Friday, 26 July 2013

on finals footy- and booing

I didn't make it to the game between the Crusaders and the Reds because Finals footy has lost its edge.
 Is this disenchantment? A sense that the  super rugby series- if not the game- has lost its magic?
 When I recently did a public lecture on the religion of rugby a very pertinent question was asked in the lead-up to the Crusaders- Reds game: Why, if we are in the finals playoffs, is there so little celebration and excitement and interest.
This was evident in the failure to have a full stadium for that game, evident in the slow sales for tonight's semi-final between the Chiefs and the Crusaders.
 My reply was that the dictates of sky tv has caused the disenchantment. The season is too long and too many games are now played in the evening in the middle of winter.  A season stretching over so many months, a season broken by what was, to be honest, a totally meaningless tour by the French, a season that could never hope to compare with the intense passion and interest of the Lions tour of Australia.
 It is hard enough to get yourself and your kids- to 7.30 games in person, especially on a friday night; even more so when it is cold and dark and there is a threat of rain.
 It is hard to keep your family on side when they face months of 7.30 friday and saturday nights dominated by often poor- and to be honest- often quite meaningless rugby games.
I will watch tonight's game- but i will watch it on replay at 9.30 because the rest of my family- quite understandably- would prefer to watch Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries at 8.30.

 In the end the question I think increasing numbers of us ask- and these are not the temporary fans- but those of us who are in some ways sports and rugby tragics is- what is the point?

Super rugby has lost its lustre. It is too long, too large and needs to get its mojo, its magic, its enchantment, in fact its point, back. The attraction of the northern hemisphere game is the number of different competitions that a rugby season entails. Super rugby is  just one, overlong and ill-timed competition.  The glory that is the ITM cup occurs over a very short, intense period with a good number of afternoon games. This is real sporting tribalism, real sporting competition. A short sharp shock of footy. Similarly, this is why the Ranfurly Shield is so important- it actually has real meaning, has a real history.
 I was reminded of this when i sat up too late, too often, watching sessions of the Ashes. The Ashes is an event in the truest sense,  a rupture into and of daily life and existence when what occurs transcends the mere occurrence unfolding.

Super rugby has lost its sense of the event. That is why the booing of Quade Copper was so indicative of what has gone wrong.  In our household he is known as the aussie fossa- given his  resemblance to the civet-like predator of Madagascar. We don't like him because of the type of person he seems to be. But we can admire his skill as rugby player.
 The booing of Cooper signals a shift from a crowd who are there to watch the skill and drama of the game to a crowd looking to express a herd-like mentality. A crowd ultimately bored by rugby will boo at every opportunity, just like they will indulge in the mass stupidity of constant mexican waves.

I am not bored by rugby- but i am disenchanted by what has become an overlong, seemingly meaningless series.
For the record, the Crusaders will win by 10 or more but will loose to the Bulls in the final. But do I really care? Not really. And i suspect- and hear- increasing numbers of fellow rugby tragics agree. The NZRFU would be wise to take note.

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