Sunday, 19 February 2012

Darren Scott is back. And this time he's got Ballz.

Breaking his silence: Darren and I at Centurion golf club
Five months after "the lowest point of my life" Darren Scott is back. And this time, he's got Ballz.
That's not bad spelling, it's the typically Darrenesque name given to Scott's new venture, a "visual radio" platform featuring four hours of sport and entertainment every day on your computer - and while you're on the move, for those lucky enough to have a smart mobile device.
When Scott and his new crew - drawn largely from Jacaranda's Just Plain Breakfast team - launched their Facebook page last week, they picked up over 5,000 followers in less than a week. Darren, who "nearly lost everything" after issuing a single racial insult five months ago, is battling back.
But it hasn't been easy. Scott, 48, went "pretty close to the edge" after using the K-word in an argument with a colleague at a drink-fuelled team-building session in Mabula on September 6 last year.
Scott and his Jacaranda colleague Africa Tshaoedi got together after the incident and made their peace. Africa had owed Darren money and had approached him several times at the bar before Scott lost his temper and let slip the worst word in the South African lexicon.
But the media wouldn't let him off the hook. His own employers, Jacaranda, appeared keen to make a monster out of the story.
Scott recalls: "The great disappointment to me was that we'd moved on. I'd already met with Africa and spoken to him. We'd shaken hands two days before the story was published. I apologised.
"When the story broke, I came clean, I admitted to my mistake. I went on John Robbie's 702 show and told the truth. I was destroyed by what I'd said. I even spoke to Prof Jonathan Jansen about my rehabilitation.
"Prof Jansen (famed as a conciliator after an infamous racist incident involving workers and students at the University of the Orange Free State) suggested a meeting with Africa. To put this behind us once and for all.
"I called Africa regarding this recently and the vibe between us is really cool. In fact I've spoken to Africa more since my departure than I have some of my former so-called "colleagues" (JustPlainBreakfast Team apart of course - they are great mates and we stay in contact regularly). Let's just say a high profile meeting with someone (unnamed but well known) and the two of us has been put forward and will happen soon.
But some critics will never be satisfied. Jacaranda issued a statement saying Scott had left his hugely popular breakfast show because of the incident; the face of rugby was forced to leave SuperSport a couple of days later, barely a week before the Rugby World Cup kicked off in New Zealand.
Darren admits: "The Supersport thing was the biggest, it affected me when they actually called. Jacaranda said I left because of the incident, but I was already sick and tired of working for unremarkable management, that's the bottom line, a plethora of things had happened.
"The departure of the respectful and talented Alan Khan to KZN left a massive void and the writing was on the wall even then, if not before that. I can't go in to all the issues with Jacaranda. I resigned, I wasn't pushed. Let's leave it at that.
"With Supersport it was a very professional, and very well handled process by comparison, handled by competent management. Although I am a radio man first and foremost, for the first time in my life I think I have missed the TV thing more than the radio, probably because I respect, and have the respect of, the management there.
"And most of my former studio and production colleagues have stayed in touch regularly and been a great source of support. Would I look forward to another return to Supersport if the opportunity arose; of course I would!"
So the flame is still there, fuelling the famous Scott creativity. But elsewhere the fire has eased. Darren no longer smokes and he has given up drinking too.
Looking a lot fitter than he did before Christmas, Scott says: "I haven't had a drink for eight days, I stopped Jack Daniels and all that stuff a long time ago. I did have a couple of glasses of wine sometimes with dinner, but that's stopped.
"And I've quit smoking! I thought it would be a battle since I quit on December 20th, but it's been easy - apart from the odd time when a glass of wine or two was being consumed. I must admit I did have the odd one on a special occasion, but now: no booze, no smokes! And I'm back in training!
"Funny, when I heard about Whitney Houston's death on Sunday, I realised I'm the same age as Whitney. It was the first thing that struck me, her first record came out when my career started at Capital Radio in 1984."
The new Ballz concept has created a storm on Facebook, and he's also just returned to Twitter. Scott explains: "I stopped doing Twitter the week of the "storm" because certain elements were using me as their poster boy.
"That's what's been hard about this whole thing ... because that's not me, not who I really am. It's been amazing how a few months of introspection, and the objective views of people who know me have put things into perspective for me over the last 6 months.
"The South African people are truly a very understanding and forgiving people - it's why we have managed to evolve from where we were to the vibrant democracy that we are today.
"Obviously you will still get those people that will never let you - or never want you - to ever forget or be forgiven.
"There's a guy in Cape Town, a bloke from a PR agency who contacted one of the Ballz shareholders recently, very concerned. He said "all the racists are now following Darren on Facebook". This was some bloke with an Afrikaans surname, like du Toit, I think it was.
"I asked how do they know these people are racists? Because there's quite a few Afrikaans names following Ballz now on Facebook? And not one comment or posting has had to be deleted, or fan banned for any racist comment or posting, so it baffled me that someone I had never met before was profiling people like this - simply because there were people with Afrikaans names on our Facebook page, they were automatically racist? I thereby assumed that he was profiling himself as a racist as well, because of his surname? Amusing, if it wasn't so sad."
So how low did Scott get when the story broke? "It was f***ing bad, hey. Very low. I had already been "diagnosed" with chronic depression before all of this - because of my workload and time spent with radio, TV and business, I had left little recovery time which left me in a state of depression which I didn't even realise.
"Only looking back, I can see it now, with the strain it was putting on my own emotions and demeanour, as well as my business colleagues and, most importantly, my wife and child. So this was something that could really have tilted me over the edge. I sank into a state of complete despair at one point.
"It was supposed to be the biggest four months month of my life, the World Cup was about to kick-off, I wasSuperSport's main anchor plus I had numerous other projects and bookings lined up - and, as it turns out, I earned not a cent. It put a huge strain on everything, very suddenly.
"I thought about emigrating. Getting out. I lost my businesses. Neal, I didn't earn a cent for six months. I had plans to launch a wellness clinic with a gym and a healthy food brand, all that went.
"I'd invested so much money in to those things, into infrastructure for the business. Suddenly, I wasn't earning a cent. I lost all that money, I never got anything back.
"My dad Harry came over from the States after 28 years and walked straight in to all this. I never got to the stage where I wanted to do something stupid like commit suicide but I got pretty low. I just got to the stage, after 27 years of effort, when I wondered what it was all about.
"The main thing was just that now here was this thing I was going to be seen as - and it wasn't me. I was powerless.
"But it's not right. I'd constantly sit there and think how this could have gone wrong - while I was a pariah in the eyes of so many, I was still helping people out that I had been helping for years in many cases. And they certainly didn't look at me any differently, despite the fact that they knew what had happened. It was that helplessness, I didn't know if I wanted to get back and do anything ever again."
When the storm hit, Darren's wife Sarah Kate and his son Mark, were in Durban. Things had not been great between them for while, as a result of Darren's downward spiral into a drink and lifestyle induced depression. Darren, by his own admission "fell apart" and went to stay in a nearby golf estate. He couldn't face his family and was worried he would lose their beautiful home near Hartebeespoort.
But, amongst the many people and friends "who knew me and gave unbelievable support and strength", it was former Springbok rugby player Ashwin Willemse who put Scott back on track. Darren recalls: "I was really bad. Drinking a lot. Didn't know what to do. I had moved out of my home - away from my wife and kid.
"Then out of the blue, Ashwin, a guy I had really just worked with and never really socialised with or had much more to do with other than that, called and came to see me where I was staying.
"After a good three-hour chat, he said 'Get your arse out of here and make things right with your wife and kid first and then accept what has happened, and get your life back on track. You have too much to offer to just sit around, drinking coffee, drinking wine, and feeling sorry for yourself'.
"I did! It was still tough, and still is at times now, and probably will be for a while, but it was the catalyst to turn my life around.
"It's weird, you ask when that was but I had no concept of time during that period. I realised it was November and I thought: where have the last three months gone? It's bizarre, it was all just a blur."
But then came the return home, and some normality began to kick in. Darren says: "Sarah Kate was fantastic. The one good thing about all this is what has happened for me on the family front. We had gone through a low patch, I pushed her away, the family and everything."
And though young Mark may not know it yet, he played a huge part in his father's recovery. Darren, a doting dad if ever there was one, said: "Mark has been the whole levelling factor. Somebody you can always default to in the bad times. He's just that person. When I'm with Mark, everything else fades away.
"I named him after my late brother Mark. He was five years older than me and died in a car crash in 1989. Mark was always my "go to guy".
"Like young Mark, my brother was somebody I could always turn to. When I ditched medicine for radio, my brother Mark was the guy who said: "I'll back you with the folks (when they go tilt!), just do it."
Darren and young Mark are something to behold. The bond is as strong as any this writer has witnessed. Scott gets that faraway look in the eye and says: "My brother and my son. The one person who looks at you the same before and after. That's what my brother was like. That's what my son is like. That's something the people who won't forgive or let go and the Jacarandas of this world can never take away, no matter how much they try and keep me quiet.
"Despite the fact that many think I owned shows like Boots and All (which I don't) and that the hosting of the rugby slot on SuperSport was my possession, I never felt I owned anything on television, so not doing the Rugby World Cup in the end was a blow, but I didn't feel I had been cheated in any way. Radio was my first thing.
"SuperSport affected me more than Jacaranda. I was really, really enjoying my time there, they handled the situation well. They didn't want me to go. They were furious this had all come out a week before the World Cup started, but in a nice way.
"They spoke to me like mates, with respect. I said I understood their situation, they were very understanding.
"My last tweet before packing it in back then was actually to say how chuffed I was that Neil Andrews was taking my spot in the anchor's seat during RWC! Then I packed in tweeting because of reasons already mentioned. Funnily enough, then my profile had just under 7,000 followers. When I got back on the "Tweet Train" I had over 14 000! Go figure! (@justPlainTwit)"
And the public have generally backed Scott too. He said: "You've got to say South Africa's black population are very forgiving. I've had a lot of judgemental white okes who have had plenty to say. But your general, ordinary people from all walks of life? Forgiving, understanding.
"People like Tich Smith (the former Natal wicketkeeper who now runs LIV village where they take orphans for adoption and fostering), took it upon himself to deal with my "situation" as a personal "crusade", he believed in me so much which has been so humbling. He himself was down and out at one time, in a very bad way once. He understood. He introduced me to Prof Jansen, who had been following the whole story from the start, and who really wanted to get involved and help. An inspiring man to say the least!
"It got to the point where I would have lost everything. House and home. To be honest it's still touch and go. I'm thankful that some people have been supportive. If I wasn't that lucky I would have lost everything.
"Then I was approached about this sports radio idea. But more than just radio .. we wanted listeners to be able to see what is going on in the studio, and out!
"The idea first came up a few years ago but it never got the support from the previous regime we had worked for. It's getting big in the US and Europe. We had this idea, kind of started thinking about it and I mailed a business plan to what turned out to be one of our now seven investors.
"We'd use the strength of what we used to do on Just Plain Breakfast, like the rugby panel, and our comedy skits, our pioneering syndicated sports content, our award winning team of the past four years, and our profile in sport broadcasting and our access to sports contacts.
"We've combined it all, they liked it so much, they decided to explore it. We never asked one investor to join - they asked to be investors when they heard the plan! And they're investing their personal cash.
"It's online radio, it's new territory. The whole digital world is growing. Content on demand. People no longer want to be told, or force-fed by broadcasting megalomaniacs on what they should be listening to or consuming, you have to give them options that they can choose themselves.
"All you do is go to the website, you listen live, and if you can't, you can access content any time of the day, we'll send it to you, it'll be an app on your phone, wherever you can access it, it'll be there for you to decide, and consume, in your own time.
"It's not just for South Africans, it's for anybody around the world. And it's not just sports results and interviews, it's debates, it's the rugby panel, comedy stuff, fun stuff. The kind of thing that got us 117,000 Facebook followers as Just Plain Breakfast and four years of successful syndicated sports content.
"How we're going to launch it, is by saying "YOU, the listener, turn us on!" we won't be launching, as in going on air, until we've got 10,000 Ballz followers on Facebook. Our 10,000th follower will switch us on.
"In a week, we went past 5,000. So if we hit 10,000 this week, we'll have to be ready, even if it's with a microphone plugged in to a lap top! NO, seriously, we'll be using teasers and promos of what people can expect to start with until our broadcasts (2-6pm, Monday to Friday) begin. Our website will be up and running this week. We plan to be fully operational by the end of the month and we have some damn exciting initiatives planned.
"It's not going to be the normal radio with the normal interviews and programming - it's going to be different and fun!
"Our aim is to produce four hours of sports, and lifestyle, and music entertainment. It's stuff we were given awards for on Jacaranda. 75 percent of it was linked to sport, but not all of it.
"You want songs? We've got Tanya, the Pink clone. Great singing voice. And Darius. We found them in a competition we did. As we did some of our now well-known voices and parody artists on things like Rugby Panel.
"Then we've got Simon Hill who does most of the voices for the rugby panel, and is a script-writing genius!
"We've already had 20 applications for various forms work in the new project, but for now it's just the six of us: me, Simon, my old comrade John Walland, ex-Miss SA and the sportiest one yet, Nicole Flint, and two of the most talented behind-the-scenes people media could ever want - SA's best radio producer two years in a row, William Scott, and the social media guru who got down to the final 50 in the worldwide search for Charlie Sheen's social media manager, Mazz!"
And the Facebook site is buzzing. The Scott magic appears to have stayed strong. The Ballz following passed Jacaranda's new breakfast show for Facebook followers on day one (2 000).
"We will also sell Ballz content to other radio stations, like we always have."
But Ballz. why? "I'll tell you why we called it Ballz. At Capital radio, when they did a revamp, they called one of their sports bulletins Ballz. It was just appropriate, a no-holds-barred programme that has "balls". It's not wallpaper - it's what we are! And you can say, we DO have Ballz!
"For those who thought I would never be back, I need a lot of balls to stick my head up again after what happened. And my supporters had balls too."
DARREN SCOTT will be writing a weekly column for Scoop! from next week. His Facebook page can be found at


  1. So before I get profiled as something I am not, I selected "anonymous" on the drop-down - idiot profilers!

    Darren - what an inspiration you are to all of us, I wish I could personally contribute to getting you back on your feet, maybe I can some day...

    I look forward to the launch of Ballz Visual Radio!

    It will be a Fine day when Jacaranda comes crawling back begging you to stop stealing their listeners, but I believe an even Finer day when the Management catches a wake-up call there!

  2. Darren, you are one of SA's greatest sportscasters ever!
    I know your online venture will be a success. Look forward to it.
    Trickshots is back!

  3. Darren and your team best of luck can't wait. Very happy for you and u're family that all is going well!!!!!!!!

  4. Woo hoo, welcome back Darren, I am so great-full for people like yourself and Ashwell Willemse, in times like this , it makes me proud to be in the New SA, Keep your chin up, kick butt, cannot wait for launch of Ballz
    Ill be there
    Best Wishes
    Enrico Gherbavaz

  5. We are all human.. Yet when a wellknown person do something wrong, we the ordinary people will be the first to point fingers and shout "Shame on you". The same people who did far worst things in their life are the ones who cast the first stone. We are human, but it takes a special kind of person to look past the mistakes, an even greater person who stands up to protect the "sinner" from further harm.. To reach out and help when most people will turn their backs and look the other way!!

    But the greatest of persons are the one that stands up and keep on moving, admits his mistakes and embracing the friends who helped him upm

    To true friends, a bright future and a Good man!!


  6. This is certainly the greatest news about Darren! Well done on fighting back and returning with your head held high and proud! So wish I could tune in to hear you, but not allowed to access this option at work! But enjoy anyway.......

  7. Thanks for comments people, if you count up all the responses on all the social networks and here, it amounts to about 300... and two negative. One from the woman who wrote original story accusing Darren of abusing a woman.

  8. Darren you earn my respect Boetie , you and the team ........Go man Go . Be assured that the boertjies support you we are not racist we are proudly Saffies

  9. Wow am I happy for this news!!! I started listening to Darren when he started at East Coast Radio and was over the moon when he came to Pretoria a few years later! Darren I cannot begin to tell you how much I miss you at the breakfast show. I don't know which station to listen to anymore?!?. Won't be able to access this option, but I will make a plan.!!

  10. I new that a winner like you Darren Scott will never quit no matter what. Darren Just a little BLAST FROM THE PAST if you will recall in the days of capital 604 i used to listen via my radio on the short wave frequency here in Joburg and phone in to give you updated results of the European and uefa cup as spors news was still very few and far between on all radio stations.Now here is a challange as a freind Of Darren Scott no matter where or what i have BALLZZ to stand by you and be counted.


  12. Just when I thought I couldnt respect a person more! Darren you are an inspiration to me and by the looks of this page many others. I am extremely excited about Ballz and wish you and your team nothing but the best success. As mentioned above by another fan(anonymous), maybe someday I will be able to contribute personally.
    All the best to you,baldrick and the team.
    God bless
    Gerard Muller
    Cape Town

  13. Hennie Steenekamp6 March 2012 at 06:17

    What great news Darren and team. You have been greatly missed by thousands of us. You are a one of a kind when it comes to sport knowledge.May God bless and protect you and your family.

  14. This is the ultimate darren scott and the gang back, this is the best news, well done Darren, Nicole, John, Simon and Mazzie cant wait for Ballz to begin

  15. I wonder who knows the true hero here, Ashwin Willemse.I know Jake White (sort of family) and I am a great admirer but could never understand his absolute support for Ashwin. Jake's loyalty and admiration of this man stemmed from his knowledge of Ashwins life circumstances , how he handled them and the values he extracted from them and live with. Without ever meeting Ashwin, or even supporting his progress in rugby (thought he was just above average...stupid me)he became a role-model for me. His inter-action in Darrens story proves how right Jake was and confirms my belief that what Jake told us about him was spot-on. Go Ashwin! Can't wait to meet you one day and shake the hand of a true hero!!!

  16. Great to see you on comeback. Wondered what you were up to in the interim, then saw the story on cover of YOU mag.For you,Africa and Ashwin you guys show that true UBUNTU spirit can and will rise above set in prejudice.Joint forgiveness is sooo healing, you guys are an inspiration. That thing that happened back then, its happened to multitudes of us, and we either fall or grow. Grow on then mate, look forward to your brand of entertainment, its been sadly missing out there. For you,your family and support group be blessed, be happy and be entertaining.See you soon somewhere. Tim Southey.

  17. Welcome back Darren. We have missed you whilst you have been away. Can't wait for Ballz to be up and running. Jacaranda is certainly not the same without you, hardly listen anymore.
    Even though there are a few people who won't let you forget...forget them, you have paid the price and now is the time to put that all behind you and go forward!!!!! Lots of love and best wishes.

  18. Well done Darren and team.
    What has happened is so typical how we as South African;s blow things out of proportion. I am really looking forward to your new ventures. I hope for you return to Supersport as you are tuly missed there. Good luck mate

  19. Wow! I am so happy you didn't succumb to those suppressive people! Well done! Now go out and flourish and prosper and watch them succumb to that...I will definitely follow you and your team on Ballz! Can't wait!!!!

  20. I'm sure you heard the news of Darren and Sarah-Kate Scott's little 15 month old boy Mark who has been diagnosed with a tumor. Keep them in your thoughts and prayers. Any donation will help them with the medical bills: Bank details: Sarah-Kate Seaward
    Standard Bank
    Account number 201326965
    Cheque account
    Westville branch

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