Speaker by Various Artists

54

Bigger than us

by Foreign Field 3

The Dropkicks know that in little old New Zealand there's a tendency to fall either side of a line where people either love or hate rugby. We couldn't actually tell you how many people actually fall to either side, but if you conduct a vox pop in your workplace it'll definitely be there.

I mention this because you may well know that the Dropkicks are no fans of yachting. When the America's Cup rolls around we merely roll our eyes and look for something approximating 'real' sport on the telly, competitive eating for example. Cricket is also a bit of a stretch some some of us, but it is another country's national game, so you can hardly point the finger of hypocrisy there.

I mention all this because one of the team recently met the father of a 1990s All Black. 17 caps his son had. He played most major nations and was a well-known name. It is New Zealand of course, so meeting an All Black or one of their extended family is hardly an event in itself, but one thing that occurred to the Dropkick talking to the old guy is that rugby is so much bigger than just the players. Besides the guys themselves there's also the cadre of people who bask in the reflected glory of their personal sporting hero.

"So what?" I hear you ask? Plenty of parents are proud of their children without the bruising and machismo of full-contact sports. And some of these things add greater value to the world, like art, music, philosophy, gastronomy. Incidentally, "gastronomy"? Doesn't that sound like "the science of giving one wind?"

Like most nations we New Zealanders are a parochial bunch. There's things we like, and things we don't. And those two things are rugby, and Australians. While there are all kinds of things we also like, it's hard to find so much of the national psyche wrapped up in them. Sure, we're stoked when someone discovers a new vaccine, or writes a great and well-recognised novel. But you can't put 45 minutes of advertisements into a new vaccine, can you? No, you can't. If you could, TV3 would have found a way to do so already.

OK, that leads to another digression. TV3 get the rights to the World Cup, right? This is viewed as a good thing, because it means that people who can't afford Sky get to watch the games for free. But. TV3 have to squeeze advertising into the replayed games in order to pay for the cost of the rights. This is all standard fare.

But how the hell are people who can't afford Sky going to afford all the stuff advertised in the replayed games? The working-poor driving brand new Fords? Yeah, Right. All that advertising is really doing is pissing people off. People who would rather pay to watch an ad-free game on Sky. The same people who can probably afford the stuff on the ads. It's also pissing off the poor because they can't afford all that shit and it's getting in the way of the game.

Gripe over.

It was after speaking with Dad of the All Black that this puff-piece was put into the paper. It reinforced our point that international sport, as combative as it might seem, is really all about pride. Pride that our wee country is bigger than just the islands we stand on. Bigger than our meagre 4 million people. Pride that our national effort is put into something that doesn't result in the hurt or humiliation of anyone.

You could see it in the way the old guy put back his shoulders and lifted his head a little when he spoke about not only his son, but the team itself. It was a pride in taking part in something greater than the sum of himself and his family. A pride that we, a small place far from anywhere, could be measured in the collective greatness of a few men on some far foreign field. The childish pride of riding atop the shoulders of black giants, a view from the top of the world.

Unless they lose. In which case we sack the coach and belittle them for at least six months.

The Dropkicks

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