Pangolo Junction
Life, arguments, and kunu... with Max, Nat and Zack

Friday, July 14, 2006

An oware game, football fanaticism and passion-powered people

Oh, it's you again. Quite frankly, I don't understand why you choose to show up at the most inopportune moments to distract me when I am enjoying the scene in the Junction. Well, don't just stand there gawking – take a seat, so that I can resume my observation...

(Max and Zack are concentrating on a game of oware, while Nat is looking on with interest. Max is gloating and jeering, while Zack has a frown of concentration on his face while he stares at the wooden tray with the piles of greyish seeds in each of its hollows.)

Max: Hahahahaha! Zack, you are going down! When I deploy my nuclear warhead (indicates a particularly large pile of seeds), I am going to clean – you – out!

Zack (irritated): I wish you would shut up. This is the reason I'm having trouble concentrating on the game... I can't hear anything with all your jabbering!

Max (smirking): Do I hear the already prepared excuse of a loser? Eh? Hah!

(Just as Zack is about to reply, there's a power outage and the lights go out. After the five seconds of patience required by Junction etiquette, the patrons start getting restive and shouting "Philo, put the generator on now!" Philo, the rather phlegmatic bar owner seems to be taking his time – perhaps hoping that PHCN will save him the bother by restoring power supply soon.)

Nat: Perhaps Philo is also powered by PHCN's electricity, since he also seems to have been switched off by the outage. I'll just go and ease myself while we're waiting for something to happen. (He starts to rise, and in the dim light from outside, Max can just make out that he is about to make contact with...)

Max: Oh, no! NOOOOO!!!!

(But it is too late. Nat's thigh hits the oware tray and sends the seeds flying in all directions. As if PHCN is playing some cruel joke on Max, at that moment power is restored and the lights come on for all to see the havoc that has been wreaked.)

Max (visibly upset): See what you've done! Did you have to be so clumsy?

Nat (apologetically): Sorry, Max... but it was dark! Anyone could have made that mistake.

Max (still upset): No number of 'sorrys' will restore that game back to what it was. And I practically had that game wrapped up too!

Nat (getting irritated): All right, what do you want me to do? Perhaps it would calm you down if I cut you a kilo of my flesh to eat. If that doesn't satisfy you, I can supply you with a litre of my blood to wash it down.

Zack (enjoying himself): Max – you're a terrible loser! I can't believe that you are treating something as trivial as this as if it is a matter of life and death. Come on – it's just a game – and you would have lost it anyway!

Max (bending down to pick up the seeds on the floor): Well, you're saying that now – but look at the way you were frowning earlier as though you wanted your two eyes to meet in the middle. Of course games are serious business! Why do you think that football supporters weep when their team loses and go mad with joy when it wins?

Zack: That's different. You can't compare a highly competitive sport like football where titles, reputations and money are at stake to something as trivial as like a game of oware between two people.

Nat: Actually, I don't get it.

Zack: Get what?

Nat: The fanaticism and devotion with which people follow these sports. I mean, look at it – when I'm playing a game with someone, I get a personal feeling of joy and accomplishment when I win. I have achieved something myself. But these people who follow Chelsea United or Arsenal Wanderers or whatever they're called... when their team wins, what's the personal achievement? Where's the satisfaction of having done something yourself?

Zack: What are you talking about? Can't you take joy in what someone else does? If one of Max's alleged deals actually does materialise and he ends up with lots of money, won't you be happy for him? (Nat nods.) Aha – but what have you personally achieved to make you happy?

Nat: Well, Max is my friend, so it's not unnatural for me to be happy for him, even if my happiness is for a different reason other than personal achievement.

Zack: Well, there you go! These sport fans are happy because their team – which they value above even some of their closest friends – has achieved something worthwhile! Why shouldn't they be happy?

Max (putting the seeds back in the tray): In fact, I would say that for many sport fans, following their team is their religion. Their team is their god, and the stadium they go to watch their team is their holy temple. Have you not seen the way football fans jump up and shout when their team score? It's like a Football Spirit has descended on them.

Nat: But at least, you pray to your God and you talk to your friend. You don't have the same sort of close relationship with your team. How can you really feel anything for something that you aren't really close to?

Zack: Nat, you are over-analysing this matter again. Don't worry about why it happens – the fact is that it does happen. Or what do you want to do – go to a football stadium and tell the supporters that they should go home and stop supporting their team because they don't talk to any of the team members?

Max: (finishing setting up the game) If you tried that, you'd experience the Casting Out of Demons from the Holy Stadium – where you, of course, are the demon. (To Zack.) OK, let's do this again. (Back to Nat.) In fact, it may be the fact that the team are inaccessible that makes them more god-like. You know, when you can't get to something, it begins to assume a wonderful dimension in your mind. Like that girl you're interested in... what's her name again?

(Zack observes the expression of Nat's face change and shoots Max a warning glance.)

Zack: Ol' boy – don't go there.

Max: OK, sorry. But that's the point. You need heroes to worship, not ordinary mortals like Zack.

Zack: And certainly not subhumans like Max.

Nat: But wouldn't it be fantastic if we could get people to be fanatical about productive activities? I mean, what's so special about football that people should be so fanatical about it, anyway?

Zack: It's tradition, Nat. Don't fight it. You can't win.

Max: In other words, people follow football, because people follow football.

Nat: So you're saying that in theory, I could start my own productivity oriented sport – like a sport involving clearing refuse or repairing potholed roads?

Max (chuckling): Yeah, you could – I don't give you much chance of success though.

Nat: Why not? As long as there's activity and there's a winner, what's the problem?

Max: The problem is that you're forgetting the whole purpose of sport. Sport is something you do or watch to get away from work. Road repairing is too much like real work for people to think of it as a sport.

Nat: OK, I'd settle for just getting them fanatical about it, whether it was a sport or not...

Max: Nat, I'd love for people to get fanatical about a whole range of things. For example, I'd like them to be fanatical about the dirt in my apartment so that I could sell that and make millions. In fact, getting people to be fanatical about something is the holy grail of business. But unfortunately, like most holy grails, it's incredibly difficult to achieve this.

Zack: Anyway, what's it to you if people aren't fanatical about work? If someone was fanatical about IT, they'd volunteer to do your work in the bank for free and they'd put you out of a job. So don't rock the boat.

(There is a period of silence, as the game progresses and Max and Zack concentrate on each other's moves.)

Nat: Hm... now that's an interesting thought. A world where everyone did stuff because they wanted to, rather than because they were paid to. Wouldn't that be great?

Max (to Zack): Look out - I think our friend is about to embark on one of his fantasy daydreams.

Nat: What do you mean? People work better when they are doing something out of passion rather than because they are paid to. Imagine paying football fans money to support their team – do you think they would be as passionate?

Zack: Well, if they were passionate already, then it wouldn't make any difference.

Nat: Oh? When you accept money from someone, you sign a contract and lose your freedom to do things as you like. For example, supposing that you were paid by a very fussy team owner to be a football fan. Before, you would have had the freedom to jump up and down and scream at the top of your voice every time your team scored a goal. But once you become a paid football fan, the owner might now contractually oblige you to stand up in an orderly manner, clap politely and express your happiness at the goal in a firm but well-modulated voice for no longer than 65 seconds, then quietly sit down.

Zack: Look at things from the other angle. Passion is not predictable. Imagine if aeroplane pilots did their jobs out of passion and weren't paid for it. What would you do if on the day you were supposed to fly somewhere your flight was cancelled because the pilot had phoned in and said he wasn't flying today because "he didn't feel passionate enough, and he was currently lying down waiting to regain some of his passion before coming in"?

Max: Exactly. The nice thing about money is that you can almost always guarantee that you can use it to get people to do things that you want. That's why I call money "the universal solution to all problems".

Zack (grinning): Well, one problem that money cannot solve for you today is how to win this game. See that pile there? (He points to a pile of seeds.) That, my friend is going to be your nemesis in a few moves.

Max: Hm... you're probably right. Say, do you mind if I go over to the bar and get some more kunu?

Zack: Sure, whatever. Anything to ease the pain of defeat.

(Max goes off, and after a while he returns with some kunu. They resume the game, and shortly after, the Junction is plunged into darkness again. This time, the five-second etiquette rule is thrown to the winds as the patrons voice their complaints loud and long. In the midst of the clamour, a mobile phone light goes on at the table of Max, Nat and Zack.)

Nat: Let's have some light so that Max doesn't bite my head off for accidentally upsetting the game again... hey! What's this?

Zack: Max! What are you doing with your fingers in one of my seed piles?

Max (embarrassed): Eh? Is that where my fingers are? I was wondering where they had got to. (Thinking to himself) Damn Nat! Why did he have to go and interfere? That's a good 1,000 naira wasted on getting Philo to flip the power supply switch!

And I'll leave Max trying to explain his way out of his latest difficulty to a disbelieving Zack and Nat. You want to keep on watching? Too bad, because I'm off, and you can only see what's going on through my eyes. But don't panic - I'll be here again sometime in the not too distant future.


  • Yeah!! I wonder how he'll explain that....Max and his questionable

    Great as usual!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At January 05, 2007 2:14 pm  

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