The romance of sport

I was re-watching the most-excellent-and-worthy-of-all-the-award-nominations-it-got baseball film Moneyball the other night, and Brad Pitt said something which got me thinking (yes girls, Brad Pitt can say things too – we can watch and listen at the same time ;-)). He said ‘who says there’s no romance in sport’. He was referring to an event where an overweight batter (batsman? hitter? Striker? – baseball fans please forgive me for the rest of this sentence), hits the ball, makes it to first base and is about to make an unprecedented run for second when he falls on his ass and everyone laughs at him. But, they aren’t laughing at him for falling (well, maybe a few were…), they were laughing because he had no idea he had hit a home run – he didn’t need to worry about racing around the bases in a hurry! Queue Mr Jolie’s quip about romance and sport.

So, it got me thinking. Is this just limited to cheesy made up American sports that seem to be tailored to create drama and romance? Are we robust, hard, sensible kiwis immune to this kind of ‘romance’? No, I contend, no we are not.

You only need to think back on last year’s Rugby World Cup to see it at its finest. The All Blacks. Even the name can give you a bit of a tingle. Arguably one of the sporting world’s most established and well-thought of brands. To be an All Black is an honour and a privilege – you only need to watch the Rexona ads to see that 😉 As hard as they try, the Black Caps and the Warriors will never have the kind of mana that the AB’s do.

And with the World Cup we had them playing at home, trying to win a title that they had been denied (through choking, campylobacter or just strong competition) since 1987. Not so long in the wider scheme of things (the Red Sox had to wait 86 years before they reclaimed their ‘World’ title), but for a country where, if given the choice, more people would probably list ‘Rugby’ than ‘Christianity’ as their religion, it was a LONG time.

Plus, we needed it. We were coming off the back of the shittiest of shitty years. Christchurch. Christchurch again and on an even more devastating scale. Pike River. God knows, the country needed something to smile about. And, we were the hosts! We wanted to show the world a good time. We didn’t want to show them a good time until the point where the All Blacks lost to France in a quarter-final and then let the world try and keep cheering over the collective sound of the country moaning ‘four more years…’. We had to do it.

And I say we. Because it was a collective effort. Sure, I never got up at four in the morning, strapped on some boots and spent the morning with my head stuck in a rolling maul (and no, I have no idea what any of that means), but, I felt the pain. I felt the pain when Dan Carter got injured. When Colin Slade got injured. When lovely wee Aaron Cruden got injured. And all the way through that final. I remember vividly kneeling in front of the TV with my head almost on the ground (edge of the seat had been, like, an hour ago), just praying to all the gods that may exist, and even the ones that definitely don’t, ‘please let us win this’. And it wasn’t just so we could say ‘we have the best rugby team in the world’ (though I do love saying that to Australians…). It was to give us something big and awesome to cheer about. And give it to us they did.

I am guessing it won’t be made into a big American blockbuster – they have already had one rugby movie (Invictus) so that is probably our quota – but it has all the makings of one. Drama. Suspense. Action. The underdog (Steven Donald – who woulda thunk it??). The cult hero (how many ‘Keep Calm: Piri’s On’ T-shirts did I see the day of the final? HEAPS bro). Eye candy (yes, I am talking about you, Mr Kahui). And romance. As Richie lifted that trophy aloft I am not ashamed to say I had a wee tear in my eye. My Dad summed it up nicely: ‘They did good’. What more can you ask, really?

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