Friday, October 28, 2011

Our own reflection often takes the biggest toll (Intronaut)

My friend CJ sent me a link to this great video

This scene was replicated in our little corner of the sandpit last week as we gathered to watch the final.

You can tell by the facial expressions that to NZers this was way more than just a game we wouldn't mind winning.

I don't think there is any other country on earth where the national psyche is so closely aligned to the national sport.

England? The football tribes are very localised. When I went to Highbury to watch Arsenal play I was with my north London brethren. Just across the north London road (literally) are the hated Spurs supporters. They are clearly NOT my brethren.

When the English national team plays it temporarily unites all the factions but never gets rid of them completely and the team may win or lose without damaging the national psyche. They haven't won the world cup since 1966 (their only triumph). It's no big deal to them. There are no anguished cries of chokers in the international press.

Scotland? Spain? The above holds true times 2.

Brazil may be close to us. But they are a fun loving crowd who will lick their wounds if they lose (they don't lose often - five world cups tells us they are the best footballing country on earth and they know it). And, like us, the Brazilian national team has to win well. A close win without Brazilian flair is an embarrassment to them.

New Zealanders stand alone.

The All Blacks are not only the current Rugby World Cup champions. The ABs are also the IRB's current Team of the Year, the leading points scorers of all time and the only international rugby team with a record winning margin against every test nation they have ever played. Argentina, Ireland and Scotland have never beaten us! The All Blacks have held the top ranking in the world for longer than all other countries combined and in over 100 years only five of the top twenty ranked test rugby nations have ever beaten New Zealand.

But still if we don't wallop an opposition, or if we lose in the knock out matches of a Rugby World Cup we are called 'chokers'.

Like the terrible NZ sacrifice at Gallipoli in World War One, the All Blacks' performances help define us as a people.

The game suits our mentality and national psyche. We are a country founded on the idea of the rugged individual, who, through the tyranny of distance and isolation, looks inward for its heroes. The Maori dimension adds the warrior archetype. We persevere. 'Pinetree' Meads once played a test match with a broken arm.

If you're a kiwi kid you usually start off life playing rugby. When I was a kid I used to say that I wanted to kick a ball like Don Clarke. At primary school I played rugby along with anything else that was going. As football had got its hooks in me when I was four years old I was never going to change codes but I still played rugby for Royal Oak Primary.

Some of the above may help explain why we looked haunted by loss in the last 30 minutes of the world cup. Look at the video again. That's why we felt sick in our stomachs and couldn't bear the thought of losing. Although we loved the win, that's why we didn't even feel great with the score line of eight/seven, or that the French outplayed us in the second half.

All that is fading to memory now though. Jade tells me that the euphoria is over less than a week after we became world champions for a second time.

For New Zealanders the potential gloom was lifted with the win and we now equal Australia and South Africa with two championships. But still we will ache with expectation in four year's time in England when we go for a third.

At least we've buried the 'chokers' tag and those stoopid t-shirts on display before the cup can be chucked in the bin.

Love and peace - Wozza

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