Island Life by David Slack


Child's play

I am thousands of miles from Valencia. At this remove, it’s hard to know who to believe when Ernesto Bertarelli says the New Zealanders are getting boorish, oafish and mean. I can see the possibility of the thing. I have sat in Jade Stadium. I have seen the kind of behaviour that gives Christchurch sports fans their reputation for being one-eyed.

But it wasn’t the whole of the stadium. Stereotypes will always trip you up, and that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? To be a jeering, taunting sports fan, best you diminish human beings to caricatures.

I’m a poor spectator. I will keep my eye on the play if I have money wagered, and I can be truly awed by athletic prowess, but I have never been inclined to lather up in the fervour about what “we” are winning. It’s their accomplishment, not mine.

If it fills their heart with pride to wear the Silver Fern and take the flag on a victory lap, then more power to them, but the accomplishment is theirs, not the nation’s. If the All Blacks win the World Cup, it reflects well on the efforts of the thousands of people, both paid and volunteer, who love the game. You might say it also reflects well on the goodwill of the fans who turned out to buy the tickets and cheer for the team. Perhaps that’s enough to make you feel part of the team, but the connection’s a bit tenuous for me. I’m not the one drenched in sweat.

Maybe these people who are reported to be hissing “traitor” at their compatriot sailors in Spain really do feel part of the Emirates team. Perhaps they think they’re doing good crew work. But from a few thousand miles away, it really just sounds childish.

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