It isn’t often that I read a sports story. My view was that if you aren’t doing a sport, then what is the point in watching others doing it? Work on something that you can do. However a title on an aussie ABC article caught me – “New Zealand earn genuine respect”
Turns out that NZ has been doing well in cricket recently and the full title was “Cricket World Cup final: Once ridiculed, the New Zealand cricket team has earned Australia’s respect”.
I nearly stopped reading then – not general respect – just aussie respect?. Who really gives a shit about what aussies respect? Before I’d be interested I’d first have to respect them for it to matter. There have been few reasons to do so over a number of decades.
The kind of relief that I saw over and over again on the faces of Singaporean taxi-drivers last year when I said that I was not an aussie, but was a kiwi was part of an continuing object lesson in a world wide lack of respect for aussies. I’ve seen exactly the same across all of my work travel in recent years.
Of course Trump says he likes them – when he isn’t snubbing them in favour of the kind of nice dictators that he likes to fawn and drool over. But personally I suspect that is just because he is scared that the aussie would just ratchet up their innate blowhard bullshit beyond his capacities.
Anyway, I did think that ABC writer, Richard Hinds, did capture the essence of their argument with:-
Before the ICC World Cup, the captains of the 10 competing nations posed for a photograph in which Chesterfield lounges were juxtaposed with an industrial backdrop to … well, I’m not sure what the idea was.
Regardless of the photographer’s intentions he managed to engage the skippers in a competition to assume the most “alpha” pose, with piercing glares, pursed lips, studied nonchalance and even regal insouciance (Virat Kohli, naturally) deployed with menacing intent.
Meanwhile, off to the left stood Kiwi skipper Kane Williamson, whose friendly grin and Harry high pants kit made him look more like an eager nets bowler who had wandered into frame than one of the world’s great batsmen.
This, in a single image, was how the world had come to see New Zealand cricket and, perhaps somewhere deep down, how New Zealand cricket has often seen itself.
Naturally the author then proceeds to do what all sports commentators do, fart religiously at the mouth to fill the dead air. It is hard to find actual content about whatever the writer. Ok.. some actual content.
Yet here are the Kiwis again. Through to a second consecutive World Cup final after defying not only the odds provided by the bookmakers, but the far more overwhelming statistics of the census takers — India 1.3 billion, New Zealand five million.
Maybe we played the Indians? The following paragraph is an interesting albeit trite observation.
Disparity in population can be misleading in sport because you only need as many good players as it takes to field a team. Belgian football is just one example of how an astute system can produce an international team that punches above its per-capita weight. And, of course, there is New Zealand rugby.
Of course the real trick in any sport isn’t the population nor the size of the team. It is the methods by which you develop people and fund their development from the kids leagues all the way through. It allows concentration of team talent cooperating together. My impression of aussie sports is that it is more orientated towards producing self-righteous narcissistic self-entitled dimwits. Our current embarrassment, Israel Folau, comes to mind.
Still trying to find out who they were playing…. Ah!
While the colourfully clad Indians in the crowd rode an emotional rollercoaster during the semi-final, the Kiwis captured by the cameras at Old Trafford looked like they were on a rest day from the Manchester and District Poultry and Livestock Conference.
Which is not to damn the Kiwis for this display of endearing provincialism. Rather, at a time when Australian sports fans are urged on by stadium “activators” to mimic their American counterparts, it is to praise them for how comfortable they seemed in their own skin.
Call it the Jacinda Ardern effect, where those of us who once mocked New Zealand’s seemingly isolated insularity now have a quiet yearning for the decent virtues and strong but respectful international conduct.
Huh? We just do things that way. Sure there are a few pontificating self-promoting blowhards around.
Like Mike Hosking who seem to need to compensate for something by grasping his quivering gear stick going round and round at Hampton Downs (and crashing). Or Shane Jones – the less said about that the better. But I’m glad he is a NZ First problem now.
Most kiwis are way less concerned with posturing like mindless dickheads and more concerned with actually being competent at what we do. Which is what the point of the ABC article was actually about. Way down the bottom, that point appears. Learning to be competent means doing some work.
Yet Australian sports teams right down to junior level are now cleaning out their change rooms in imitation of the “sweeping the shed” practice famously employed by the All Blacks. This makes it even more difficult to love the shambles that is Australian rugby and hate their Kiwi oppressors.
Should New Zealand beat England in the final, the Kiwis will have landed the first leg of what would be a magnificent treble — cricket, netball and rugby World Cups in the same year.
But regardless of the results, where once we might have patronised or ridiculed the Kiwis, it is now difficult not to cheer them on out of genuine respect.
Followed of course by the utterly predictable last inclusive words without which an aussie would have to hang their head in shame.
And yes, OK, it doesn’t hurt that our beloved fellow Australasians are playing England.