While we talk about the death of rugby here in New Zealand, while we run about keeping up the various spinning plates that is the Super 14 ("maybe 15 plates would make it better?"), the Northern Hemisphere has, to use a sporting metaphor, taken the ball and run with it.
Every now and again I catch a Heineken Cup match on TV (via ESPN). Seven years ago they were awful, slow, crappy matches with northern hemisphere players I had only vaguely heard of and retirement age southern hemisphere players. And we in the home of fast-paced expansive rugby, scoffed at the pitiful attempts.
Now, the Heineken Cup is an exciting, Champion's League-style rugby competition. The teams have vast sums of money, southern hemisphere players in their prime (see Nick Evans et al) and increasing attendance numbers (including a packed Croke Park for this weekend's semifinal).
You might say that this weekend's games were incredibly exciting, especially considering that the Lions squad has already been picked and the B&I players didn't have anything to prove. First up was second seed Munster versus sixth seed Leinster.
Two Irish teams playing in Croke Park, well that was always going to sell out (82,208 was the official attendance figure). But the fact the 11 of the players on the field were B&I Lions (including Brian O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell), well this was going to a right ballyhoo. And it was, for Leinster.
Three tries to Leinster none to Munster and we had an "upset" (I don't consider any victory in the post-season to be an upset). BO'D's breakaway try was superb; the old guy still has gas in the tank.
Then there was the Cardiff- Leicester game. Jeeeeeesus.
At the end of regulation the scores were tied 26-26. At the end of extra time the scores were tied 26-26. So what happens? A penalty shoot out! (please note that all the New Zealanders made their kicks).
So now we have the perhaps the greatest name versus name rugby match ever as Leinster takes on Leicester. Or as I like to call both of them "Lester".
I believe this is what SANZAR has to do to revitalise top-tier rugby. Make the Super 14 (or whatever it will be called) a proper Pacific nations version of the Heineken Cup. The top three teams from New Zealand, South Africa and Australia, plus the top Japanese side (all decided by internal competitions) and somehow some Argentineans in a knock-out style tournament.
The great white hope, Ricky Hatton was knocked out in two rounds. And it would've been one round if he hadn't been saved by the bell. Hatton has been fairly hyped up I feel.
All of the press and PR about Hatton has that kind of "from the streets" feel about it. "He's like you, he's a scrawny white guy who loves England, and a pint, and talks like David Beckham on helium."
But plucky will never, at least not in the real world, beat good. When Manny Pacquiao knocked him down for the third time with a huge punch to the jaw/throat that was the end of Hatton, and possibly the end of the brawler.
It's been a long time since a boxer rose through the ranks with a solid jaw and a willingness to just beat the living snot out of the other guy. Sheer brutality doesn't work in boxing anymore. In the heavier weight divisions there may be traces left, but you don't see boxers like George Foreman anymore, just relying on massive punches to win, it's all tactics.
Pacquiao knew that:
"He punches his hands before he throws a punch," Pacquiao said later. "He's a sucker for a right hook. I knew he'd be looking for my left. It was nothing personal. I was just doing my job."
Lastly: dumbest idea ever. Take something quintessentially American and instead play it in England. The players don't like it, sports pundits don't like, I don't like it and I can't see how American TV viewers will like it. Stupid, stupid, stupid.