Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: A better thing to believe in

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  • 81stcolumn,

    But of late one can only wonder how All Blacks management have allowed this politicisation to get quite out-of-hand.

    As mentioned on these boards elsewhere, a characteristic of this most recent National govt has been a deep insidious politicisation throughout many areas of public service. Sport is not immune. A case study is the way in which contestable research funds for Sport (they were small but did exist) have been turned into funds for the assessment of SportNZ projects/goals. Not in itself all that evil until you confront some quite sinister micromanagement with respect to how results are reported. With the benefit of time i can say things were somewhat different before 2007.

    Nawthshaw • Since Nov 2006 • 790 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Briar Ingledew,

    When you're an All Black the whole country loves you; but when you're an MP half the country hates you. Well said that man.

    Yes (although it overstates support in both cases). Particularly the moment they open their mouth on policy. I don't think countless appearances before an adoring media is any preparation for being torn a new one by even one difficult interviewer, much less going head to head with an experienced politician.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10629 posts Report Reply

  • chris, in reply to Alfie,

    When you’re an All Black the whole country loves you; but when you’re an MP half the country hates you.

    When you’re Richie McCaw, the whole country loves you, but when you’re Carlos Spencer, or Taine Randall or Sonny BIll Williams, or Stephen ‘Beaver’ Donald, or when you’re out of form, or when the team’s not winning, or when you get knocked out of the RWC after repeatedly gunning for a try instead of taking the drop goal, you might as well be Quade Cooper. Richie’s a genuine rugby great, I admire his playing style, his captaincy, and the fact that he’s a pilot. That last Auckland match was the first I’d watched since the 2011 RWC final, and I tuned in simply in honour of it being his last test on home soil, but he did make the above quote on the same day as he weighed in about his ferny flag preference, says a lot about the impenetrability of the bubble and the possibility of memory loss caused by head collisions.

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    On a personal level, my feeling for the game is undoubtedly driven by the fact that I played it through my childhood. That my strongest bonds with my late father lie in the way he was there every Saturday, watching me play, driving me and the other kids to and from the ground, offering praise in the cautious way that men of his generation did, as if there was only a finite supply.

    Beautiful true.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19680 posts Report Reply

  • chris, in reply to Sacha,

    It is, I’d never have guessed, I’ve been waiting for someone to ask what position he played.

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report Reply

  • william blake,

    Since Mar 2010 • 378 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    if we want something better to believe in, maybe we should dig a bit deeper than a transit fad like sport.Or the money mad society we are living in at present, with its cheerleaders leading us to certain doom.
    As a species not just one of the divided populations of nation states, something that might last generations.
    I kid myself it might be groovy if two million yrs in the future our descendants are around to watch as this galaxy merges with the Andromeda galaxy.
    But thats just me

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1881 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to Katharine Moody,

    But of late one can only wonder how All Blacks management have allowed this politicisation to get quite out-of-hand. It denigrates the team and the sport.

    It was soon after the hosting of the 2003 World Cup was chosen that I decided those heading the NZRU must be as thick as bricks. The attitude of "NZ is so important to world rugby that they’ll beg us to co-host whatever our demands", and trying to use that insane logic to bluff against the RFU, ultimately resulted in NZ losing the co-hosting contract.

    I haven’t been following closely enough in recent times to know who’s there now. If it’s anything like then, I’d really not be surprised if those at the top are too daft to see a problem with the flagship team becoming politically tangled, even in such a polarised political environment. If anything they probably see what’s been happening as nothing more than a harmless positive outcome for a favourite political party.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1139 posts Report Reply

  • David MacGregor,

    It's almost impossible to have this kind of conversation without being caught up in mawkish sentimentality and jingoism as you so neatly have.
    Bread, circuses, Steinlager.

    Auckland, New Zealand • Since Feb 2007 • 41 posts Report Reply

  • 81stcolumn,

    If anything they probably see what’s been happening as nothing more than a harmless positive outcome for a favorite political party.

    FTR. Appointed in 2007 Steve Tew is a pragmatist you could love to hate, but he is not a fool.

    Nawthshaw • Since Nov 2006 • 790 posts Report Reply

  • chris, in reply to andin,

    But thats just me

    Trust me Andin it’s not just you. Like Russell and others here, sports played a significant role in my paternal bonding. I first played rugby for a season when I was 8, I had no idea what was going on, I knew I didn’t like it so I switched to soccer, playing it until I was 12. The shock didn’t set in until my parents told me that my grandparents had commented that I ran like a girl, as if that’s a bad thing. As much as I – a genderqueer – was down with running like a girl, their tone was a form of pressure to get hard. In retrospect the best thing I could have done at that point is announce that I’d prefer to take up ballet, but kids…

    That year we moved abroad and I was forced to play rugby again, and of course I played rugby, I’m a New Zealander, I did okay, as with the soccer, I still hadn’t clocked on to the fact that if it was known that I could run like Forrest then I was always in danger of being picked for a team. So I hardened up. I was invariably sporting at least one bruise or sprig mark, but I was currying more of the type of praise Russell referred to.

    Our team sucked, we lost every game but the very last of the season and I hated it,I hated it so much that not long after my 13th birthday, under a pile of bodies, I decided I’d had enough, I cried out in agony, was carried to a car, taken to the hospital, nodded and responded vaguely to the doctors and was exempted until the last game of the season when I was subbed on, scored a try, got run over, was subbed off and had a welt on my back till christmas. The next term – sevens season – having cottoned on to the fact that playing with restraint would keep me out of contention, I managed to cower on the sidelines with the exception of the one occasion when dad’s friend from NZ was visiting, I made an effort – rugby being our national religion and all – and was again selected.

    When I started secondary school I again made the error of overdoing it on trial weekend, but I managed to work myself down into the F team by the end of the first week only to discover a bunch of likeminded souls. Our team was never permitted to play an actual match, we just turned up twice a week to earnestly practice our own form of rugby tainted comedy.

    We moved back home when I was fourteen and more rugby was the name of the game, because you know, New Zealand, do the old man proud – and all that. When they drum into you “the bigger they are the harder they fall” they’re not exaggerating. Every winter weekend that year involved a long bath after the game and a Sunday basically immobilised. In response I just got angrier, I was no longer able to distinguish between being tackled to the ground, run over by sprigs, dived on, kicked in the ear and say punching someone in the face. It was all violence, 4 days a week. In my last rugby game I was sin binned for the first and second time of my rugby playing tenure though I have no recollection of exactly what for.

    Since then, being a rugby spectator has always remained a point of connection with dad and others, but I can’t say my heart’s in it. Like Llew, while I was overseas rugby was one of those connections with home. Like Robyn I can’t fathom why anyone would voluntarily play the game. Based on my experience in and amongst this national celebration of brutal athleticism I found the Section 58 conflict ironic, though I understand that hardening up does entail degrees desensitisation. I’m not at all surprised that New Zealanders suffer such a high number of domestic violence incidents – bit of off-field biffo – we’ve all heard the gushing commentators. I’m also inclined to connect the violence of rugby with that other equally inane pastime, the celebrity charity boxing match. our country’s celebrities aren’t quite ruthless enough to raise money playing celebrity chess, which IMHO would be far more entertaining were it the go-to duel du jour. There would be some real cracker matches.

    Topping the list, ACC paid out $56 million for rugby-related claims in 2011-2012,$64 million for rugby injuries in 2012-2013. 2014 ACC figures show new claims for head, neck and spinal injuries among 15-to-19-year-olds hurt while playing rugby and rugby league have risen from 2336 in July 2009 to nearly 3000 in June of that year. Which I’m sure all balances out to some degree given the popularity of the sport.

    offering praise in the cautious way that men of his generation did, as if there was only a finite supply.

    I think what most affects me about this line is that it’s not limited to Russell’s generation. I recognise in this the same experiences I had with my dad who was a kid in the sixties, and I’ve no doubt there are countless dads of my generation on the same terms – with many more to come. This sense of finiteness and whatever conditions conspire to foment it are one of the saddest features of our people and culture.

    This is not to imply that rugby is the cause. in all likelihood it’s just another symptom, an outlet through the repression, an opportunity, unbound by alcohol for the kiwi male to momentarily unburden itself of the stigma of self expression and sound its distinctive call “you go son!”

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report Reply

  • Tze Ming Mok,

    Both the Philip article and the Guardian piece were worth reading, and it was interesting to see the model of success outlined in the latter – it bears some resemblance to New Zealand’s approach to education. The ABs as a model for national identity though? Not a very new idea, and I have no beef with rugby per se, but that only works if everyone in the nation is a dude. Good luck with that.

    *Yes, I’ve heard of the Black Ferns, and note that neither they, nor any other women, were mentioned or interviewed in the Guardian article.

    SarfBank, Lunnin' • Since Nov 2006 • 154 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to chris,

    The shock didn’t set in until my parents told me that my grandparents had commented that I ran like a girl, as if that’s a bad thing.

    Someone once told me about how, while staying with relations in Hastings, they were subjected to a variety of "Whaddarya" heckling from across the street by a stranger who took exception to the cut of their jib. This excited their sporty Hastings uncle who happened to be present.

    Having already got in a few veiled digs of his own, he began chortling about "Did you hear what that guy said?", as if it was the kind of sage advice that one might do well to reflect on. Not a chance, because the heckler was wearing ug boots, ffs.

    Which is what your grandparents would probably have worn, if they'd been born a couple of generations later.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • RaggedJoe,

    Never played the game, did soccer, basketball, surfed, skied, water skied all as part of growing up in NZ. My son never played rugby, did soccer and now accomplished sailor. I never had peer pressure to play, at school or otherwise. Dad died when I was 10, maybe I would have felt pressure if he had survived..? I was happy my son had no interest, but would have supported if he had.

    But I love watching a big rugby game. No idea why really, just enjoy the game as a spectator / spectacle. National psyche? go figure..

    City of Sales • Since Sep 2008 • 72 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to 81stcolumn,

    Appointed in 2007 Steve Tew is a pragmatist you could love to hate, but he is not a fool.

    You’d probably know better than I do and yet I’m still confused with the logic behind what seems to have been happening with the All Blacks’ brand and politics lately, regardless of whether it’s been actively pursued or simply allowed to occur.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1139 posts Report Reply

  • kiwicmc, in reply to BenWilson,

    League great Mal Maninga’s brief (very brief) entry into politics after retirement

    Auckland, New Zealand • Since May 2008 • 88 posts Report Reply

  • Grant McDougall,

    I really like rugby. But John Key's cynical exploitation of the All Blacks leaves me cold.

    Also, there are some pretty annoying blanket statements above about what sort of people rugby fans allegedly are (macho, boorish, conservative, etc, etc). Well, that's a stereotype with all the flaws that stereotypes usually have.

    I'd like people to realise that there's a big difference between someone that likes rugby and your stereotypical redneck boofhead that hangs out at rugby clubs, ok ?

    As a basic comparison, just because Guns N Roses or their ilk are morons, doesn't mean to say that all other musicians are too, ok ?

    Dunedin • Since Dec 2006 • 759 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    If you'll pardon what someone upthread called the "mawkish sentimentality" (because whoda thunk, people love their families and aren't cynical robots when they talk about them, which I'm afraid I consider a good thing):

    This sense of finiteness and whatever conditions conspire to foment it are one of the saddest features of our people and culture.

    I can't quite agree with this, because my grandfather was one of the finite praisers, always trying to avoid becoming a "skite", and sure, that could be limiting in some ways, but that sort of low-key kindness is comforting, because it also means that reactions to "failures" are low-key. (This may sound weird in the rugby thread, but once I had a miscarriage, and I was really sad about it but trying to put on a brave face, and my blokey, uncomfortable-with-ladyparts grandfather put his hand on my shoulder and said "I'm sorry to hear about what happened, Danielle", and that was all. It was enough.)

    Aaaaaanyway, my grandfather died between the last Rugby World Cup and this one, and I always used to watch the big matches with him even though my knowledge is incredibly spotty, so I suppose I'll watch a few and have a gin in tribute to him.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to David MacGregor,

    It’s almost impossible to have this kind of conversation without being caught up in mawkish sentimentality and jingoism as you so neatly have.

    Can we run a Turing Test on this unit...?

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7885 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Danielle,

    Aaaaaanyway, my grandfather died between the last Rugby World Cup and this one, and I always used to watch the big matches with him even though my knowledge is incredibly spotty, so I suppose I'll watch a few and have a gin in tribute to him.

    Aw, nice.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22744 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to chris,

    It is, I’d never have guessed, I’ve been waiting for someone to ask what position he played.

    Me? Hooker or loosehead prop. Although there was one glorious season at No.8 ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22744 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    Claire Robinson..

    "It was beyond excessive, in my opinion," Robinson says. "The deference to the rugby god is just ridiculous. People have other forms of cultural or sporting outlet. Why privilege the All Blacks over every other thing we do? There's no reason for it."

    I couldn't agree more. Rugby is a game, there I said it, a game that imitates war, a game that celebrates violence but it is still just a game.
    games are distractions, distractions from reality. To have a Nation so enamored by a violent war like ritual is a sad state of affairs and to have its leader so wrapped up in that game is a disgrace to the country.,

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    Chess thumping!

    Rugby is a game

    Rugby is just a game
    Cricket, just a game
    League & soccer
    both just games,
    games that imitate war...

    ;- )

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7885 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    If we have to have wars, could they be more like test cricket matches? Everyone stops for appropriate meal breaks, and for a decent percentage of battles neither side wins or loses.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood, in reply to Danielle,

    I can’t quite agree with this, because my grandfather was one of the finite praisers, always trying to avoid becoming a “skite”, and sure, that could be limiting in some ways, but that sort of low-key kindness is comforting, because it also means that reactions to “failures” are low-key.

    This resonates with me. I think such quiet awareness can be seen in the poetry of Brian Turner and others.

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1443 posts Report Reply

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