Shakespeare is regarded as one of the foremost writers in the English language since Elizabethan times. The era that saw Shakespeare write his classics also saw the publication of the King James Version of the Bible in 1611.
Now, I’m a bit of a literature fundi and enjoy Shakespeare. One of my favourites is Sonnet 130, My Mistresses Eyes:
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.
So, if we take Shakespeare’s description of his mistress she would look something like a dull-eyed, pale woman whose breasts do not make a stir, and whose hair is a little out of control and resembles wire. He also describes her breath as reeking which brings to mind mussels, garlic and onion. Her manner of speaking seems to be discordant and she does not tread like a model when she walks, but she makes a bit of a boom boom going down the street. If we take it to a level of hyperbole, might she not make ripples in water glasses like the approach of the T-Rex in ‘Jurassic Park’?
For all of those flaws he loves her. Were Shakespeare’s mistress to pen a sonnet about him, who knows what she might have written about his flaws.
This is precisely like my relationship to the Sharks.
I came to appreciate rugby at a late age and it happens that owing to the place of my birth I came to support the Sharks by default, a team that had its heyday in the 1990s. Known as the Banana Boys in those days the team re-branded to ‘The Sharks’, this around the time they managed to win promotion from the lower Currie Cup league and compete for the final of the Currie Cup, then the gold standard in South African rugby, when it meant something.
Through the inaugural years of the Super Rugby competition between sides from South Africa, Australia and New Zealand the Sharks were always the bridesmaids, but never the bride. The title proved elusive and in 2007 when they played that year’s final at home in Durban a refereeing error handed the title to the Bulls in the last moments of the game. The years 2015 through to the present have represented the low water mark for the team and they present the appearance of Shakespeare’s mistress: pretty ordinary looks when compared to other teams.
And yet I love them, though of course not in the same way as my family. The team is made up of young men and their families, older coaches to mentor them, all the backroom staff that keep things ticking over, and all of their families. And then of course the fans. I feel comfortable around fellow Sharkies.
The history and present of the team reflects highs and lows, successes and failures and generally resembles the serialised and dramatic features of a soap opera…that men watch.
Through supporting the Sharks I have come to learn humility. And the lesson that it is only really a game after all and that the Kingdom is more important. It sure doesn’t make life boring though.