Random Play by Graham Reid

Bread and Circuses

I have never subscribed to the theory that the media conspires to keep us stupid. Now I’m not so sure.

We were away in the States for a few weeks recently so missed the first episodes of Dancing With The Stars. But we could hardly miss it on our return. I still haven’t seen the show itself and, as with New Zealand Idol last year which I missed every episode of, don’t expect I ever will.

But I know more about it than I think is healthy. For a month you couldn’t pick up a paper without someone called d’Artangan (really?) or a blonde in pretty frock swirling across page three. I have mentioned in a previous blog how low things have sunk when columnists strain to find a metaphor in this show for our current political situation.

Then there were the stories by journalists who were allowed backstage, or at rehearsals or wherever. Enough already. I’ve seen as much of this as I needed on the back of a bus this morning where a pouting Nicky Watson towered over my Honda City.

The dancing phase seems to be passing a little because we have moved on to interviewing the Barmy Army. Or indeed anyone from Britain or Ireland who happens to be wandering around the country. Or even live here.

The new low was set in the NZPA story about the son of the British actor Arthur Lowe (who played Captain Mainwaring in Dad’s Army).

Leaving aside the fact that Dad’s Army first screened 30 years ago and that Arthur has been dead 23 years, and that his son Stephen has lived here unmolested for seven years until now . . . but you did have to wonder if someone wasn’t getting a little desperate for an angle for a rugby story.

Stephen Lowe, whom I’m sure is a thoroughly nice chap, had bugger all to say: I’ll paraphrase the article. Stephen likes it here and is in for the long haul (he’s “a true blue Kiwi” according to the article), and says his late dad might have been shocked at what the NZPA writer called his “defection”.

Stephen also doesn’t think New Zealanders need to defend our coastline against the Barmy Army. Ho-ho.

And there was more silliness yet.

Sorry, but this Barmy Army thing coming on the high heels of Dancing With The Stars, and I see the next series of New Zealand Idol is auditioning, stories are appearing already. Hmmm.

I’m all for lightweight stories -- I wrote and still write entertainment articles -- but there seems an air of desperation to this saturation coverage of things on the margins of importance.

God forbid that it all be serious politics, although wouldn’t you like to see some more hard-hitting pieces in the run-up to what could be quite an interesting election? There‘s enough out there from Winston‘s McCarthyism to the crumbling but hubris-filled Labour Party. But that won’t happen for a while. Why not?

Because we now have the Stand in Black campaign gearing up like the Red Socks Campaign, and questions about why we can’t sing like the Barmy Army, and photos of good and decent Kiwis saying how much they support our team. And so on.

Notions of our patriotism or lack of it are swirling around in the air, and frankly I couldn’t give a damn. I like rugby, I used to play for both school and club, and certainly watched the first Lions game. I’ll watch the tests if I’m near a television, and recently I wandered into the Kingslander pub nearby just to check on the big screens should I choose to spend a boozy night watching a game there.

But, and I am sure I’m not alone in this, I don’t define myself by a rugby team and have never believed the state of the nation depends on winning a sports match. God forbid that should be the case.

So I can live without the daily drip-feed of Barmy Army stories, what some blokes on the West or East Coast thinks about our team, the articles about women supporters of the Lions, the photo shoots of players going about their PR business, and so on.

Rugby is a game, and a good one at that. The rest is interesting but is mostly window dressing -- and I suspect, a diversion.

We need a bit of perspective, particularly in news rooms, and I don’t think we should go to sports commentators for it. After all, it is in their best interest to keep these stories running.

Consider this from statement from Brendan Telfer on Radio Sport: “It’s part of our ethos, that every man, woman and child is behind the All Blacks whenever they play.”

Bullshit. Get that man to dancing classes where he can get a real life. Apparently.