After the All Blacks’ defeat at the last Rugby World Cup, I tried to figure it out. I could see that New Zealand was grieving at the loss but it hadn’t given up hope. Now with the RWC being held here and the dream of victory on the cusp of being realised, it feels like rugby is everywhere but I still don’t feel like I fit in with rugby life.
I grew up in a house where sport wasn’t really watched. I could speculate that’s where my lack of interest in the game came from, but yet there was hardly ever any music played in the house and I’ve grown up totally in love with the world of pop. And likewise my brother has overcome this sporting handicap to become a fan of rugby league and union.
The few times I’ve watched rugby on TV, I’ve found it really hard to follow. It seems really complex, all these guys running around in different directions, passing, kicking and then stopping to get into various formations, like aggressive cheerleaders.
I’ve just never had a connection with rugby. Even in 2009 – the year I vowed to go to sports events – it didn’t occur to me to go to a rugby game. Soccer is simple enough, but even the achingly complicated cricket won out over ruggers. Perhaps it’s because of the massive role that rugby plays in New Zealand society. Top-level rugby seems so intense, so extravagant, and I’m not sure I’m ready for that.
Supporting the All Blacks – to the point where you’re ecstatic when they win and inconsolable when they lose – takes emotional committment. You give a bit of yourself to the All Blacks and let them become part of your personal identity. I’m not there. I’m still unconnected, outside the sphere of rugby. If the All Blacks lose the World Cup, I’m not going to go into mourning. But if they win, I won’t have that “WE’RE NUMBER ONE!” feeling of elation.
So the Rugby World Cup happens without me being drawn into it. I’ve only watched one match, a semi-final, and I was paying so little attention that I can’t even remember who was playing. Because I couldn’t follow the game, it was other stuff that grabbed my attention. My mental image of what a rugby game looks like seems to be based on how things were in the 1980s. So I was intrigued that today’s players mostly look really muscular and lean, like they’ve been deliberately visually bulking up their muscles and not carrying extra weight. They’re also a lot less hairy – there seems to be a serious waxing regime going on. It’s all very metrosexual, which I highly approve of.
When the big ol’ New Zealand versus Australia semi-final game was on last weekend, instead I was watching the indie romantic comedy hit “Strictly Sexual“. There are a lot of things that I’m really into right now and those will always win out over watching a rugby game.
So now, in the final hours before the really-big-deal final, I’m still trying to figure this thing out. I’m probably not going to watch the game. I probably won’t know the final score until I see people on Twitter emoting over it. But, you know, I’m not going to complain if the city erupts in jubilation… or implodes with devastation.