Thursday, October 20, 2011

Us vs Them - Sports and the 99%

New Zealand is on the brink of a climax that has been building for months - playing as the favourite in the final of the Rugby World Cup 2011.

We haven't won since the first Rugby World Cup more than 20 years ago - and fans have experienced all the almosts and the disappointments along the way - so this match is a highly emotional one.

What we tell our children
  • Be a good sport
  • Be a good winner
  • Be a good loser
  • It doesn't matter whether you win or lose as long as you play your best.
Have we been modelling this?  Or are we being more basic?

Good sports

Cheering for our side is only right.  But are we actually prepared to be good winners... or even losers?

Generally we haven't done badly.  And it seems the All Blacks don't get as much into the strategic cheating as most other teams I've watched them play.

But our game could use some real improvement.

When the All Blacks won against Australia in the semifinal, we went from a moan "Aussie has the better team" to a taunt "The airport's that way!"  

There are anti-French articles including every possible variation of "France didn't deserve to win."
Whatever that means. 
Probably that we don't like the French much so we wish Wales won.  Also since France has knocked the All Blacks out of the World Cup twice, we really don't want a rematch under so much pressure.  But it's easier to pretend that there are some extra set of rugby union rules that means France should have just lost instead. 

We have an ex-coach blaming the referees from the backseat.  Can unpopular sports decisions be criticised out of existence?  Isn't that all part of the grand spectacle of sports...that must be handled gracefully  if you're to play?

Us vs Them

This transformation of real people into objectified enemy symbols is a bit scary.

We can see it it acted out in real life with the clashes during the 99% occupations, including our own local one in Auckland.

First, the obvious 99% vs 1%, referring to extreme wealth inequality.

Lines are also drawn between the police and protestors to a frightening extent. The respected writer Naomi Wolf was arrested simply for asking the police to justify their actions.

And some people who consider themselves normal hardworking people separate themselves from the 99% protestors and their stance.

"The All Blacks are going to win!"

My 6 year old son has been so pumped up by his school and other promotions that he will need therapy if we do lose.  In the excitement of the match, he sees no reason not to wish all sorts of harm on anyone in the way of our promised victory.

He is lucky enough to have a strong team to support.  And if we lose?  Should the less rugby-mad suffer through a country's wailing and mourning?  Remember the children, and try to set a good example...


I hope the All Blacks win.

Remember that we are all "us", and you will win too.


  1. And the DID! Honestly, can you imagine what would have happened to the collective mental health of the country if they had lost? ;-/
    I just found your blog through Denise's Kumara Mash blog. It's great to find another kiwi blogger! Go us! XX

  2. I remember previous World Cup losses when it wasn't even at home - it would have been unbearable.

    It was a fascinating match, all right!

    I loved that the French put up such an admirable fight, after all the insults that have been aimed at them.

    In the end, the depleted All Blacks seemed to resort to the same delaying tactics as the French are often slammed for. Ah well - sport...

    Great to see you here too!