I didn’t meant to go to the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame. It was an accident, I swear.
See, I’d been basing my travels on my 1969 edition of the Shell Guide to New Zealand (edited by Maurice Shadbolt, cover by Colin McCahon), so anything opened in the last 40 years was off my radar.
But the Dunedin Railway Station came highly recommended. “Its opulence recalls great days of rail travel,” extolled Mau-Mau. I explored the magnificence of the Flemmish Renaissance style station buildings and the lonely platform.
Continuing my appreciation, I wandered upstairs, and there I found the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame. I didn’t even know it existed, and yet there it was. Lured in by sheet of A4 paper promising “163 athletes” and “35 sports”, I paid my $5 admission and entered, not really sure what to expect other than something involving sports, fame and… a hall.
Straight away I was in the rugby section. A small box tempted me: “Press the white button for a whiff of the odour of New Zealand rugby.” Feeling like Alice in Rugbyland, I pressed the button and the faint whirr of an electric motor started. What olfactory awfulness was this strange box unleashing? Soon an odor reached my nostrils. Deep Heat.
The box kept whirring and the Deep Heat odour kept spreading. I was trying to appreciate the impact that Wilson Whineray had on the game of rugby union, but the Deep Heat kept getting all up in my nose. I had to get out of the rugby area.
Most of the people or teams being honoured by the Hall of Fame had a glass case dedicated to them. Cases would usually include such items as trophies, certificates, books, uniforms, photos and yellowing newspaper clippings. Lots of yellowing newspaper clippings.
Strangest of all was a 1983 Auckland Star front page celebrating the New Zealand rowing team’s gold medal victory at the World Champs in Duisberg. But just under the glorious headline is the latest story on the disapperance of schoolgirl Kirsa Jensen: “Police believe girl kidnapped or killed”.
The most interesting item the Hall had to offer was Richard Hadlee’s list of “motivation” taped inside his case. It had short phrases such as “Visualise – dream and know you can do it”, “Robot – record and replay the good times”, “Enjoyment” and “Never get tired – just pleasantly weary”.
And that says more about the greatest New Zealand cricketers ever than an old cricket bat or photo ever could.
I realised there was something missing from the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame – video footage of sports. Glass boxes full of memorabilia don’t quite capture the appeal of sport. A signed photo of a yacht is not the same as commentator Peter Montgomery annoyingly shrieking “The America’s Cup is now New Zealand’s cup!”
Television has brought sporting events to so many people, and yet there was no ability to view these monumental sporting moments that athletes were being honoured for. The only video footage I can remember seeing was what appeared to be a real-time film of a man swimming the Cook Strait.
The Hall of Fame should have a think about selling some of the crappier items of memorabilia on Trade Me (Chris Lewis’ biography will get you $10 on Buy Now), and work with NZ On Screen to get a really good website with more information on the inductees than just a brief bio. Get some video clips of significant sporting events, some interviews and make it more interesting than a box of yellowing newspaper clippings.
Although, you can’t quite convey the odour of New Zealand rugby on the web.
On my way out, two British tourists were dithering as to whether they should go in. “It’ll mostly be rugby, cricket and athletics,” one said.
But wait, chaps, there’s also Ned Shewry, the 1912 wood chopping champion.