Koos Kombuis

A eulogy for yesterday’s heroes

2011-08-25 12:42
I don’t know about you, but I was horrified when I heard that Amy Winehouse didn’t die of an overdose after all.

Tests done after the fact apparently proved that she had no 'illegal substances' in her body. Now rumours abound. Did her record company kill her? Was the dead girl a double, and is the real Amy still alive somewhere in Paris (France) or Nigel (South Africa), like Jim Morrisson and Elvis? The most fascinating rumour of all is the theory that she died because she had suddenly stopped drinking.

If that were true, a lot of us are potentially in serious trouble.

Out on a limb

I am a two-to-three-glasses-of-red-wine-sometimes-more-every-single-night-of-my-life kind of guy. I know that doesn’t classify me as a raging alcoholic – after all, I haven’t been motherlessly drunk since I finished a bottle of Polish vodka last year to help me come to grips with the death of a friend – but what if, one night, just one night, for whatever reason, I don’t have those two or three glasses of red wine? Is there ever so slightly a chance that I might drop dead? Apparently, it happened to a friend of mine's father. The old man had taken a long time off work, during which he spent every night drinking a bit more than usual, and when he returned to work one Monday, stone cold sober for the first time in more than a month, he just keeled over and expired. The shock of sudden sobriety was simply too much for his system.

Of course, in Amy’s case, there were other contributing factors. For instance, stress. The tragedy happened, so I recall, a matter of days or weeks after her managers had cancelled her comeback tour and broke all ties with her. The poor girl was out on a limb. She was finding herself in a kind of John Smit situation.

Twilight zone

Now, John Smit has not been fired by the Springbok coaches, but, like Amy, his career is in a kind of twilight zone. As a rugby player and as a captain, he is in limbo. I feel sorry for John Smit and I worry about him. Though his current rugby playing standard isn’t as bad as the press makes it sound – after all, he'd scored two brilliant test tries so far this year – he is in the awkward position of being the Bok's captain though he obviously belongs in their B-team or C-team. For John Smit, trying to pretend to be the real captain is a bit like Bishop Tutu still getting on public platforms and making political statements when he should be on the stoep, drinking rooibos-tea with Madiba. These guys are heroes, but they are yesterday’s heroes. Their style of playing and their rhetoric were fine years ago, but things have changed, the situation on the ground is different now. Green and Gold have changed, and so have the concepts of black and white (for most of us, anyway).

I find it heartbreaking when people hold on to the past like that. At least Graeme Smith had the good sense to go out with a bang.

PS: I can already tell you what some of the comments below this column are going to say. They’re going to tell me that I, too, am yesterday’s hero, and that I should have retired from the music scene ages ago. And, indeed, I fully agree. I am a disgrace for the music scene! After all, I still only play the same five chords! Singing and drinking on live stages is okay, but there are better guys than me doing exactly the same thing, only more in tune. So, here’s a promise: if someone gave me enough money to be able to do that, that’s exactly what I'll do – I'll quit! (From the singing bit, not the drinking bit, because I don't want to die like Amy Winehouse.) Speaking of which, how does this tender racket thing work?       

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