Tank Lanning

To boo or not to boo

2009-01-28 09:02
Stormers and Springbok loose forward Luke Watson (Gallo Images)
Tank Lanning

Let’s take a hard look at this Luke Watson issue, then …

I was fortunate to once take in a lecture by Internet guru Guy Kawasaki on Internet marketing. Two things he stressed were “Do not to be nervous of polarising people” and “Niche thyself”. Something Luke has taken very much to heart it seems  … Perhaps he was at the same lecture?

If he was, he missed a very important point … You see, in this crazy world of the “Interweb” as my esteemed colleague Chris Roper likes to call the Internet, we have a phenomenon known as the “Long tail”. All this basically describes is the effectiveness of the Internet when selling niche products to small markets. You see - there is a market for every product ever made. Yes it may be very small and thus traditionally not worth the expense of trying to sell this product, but the cost effectiveness of the Internet, without real world bricks and mortar costs, does allow the entrepreneur to exploit this “Long tail” of niche markets. Hence the websites selling double headed pugs, boerewors flavoured milk and Reds rugby jerseys … some people really want that crap!

But rugby is not the Internet, and there is no “Long tail”. Every player wanting to play for the Springboks not only has to have the talent, but has to train like a man possessed, eat the right food, and give up a lot of the good things life has to offer. Yet only 15 people can represent the country on any given Saturday. You are either in, or out. So how does “Polarising people” and “Niching thyself” do in what some people might even call a “Short tail” environment?

With his “I had to keep myself from vomiting on the Springbok jersey” and “Afrikaners organise white elitist events” comments at a UCT function last year, Luke Watson certainly has not been shy to niche himself and thus polarise the nation! And if the thousands of comments and blogs on Sport24 since his outburst, one of which gave birth to the “Puke Twatson” nickname, are anything to go by, he must be the most hated man in South Africa at the moment. He is certainly not shy of a vote in our soon to be announced  “Plonker of 2008” award, and I even had family friends phoning in asking me to try and turn down the volume on the vitriol …

But his lesser publicised comments at the same function like “My job is to bear the burden and carry the torch of hope” and “I’m fighting not for myself, but for a greater cause” seem to have galvanised a different South African community. A community perhaps not able or prone to comment on websites such as Sport24? A community perhaps not able to afford tickets to Springbok Tests and every Super 14 or Currie Cup game?

Fight for your cause

I have gone on record saying that I think Watson deserves the pain that has come his way. This because I believe accepting a selection to play for your country, means sticking to an agreed upon (and publicly known) team code. And if you are not willing to be part of that team on every level, then rather do not accept the selection. Find another way to fight for your cause, I say …

But I will not let my opinion blinker my vision. When reporting the fact that Watson was the most popular player amongst a fairly large crowd gathered at Riebeek West for a Stormers training match against UCT recently, I was quite taken aback when accused by some of being a “turncoat”. I was simply reporting what I saw, and it seems the fact that it might actually have been true upset a few people. At Newlands on the weekend, I got the impression that a lot of people wanted the crowd to boo loudly every time Watson touched the ball, hence it being made a big issue by some local media after the game. I, for one, could not wait to see what the reaction of the crowd would be … The fact of the matter was that yes, there definitely was some booing, but the man had a good game, and by the time the final whistle had been blown, there was precious little booing going down – fact!

What I do not like are the statements being made asking the public not to boo. That is just plain horse manure. Their reasoning being that Watson is entitled to his opinion and that supporters should remember that his opinion is shared by many other South Africans. Fair enough, as pointed out by an astute Sport24 blogger, Rugby Guru, but let us also remember that those fans who choose to boo Watson are just as entitled to their opinion!

Boo all you want if you are so inclined, I say, but if you find yourself in a crowd with a different opinion to yours, do not say you were not warned …

Niching thyself and polarising people? Spot on for those looking to sell their boerewors flavoured milk on the Interweb, but buy yourself a solid suit of armour if you want to attempt it in the short tailed world of South African rugby …

Tank is a former WP tighthead prop and now Sport24 editor and the author of the blog, Front Row Grunt.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.


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