Listening to: The Crossing - Big Country (1983).
So last week it was announced that we are 100 days out from the biggest event this country has ever seen since the last really big event we held (probably something to do with yachts). The hype is present and building, along with various exhortations to 'support our boys' like they are going off to war or something. Never mind that those boys are already being paid handsome sums to do their jobs, are representing the unofficial state religion and have lets see, 20 years of failing to win this tournament to motivate them (oh and while you are 'supporting the boys', make sure you buy the merch they are endorsing). The erstwhile judge has already expounded on this here, and he is a better writer than me so I'll leave him to it.
Call me cynical, and perhaps even not a real New Zealander (mate), but a lot of the time I am just over Rugby. I never played it (apart from Touch), never wanted to, and don't really follow any teams below the International and National level. I just don't really care. I like getting together with friends and watching big games, but my engagement ends there. I'm not the guy to talk to about rugby as small talk in the pub. Aside from it's omnipresence, it also produces more than a few ugly attitudes and behaviours I don't want to be associated with ("Rugbyhead" isn't a term of praise for a lot of people).
My apathy toward the game is rooted in over exposure (as well as going to a rugby dominated school and playing soccer, but that is another story). There is far too much of it. Professional rugby is everywhere, in advertising, endorsements, talking heads news spots and player interviews that say the same thing every week, a season that lasts from February to November for a supposed winter sport. It used to be something other than a simple commodity (and for me as a non-player, and non huge fan, that is what it is). I particularly miss afternoon internationals. They had real atmosphere in the late afternoon sun (or not on one memorable occasion), and were a good set up for a Saturday afternoon and night. There is more money to be made in playing them at night though, so that is how they are now.
I am in truth looking forward to the actual World Cup games a bit, and hoping we win the damn thing again so we can stop hearing about it, but I can only admit to liking rugby on a sometime basis rather than loving it. And as a liker rather than a lover, I found it a bit irritating to be exhorted at by the head-man-what's-in-charge to get in behind the World Cup by basically spending money on it as something resembling patriotic duty. Liking it is one thing, unconditionally loving it with my wallet is something else entirely. And the whole 'Stadium of Four Million' concept is bogus. Lots of people aren't interested, especially as the tickets to the big matches are being priced for the tourists rather than the locals. For many they are just unaffordable. The comments thread attached to the story is more than a little revealing about how this event is being seen by some.
Particularly fun though was utterly-antithetical-to-traditional-rugbyhead-ideals comment #69, reproduced here in glorious full:
"Hmmm...tickets too expensive...concerns about anti-social behaviour from boof-heads...I've got it! Lets turn the 2011 RWC into a gay event! It's makes perfect sense: muscle-bound, fit young men grappling their sweaty selves in their tight outfits, and "Get in behind!" would be a perfect logo, too! The GLBT community are well-heeled (and what heels, too - fabulous!), so the high prices won't be a problem. The beer could be replaced with cocktails. And just imagine what a party Party Central would be! The RWC is the perfect gay event - I'm surprised no-one has thought of this before! I'm sure Martin Snedden would be more than happy to 'Get in Behind!' making RWC 2011 the GLBT event of the decade!"
That would be hi-freaking-larious. They could even combine it with usual rugby provider Sky TV's current "Make Sky your happy place!" ad campaign. Instead of beer or cocktails, they could just hand out Ecstacy and bottles of water**- "Welcome to the game; make Rugby your happy place!"
*For non NZ readers, refer this play.
**Not seriously advocating drug use, although it would be a hell of an interesting experiment to watch if applied to the traditional fan-base...