You cannot turn on the radio or television in South Africa without hearing the latest rugby scores from Australia that day, or the latest business news from Hong Kong or find out who Prince Harry is dating this month, oh, in a plethora of different languages of course. It seems, that without trying, South Africans are naturally diverse and naturally interconnected with other countries. While I sit at my laptop in the United States, I have to consciously seek out news from other countries, it seems that we are very isolated from the rest of the world. Perhaps one of the main things that separates us is the kinds of sports we play. Believe me, my father is in his 29th year as a high school football coach here in South Jersey, I love American football. But because we don’t have that common ground in sports, something that brings people together, we have to make a serious effort to get news from different sources to be in the know about other parts of the world. ESPN is certainly not reporting the newest rugby and cricket scores to us, why would they? During my time spent in South Africa I worked for a sports news production company. We mainly did outside broadcasting for rugby and cricket throughout South Africa and the UK. The major event I was involved with each year was the Junior Rugby World Cup in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 2007 and Wrexham, Swansea and Cardiff, Wales in 2008. The footage we would shoot during these assignments was used for South African sports news each night, on their version of ESPN. We worked for South African television, shot a few magazine news shows for Zimbabwe and teamed up with a Welsh production company for the few weeks we were travelling. Every country was interconnected. It seems that everyone had a fundamental general knowledge of other countries and cultures without that really being the mission, just by participating in common sports. I began to feel left out until on my second world cup assignment I spotted the US junior rugby team in my terminal at Heathrow. Hooray! Did you know we have a US junior rugby team? Well we do! Perhaps the players’ parents and myself are sadly the only ones who know. Anyway, I was proud to see the red, white and blue uniforms and even teared up during our national anthem when the US played South Africa. Throughout these trips I felt lucky to be a part of the journalistic crew who hung out late in cafes editing their work. I could not help but notice how knowledgeable everyone was about each other. It was not necessarily because they were reading up on Fijian politics or Scottish history, but by playing this common sport, they are linked in a way that the United States is just not. It is like a certain camaraderie or club that we are not a part of. They travel the world all year round and have worldwide tournaments together. I got a glimpse into this club and it has fascinated me since, is there something other than sports that ties these countries together? Altogether this is not a talk to promote rugby, or to discount American sports, but to observe that the rest of the world is “playing” together, why aren’t we?
Below is a highlight video from the Junior Springboks run in Wales from May 2008. Enjoy!