It's Thursday, so you know what that means! Thursday Night Rugby! You've been waiting all week for it and now it's here! And it will be a great game featuring 12th placed Manawatu against 11th placed Taranaki! Oh, how splendid an affair!
In The System we discussed many ideas to try and "rev up" the current national provincial rugby championship (whatever name it shall be called). What surprised me was how there didn't seem to be a consensus view, and because of that I make a small apology to the NZRU. It's harder than it looks to please all of the people all of the time.
Then again, in Boston, the Red Sox play 81 regular-season home games each year (or 27 three-game series) in Fenway Park (the oldest ballpark) with a seating capacity of 39,928. Yet, despite the huge number of games and the huge capacity of the park (albeit the fourth smallest), they sold out Fenway a record-breaking 456 consecutive games. This would be roughly like Wellington selling out every Super 14 and Lions game for 32 years.
How do they do it? To be honest I don't know. Baseball is not exactly the American equivalent of cricket or rugby for us; it is, after all, their "national pastime". But even with blind patriotism, filling a 40,000 seat stadium every game over six seasons is big feat. Have the All Blacks ever done such a thing at their various home games?
I really do believe the answer to attendance lies in the study of teams and phenomenon like this. What is it that draws people to games?
A study a while ago (the link for which I am feverishly searching) suggested that it was famous players that drew crowds. Simply have one or two players that everyone knows and watch the punters roll in. When I went to the rugby a few weeks ago, the children I was sitting beside were asking me: "which one is Weepu? He's an All Black, aeh?"
Or is it promotions that bring in fans? Should the already financially-stretched teams have give-aways? Should games provide more "entertainment" both on and off the field? Should games be geared towards tries, tries and more tries? Who is to say? Well, not you; if history is anything to go by.
But let us return for a moment to the rugby competition du jour: Were you aware that Waikato sits ahead of three teams (Otago, Tasman and Auckland) with a better record? Did you know that North Harbour sits ahead of one team (Auckland) with a better record?
Both Waikato and Harbour have won only two games each, yet due to the "it's ok to lose if you lose close" rule, they have more "competition points". It is the opinion of this blog (and this one) that bonus points are for a lower class of individual.
If the current rules for rugby are test cricket then the bonus point-mired systems, such as the Super 14, are 20-20 but without the fun it would seem.
If we were to remove the bonus points from the current Air New Zealand Cup standings (and solve ties by points-differential) the top five places and bottom four places would remain unchanged but Waikato and North Harbour would sink to ninth and tenth respectively. Auckland would float up to a respectable seventh despite having the rather awful points-differential of -21.
But enough of pondering what might be, let us smear our thoughts with what is.
The Friday match between Bay of Plenty and Auckland in Rotorua would seem to me to be the best of a fairly bland mid-competition week. Although, Wellington versus Waikato should also be of some interest.
From the drizzle-soaked fields of the shakey isles to the heat sink that is Beijing, where the 2008 Paralympics are on and New Zealand is doing fantastically well. So well in fact that some of our underperforming Olympic athletes may be considering a change of code, so to speak.
On a quick side note: what an interesting word, "Paralympics". It feels like it needs a hypen and an "o" to be correct, and yet it is simply an accidental creation by someone with more marketing skills than Greek:
Although the name was originally coined as a portmanteau combining 'paraplegic' (due to its origins as games for people with spinal injuries) and 'Olympic', the inclusion of other disability groups meant that this was no longer considered appropriate. The present formal explanation for the name is therefore that it derives from the Greek preposition παρά, pará ("beside" or "alongside") and thus refers to a competition held in parallel with the Olympic Games. As such it is strictly erroneous, as the properly formulated compound word should be "Parolympic".
One of the sports at this year's games that we may do well in is <ahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boccia" target="_blank"> Boccia. No I didn't know what it was either. It is basically Bocce or Pétanque, which means that competitors will be hindered by both their physical disability and the large amounts of wine they shall have to consume during the match. Boccia is also one of three Paralympic sports that have no Olympic counterpart; points shall be awarded to those who guess the other two in the comments.
I did feel for Paula Tesoriero flying over her handlebars while attempting to grab a New Zealand flag from the crowd. But it is lucky for us in that we haven't seen a good Mintie's Moment in a long while and lucky for her she had actually finished the race. I imagine, however, that she was rather saw [sic]. Paula has now re-saddled her mechanical horse and may soon be riding for another medal.
And finally, it seems that the bastard child of rugby, rugby league, can create some of the most amazing athletes. Provided they are either hitting someone or playing a sport that is almost identical.