Dead Airby Brandon Edmonds / 13.09.2011
You’re away on a team-building weekend, and you’ve been drinking. You drink a lot. You even tweet about drinking. This is a calling card in your game. It’s a badge of belonging. It affirms your place in the culture. A masculine sports culture and fan culture and broadcast media culture underpinned by drinking. Getting fucked up is okay. Getting wasted is cheaper than therapy. You’ve even made this joke before. You’re a good talker. You’re the alpha in your group. In these circles, you’re smart and funny. In these circles, you’re Woody Allen. How else do you keep it all going? A breakfast show, a drive-time show. A TV career. A veteran broadcaster. Hosting events. Event marketing. Talk radio. Talk everything.
Silence is failure. They call it “dead air” on radio. You avoid it. Death. Dying. Dead air. Talk isn’t cheap, china, it’s your whole fucking career. Your reason for being. All day and night you talk. You never stop talking. Who cares if you repeat yourself and your convictions got lost in the blur? Who cares that all this talk got in the way of who you are? Whoever you are. Booze flattens these qualms. Drinking affirms the country. The system. The Boks. Drinking is life-affirming. Maybe that’s all you’re communicating. Belief in it all being here tomorrow. In things NOT falling apart. Keep talking, keep drinking and everything is going to be okay. There’s always another game. Another morning to wake up to and talk over. No matter how big of a pig shat in your head. Always another beer to tilt. As long as you’re not dead air. You dream you’re falling through dead air. Even in the dream you know you’ll be okay as long as you keep talking. Drive time. Talk radio.
Booze wets language. Turns it sloppy. Lets it all come out. Demons and old ideas. The deep structure put in place way back when you know who knew their place. Booze takes you deep into those dark places where a career-flaming word waits. The word is the longest snake on the board. It plummets you back to your own beginnings: who am I, what have I done, why did I say that, how can this be fixed, and do I have the will to start over? It constitutes a crisis. One word. It turns your name toxic. As you famously put it: “I exploded and a racist word came out that shouldn’t have… I hate myself for using the word, because I don’t see myself as a racist.”
Booze shuts out reflection and doubt. Undoes your shirt and awakens the dark. Shit, the lion’s share of your working life in broadcasting and sports media happens in bars and pubs, at marquee functions, razzle-dazzle launches, and awards thingies where booze does nothing but flow. A public figure is a catchment area of free stuff. Your presence adds luster. Free booze is your Midas touch. Water into wine. Look at Hugh Bladen. His breath makes puppies go foetal, makes argyle sweaters spontaneously combust. Look at the flared redness of his skin. The physiological fallout of his committed drinking. The irony is you judged him. Once.
You’re enjoying the weekend. It’s lovely at the Lodge near Bela-Bela. You even take a photo of the sunset on your phone and upload it on Facebook. Everything is media with you. Promotion, imagery, sound bites, communication. You’re an element in the information economy. You’re an anchor, a commentator. People know you. You own a company packaging media events and promotions. You own property and Italian shoes on the back of talking. That’s all you do. Going live on air. Riches on the back of your mundane approachability. Your ability to keep media moments going in real time. You are in the business of continuity. Keeping it flowing. Like liquid.
This ability is worth something. Most of us would freeze with the nation watching. Most of us wouldn’t dare. And here you are, in a bar, relaxing and socializing on the cusp of the Rugby World Cup. It’s a special time. Things are good. You’re a household name. You’re part of a mythic duo that resonates with South African men. He’s the pedantic, syllable-flubbing blonde to your wry Everyman. You’re a much-loved couple with the best chemistry on television. And life is good. You’re trim. You’re well. And he approaches you. The fucker. You’ve been lending him money for years now. Africa. That name always gets you going. His fucking name is Africa. How perfect! Basket case continent running on handouts and charity. Just like the guy in question. Except it’s your money. Money he built a house with and bought a nice car. Your money. Made of talk. And still no sign of payback. Where’s his morals? Where’s the dude’s dignity? How can he even show his fucking face here? Allegedly, you tell him people who don’t pay their debts aren’t welcome. You say it in a cocky-funny way that gets big laughs. Booze sharpens the tone. You meant it. And he leaves. It’s the annual team-building weekend-away on the edge of the Rugby World Cup. Who needs his shit? Out of the goodness of your heart, you helped a guy out, a guy called Africa. We’re talking lots of money over time, and for what? They don’t deserve it. Look at the country. It’s a joke. You can trust them as far as you can throw them. And he comes back. Africa returns to the table. What are you supposed to do? You told him nicely once already. Rounds ago. So you stand and face him, Africa himself, and you feel the booze working through you, unsteady on your feet, in sponsored clothing, booze burning like a bad piss in your veins, and you fire the word at him like an R1 rifle, to break his black skin and draw blood, over and over, while everyone wants to hold you back, silence you, turning you into the dead air.
Disclaimer: Next level semi-fictitious appropriative journalism aimed at providing commentary on the deep-seated racism so pervasive in South African white jock culture as evidenced by a recent sports commentary career suicide. File under ‘new journalism’ ~ Ed