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Let the showponies prove their worth

Despite their prevalence we know very little about suckers. All we know is that since one is born every minute, there are 1 440 more suckers in the world than there were yesterday. Some field research by bejewelled soldier-of-fortune Mr T suggests that suckers are divided into two categories (sukkuhs, being suckers not worth punching out; and sukkuh-fools, being those who are) but this seems to be the full extent of our knowledge of this virulent strain of humanity.

That is until M-Net started screening Idols last year. Now we know that on Sunday evenings suckers (including sukkuh-fools) congregate joyfully around their televisions to watch the latest bout of atonal oral flatulence, pumping up the volume until the flight of porcelain ducks on the wall hop off their perches and plummet into the pink plush carpet.

To be sure, the songs that are performed all deserved to be hanged, drawn and quartered, but not even Westlife toons deserve the indignity of being done to death with no one but the unspeakable Latoya to read the last rites.

The pre-pubescent warbler who wins the competition can look forward to untold glamour: free hair tints, two complimentary peppermints per R100 spent on the craps tables at Caesars, a game drive through the Johannesburg Zoo, one night of self-catered bliss at the Johannesburg International Airport motel. The new Idol will reign for a year, until its sucker subjects, nursing 525 600 swaddled suckertjies, start baying for fresh mediocrity.

All of which should be watched very carefully by the king-makers of sport, desperate to bury once and for all the outmoded and elitist view that merit should be the main criterion for national selection. Let these puffed up showponies prove their worth before their fellow human beings. Let the people govern, especially the people who are allowed to call votelines from their office phone.

To whip suckerdom into a voting frenzy one needs a very specialised presenter, the anti-Naas, one who is unflappable, well-spoken, with a compelling presence that verges on the creepy, and immortal. In short, one needs Riaan Cruywagen. Now 93, the news reader with the latex face would add the kind of authority to the show that, every night of the 1980s, reassured white South Africa that everything was okay.

As usual, the early rounds of auditions will be where the real action is. Doris Labuschagne (15), of Springs, has been brought along by her mother to try out for the spot of flank in the Springbok front row on Scrum Idols. The audition does not go well, and her outraged mother accuses the judges of overlooking Doris’s ability to play tubular bells.

Likewise Danville October — auditioning for the role of Hestrie Cloete — cries foul when he is told that he is not tall, blonde or female enough. When the final five Hestrie contenders are announced (four girls from Bloemfontein, and Hestrie herself), a race row erupts: how, in a democracy like ours, can we have five tall blonde white girls trying to be Hestrie?

Where are the visually challenged albino mute hermaphrodite amputees? Where are the previously disadvantaged Hestries, who couldn’t afford tall sticks and had to practise jumping over barbed wire and burning tyres? M-Net denies voting syndicates, but the show is tainted. (In the final of Hestrie Idols, the crown goes to Sunette du Toit, with Hestrie coming in third after a performance that was “a little too much like the original, more a cover than a unique performance. We didn’t feel you made the 2,01m jump your own.”)

Later rounds will test the finalists to their fullest. The Temperament Idols series pits Robbie Fleck, Butch James and Wayne Ferreira against each other in events such as Dripping Tap, Yapping Maltese and Crying Baby, to see who will crack first and slug someone. The short-lived Screaming Like a Girl When You Take a Wicket Idols never takes off, with Shaun Pollock being the only contender.

But the real beauty of this concept is the absence of liability. Boks thumped by Uruguay? Blame the demographic who put them there. And if all else fails you can always say there was a problem with the call centre. The suckers couldn’t care less, anyway.

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