Good Fridayby Brandon Edmonds, illustration by Mike Scott / 16.06.2010
Has there ever been a cinematic interlude of sheer populist lyricism to match the flying bike scene in Spielberg’s E.T.? Wait for the moment young Elliott calls out in true joy. His BMX is fucking flying! There’s an extra-terrestrial on the handlebars. I mean this is a moment to blog over. It gets me every time. What comes close in recent movies to this kind of infectiously pure glee? Spiderman learning to web-rush the city? Maybe. Twilight’s gorgeous carnal tree rollick? Perhaps. The first Transformer transformation? Okay. But really you’d have to go back to vintage Disney, to Mary Poppins, to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, or even further back to the swashbuckling insouciance of Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood in the 1930s, to come close to such a dreamily verdant sense of uncomplicated freedom. What gets near that kind of open-hearted transcendence in popular culture these days? What shames our negativity? Well our country put its collective hand up last Friday, and came pretty damn close to outdoing that beloved ET sequence. I’m serious. What a great day. What an opening! Well done fellow citizens. We spread the love. We did good. Real good. Ayoba. Here’s my Friday.
Woke up to the kind of weather that the Cape holds up its sleeve. A note perfect sky. Cloudless and showily blue. The light had the camera-friendly clarity of photo-realism. The mountain looked like it had tarted itself up for an Ansel Adams shoot. You could hear that infernal horn. There was a crackling breezy something in the air. A communal excitement. A shared sense of spectacle. I walked up to a friend’s place through the still vacant remnants of District 6. I thought of street kid removals. How “the poors” have been airbrushed out of the spectacle. The elite logic behind District 6 abides. Out of sight, out of mind. FIFA wouldn’t hear of Athlone stadium being refurbished and used to host all the Cape matches.
“A billion TV viewers don’t want to see shacks and poverty on this scale,” the Federation said. Fair enough, so help us change it. Plough some of that TV money ($3billion apparently) back into the country that helped you earn it. We could always use new schools and clinics. We could always use job training and seed money for business start-ups. We don’t like seeing “shacks and poverty on this scale” either. And we live and belong here.
Nothing is blissfully what it is in this country. There are always complications. The joy of Friday, the power of that opening day, was the sense of renewal, of newness, and fresh hope it gave us. It was a gift, an expensive, controversial, undeniably positive gift – not from Fifa, or international capital, or the powers that be, but a gift we gave ourselves. As fans, as South Africans, as a people who’ve been through enough shitstorms together to make the good times, the jol, so much sweeter.
That Bafana-Mexico clash was insanely fucking tense. Ticking clock in a thriller tense. Adult diaper tense. I think I left scrape marks on the furniture. The fleet Mexican trio upfront mounted more attacks than Belville has Laundromats. It was relentless. Our keeper, the heroic Itumeleng Khune, in fuck off red, had the supernatural resilience of a student digs cactus. He let nothing in. He was a Mormon on her first dinner date. He was the absolute embodiment of patriotic true grit. He had me in borderline tears. Somehow we weathered the Mexican wave. Then the goal. Sweet Jesus, that goal! The goal was the best thing that’s happened to us all year. It set this tournament up big time. Tshabalala deserves round the clock deliveries of gold bars for the duration of the Cup. He deserves a posse of pre-adolescent choirboys announcing him before he enters a room. He’s earned a midnight rendezvous with Anneline Kriel in her prime. Nobody has stepped up and represented like that since you know who got off that island and told us to throw our weapons into the sea. Magic.
Here’s some real time reaction to it from the fan park in Newtown, Johannesburg.
If that doesn’t make you tingle, you’re officially dead inside. Then, you know, they equalized. Which sucked as hard as a sucking chest wound from point blank range.
Drained, I went out riding that evening with friends. We hit the city, sans E.T, on our bicycles. It felt historic. If you’ve seen those shots of Times Square on the day Japan surrendered and ended the Second-World War, you’re in the ballpark. Men and women just kissing in the name of freedom, in the joyous abandon of survival. An ambient glee. Tooting cars and happy faces. Spontaneous street bashes. A hundred sound systems yapping at each other. Car doors flared like wings. Lights on and the night warm and alive. People everywhere. Beer felt right. To see real happiness on the faces of strangers. To feel in on something outsized, world sized. To be there as your country advances into a better, brighter version of itself. Phone home. It’s overwhelming.
Illustration © Mike Scott.