There once was born a drab and boring little animal in the woods. The other animals paid little attention to it as it hunted and gathered to survive. It was, according to the other creatures, not much to look at. However, it grew up; and because it received little help in his usual daily tasks, he became bigger and stronger. He developed strong muscles and an even stronger mind. No matter what the others thought or said, he’d show them!
Slowly, as the seasons passed, he became faster and proved his hunting skills by always out-sprinting even the best of the other hunters. Now the other animals no longer thought of him as drab or boring – they adored him. The girl-animals trooped on behind him, hoping to draw his attention. The man-animals grudgingly admitted he was something special.
Now, during those years, the king of the animals wanted to expand his kingdom. He called in the elders and asked them how he should go about it.
“Get an ambassador, King,” the owl said, “to tell other animals about your greatness. Get somebody they’ll respect, and they’ll believe him. Get somebody they admire.”
Then the king of the animals, the one with the golden fur and the deep roar, called this animal in to tell him the secret to his success.
“I worked hard, King, and trained hard. I didn’t want to live with the idea that I might be drab or boring. That sounded too much like a loser to me. And as I trained, I became stronger; and now I’m the best.”
“Look,” the king said, “I want you to do something for me. If you go around, telling everybody what a wonderful king I am, they’ll immediately believe you. My kingdom will grow. In return, I will see to it that you have to hunt no more. You’ll have the best food and the best living-place of all. It is something small to ask, is it not? As a sign that you are my ambassador, I’ll also give you a badge to wear, so they know where you are coming from. How about it?”
“Will that make me a winner, King?”
The king laughed. “Of course! Losers don’t live a life of luxury. You’ll see: you’ll be the envy of all.”
And so it came to pass that this animal became known far and wide. He could now choose the prettiest girl-animals to be at his side. He ate and drank to his heart’s content. In his mind, there was no doubt: he was the best – and he wore the king’s badge with pride. More and more animals took notice of the king that spoiled this magnificent hunter and the kingdom grew.
But one day, the hunter-animal realised something: his fame was so wide-spread, his luxury so admired, that he started believing he was bigger and better than all the other animals in the world. He groomed himself and strutted around. The world was at his feet and he could do as he pleased.
The king saw this happening and was greatly saddened. The other animals complained about the ambassador’s behaviour. No, the king decided, something had to be done. He spoke to the animal kindly, but it didn’t help.
Then the king roared his displeasure.
“You have violated my trust! Sure, you helped me expand my kingdom; but the way you live now makes the other animals laugh at me. From now on, you will receive no more food. Your luxury will be taken away from you.” The king then smote the hind legs of the animal, causing them to shorten. He took away the beautiful voice and gave him a silly laughing yelp – so nobody would understand him any more. And he took away his shining coat, to replace it with a dirty, ugly hide. “From now on, you will hunt no more. You will have to wait for other hunters to finish their meals before you can eat the scraps. And I will change your name. Whenever your name is heard, faces will turn away in disgust.”
And that is how hyena came into being.
And he is still the scavenger who is avoided by the other animals.
And the king will forever deny his part in the downfall of the once-magnificent hunter.
“Gertruida, where do you get these outrageous stories from? Or do you have a book filled with fables?”
“No, Vetfaan, no book. It’s in the newspapers every day. Big companies cough up ridiculous amounts of money for sportsmen and women to wear their shoes or carry a bag with their name on. It’s called branding, and it’s all above board. A few years ago Nike spent $460-million per year on sponsorships and advertisement. Can you imagine how many shoes they have to sell to recoup that amount? It’s obscene! And the public accepts it and buys the expensive stuff, because they want to be associated with the brand.
“So young men like Tiger and Lance and Oscar suddenly find themselves with more money they have ever imagined. The result is as tragic as it is predictable. Of course their lifestyles will change. Of course the adoration of millions of fans will have an effect. And of course the old saying is true: logic whispers, money shouts.
“The point I’m making, Vetfaan, is that sponsoring companies contribute to the downfall of men and women who accept these ridiculous amounts of money. What good is it to withdraw the sponsorship after an athlete has made a mess of his life? Does this make the company innocent? By withdrawing the sponsorship, are they denying their social responsibility?”
Boggel gets on his crate to join the conversation.
“So, Gertruida, do you suggest such a company must face the music, too?”
“Exactly. There should be penalties imposed on a company that contributes to the downfall of the sporting greats. If a sponsor deliberately contributed to an exorbitant lifestyle and a ridiculous expense account – can they turn away and say they’’e got nothing to do with it? Paying millions and millions into somebody’s account surely implies co-responsibility?”
Way out in the desert a hyena waits patiently for the lions to stop feeding on a carcass. It is hot, and the smell of putrid flesh wafts amongst the clouds of flies.
It has no other option…