, who look at him with eyes that say: “You’ve got millions in the bank and I’m struggling to make ends meet…”

But JP will be fine. He has many good people around him and, provided he can persuade his well-meaning father to allow the experts to handle his affairs, he will not be led astray – just as Dale Steyn has remained true to himself and his background.

A close friend and neighbour became highly animated and excited a couple of days ago when he saw me on his return from a trip to the local Pick ‘n’ Pay. “I’ve just bumped into Steyn, Dale Steyn! He’s not as big in real life, is he? He looks bigger on TV! I thought he lived in Pretoria…what a great guy,” puffed my neighbour.

What made him a ‘great guy’? I asked.

“I don’t know,” he replied, “he was just really friendly. He smiled and said ‘hi’ and asked which can he should buy. He was looking at the bug spray section.”

My neighbour says he will take his family to watch a day of Test cricket ‘live’ for the first time, all because Dale Steyn smiled and was friendly in Pick ‘n’ Pay. Meanwhile, hundreds of kids will miss out on their cycle race because some of the selfish people at the top of that sport can’t think beyond the tip of their next syringe.

Meanwhile, the Aussies are here!! Hooray! It’ll be interesting to see how they conduct themselves in defense of their number one ranking. Will the confidence/arrogance be shelved, or will the swagger remain

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