Monday, May 17, 2010

I find I'm not enjoying Rugby anymore

I have been accused of being a rugby fan. I never really thought of myself as a fan. Sure I have season tickets and go to a number of other games but many people do. Does that make one a fan? However, I realised I probably was a fan when I decided to go on tour. I went on, and thoroughly emjoyed, the 2007 Rugby World Cup. I even sat through - shh - the Cardiff game and still went on to watch the semis and the final at the wonderful Stade de France. I guess maybe I am a fan.

Unfortunately I am really not enjoying the rugby much anymore. Perhaps it's always a bit hard when your teams aren't playing well but I think it's more than that.

I've never wanted to be one of those people that go on about how things were better in the old days, because they weren't. My memories of the old days is that they were boring and uneventful, apart from regular boozing (which really doesn't appeal so much anymore). No, I'm not one to lament the passing of the old days, except that I can't help but think rugby used to be more enjoyable in the old days.

I don't think it's a case of rugby necessarily being worse than the old days. But quality of play does not have to translate to quality of the spectator experience. Although I will allow one side indulgence at this point - the scrums! The modern scrum is awful! It has been ruined. We may as well give up and make the scrum a ridiculous formality as in League (which is otherwise a top spectator game). Anyway, back to the main point.

It's possible that professional rugby players have just got too good, especially on defence. It doesn't seem to me that anyone wins rugby anymore, they just don't lose. Rugby seems to me to have become like an election - don't make any mistakes and you shouldn't lose. But that makes for a poor spectator experience if you ask me (which admittedly you probably didn't). I remember teams winning games. I remember supporting teams and leaving the game win or lose reasonably satisfied. Often the difference between teams was that both teams played reasonably well and it was a close game (perhaps a little too often being sorted out by penalties admittedly) or one team playing well and another playing an inspired game. I didn't even mind my team losing in this case; the rugby was exhilirating.

But now it just doesn't seem the same. Now both teams play stifling, choking defence and the one that makes the most mistakes loses. I just can't quite find the game as motivating.

Perhaps the problem is that I am watching the games live. At least on TV there always seems to be some action. If you're at the game you can see everyone holding off from the tight stuff, seagulling around leaving no gaps. The modern tight five probably don't play a lot more in the tight than the backs nowadays; but boy can they run! And the backs now have to be big so that they can play in the tight when they have too; but boy can they run! It's all getting more and more back to front.

Now, as I like to think I'm a constructive chap here are some ideas to make rugby more of a spectacle again (ironically as this was the reason most of the new rules were brought in).

1. Bring back the old scrums - I know we don't want injuries but it doesn't have to be one rule for everybody. Keep the new rules for junior grades and maybe even club rugby; and maybe even for the Air New Zealand cup. But, if you're going to play for New Zealand or a Super 14 (15?) team then you have got to handle old school.

2. Get rid of all these new ruck and maul rules. I know that it allowed a lot of interfering of the ball, which was annoying sometimes, but defeating that was a skill. At least it meant that the tight five (and more often than not the loosies) had to get into the heavy stuff which left a bit more room for the backs. Maybe we could even see the skillful speed of a Terry Wright again (he would be too small for the modern game).

3. Chill out a bit and get the video ref out of it and tone down the citing commissioner a bit. I know that there were a few injustices but there still are. The really bad rough stuff should be sorted out but a bit of niggle has always been part of the game. A flowing game is always a better game. Referees have destroyed games by being too officious. The great Clive Norling is the sort of referee we want. The best referee isn't the one that catches everything, he's the one that lets the game flow but plays it exactly the same for both teams.

4. Maybe less rugby. Quantity isn't a substitute for quality. There are too many games and too many teams. No wonder the number of fizzers has increased. It is physically impossible for any human to be as hungry as they need to be for every game in a season.

5. Make the players compete. When a player attains a position in a team then they need to want to keep it. Even a great All Black has told me that you always played and you always played your best. If you lost your position just once you might never get it again. And this idea of utility players is overstated, specialist players play a position best. Utility players make great subs but they should never start a game.

Anyway a few ideas and most probably quite wrong, but I still like the old games more than the new ones. And I actually find that a bit upsetting.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A question of pride?

I have been prompted on two occasions to write a piece on pride with a wide time gap between each. The question that I find myself posing after both 'events' is, if actions speak louder than words, do New Zealanders feel any pride for their country, or even their regions? The words say "yes" the actions seem to say "not really, perhaps if it doesn't cost too much, or if it doesn't interfere with my day off".

The first event that triggered this question occurred because I completely accidentally managed to schedule myself a long weekend in Sydney that also happened to be Australia Day. What a shock! If you have no doubt that New Zealander's have pride in their nation then go to Australia on Australia Day, any reasonable person would then doubt the sincerity of our actions. Does New Zealand even have a national day? I assume Waitangi Day is it but on this day some people apologise effusively and most people sneak off to the beach.

Now going to the beach is a very New Zealand thing to do but what differentiates going to the beach on New Zealand Day (whatever that is) from any other day? Masses flag waving amid music and beach theatre so infectious that all the tourists start waving the New Zealand flag? Because that's what happens in the land of Aus. Heck, back in my accidental Aussie Day I had to restrain my hand to prevent it from accepting an Australian flag to wave because it did look like fun - to take pride in an event that celebrated a nation's identity. I mean give me a break, I had never experienced that before!

Are we even allowed to smile on Waitangi Day? I'm not sure.

The second event was at a Blues game. The fact that it was a Blues game wasn't important, it could have been the Chiefs (I can say for sure) or even an All Black's game (although, to be fair, every now and then they do pep up the All Black pre-game a bit). The example was the Blues' 'cheerleaders'. Now I am not casting aspersions on the young ladies or their choreographers. They are talented and lovely dancers, but that is the point. They are dancers. They are not cheerleaders. Now I know New Zealand crowds are hard to warm up. If we can't smile on New Zealand Day (whenever that is) then smiling at the rugby is probably frowned upon as well, but come on. Are we proud of our teams, towns, cities, regions and country or aren't we? We say we are but our actions seem to say something else. Where is the pomp, the excitement, the cheer?

And, while we're at it, what is the story with Queen's wharf? The whole thing sounds like a Monty Python sketch. "International visitors please filter through the visitor's terminal." "You mean the sheds?" "No, no, the VISITORS TERMINALS. Look the sign says visitor's terminal." "But if you come for the World Cup you'll get a very nice TENT." What does this say about the pride of the city. The same city that celebrates its day with everyone parking on the Great Southern (or Northern) Carpark trying to get out!

No, I don't think New Zealanders are proud. It's all a bit showoffy I suppose. Never mind, we can all sneak off to 'Straya and celebrate 'Straya Day if we need a pick me up. The flag's close enough. A bit of red felt tip would fix it.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Right Here, Right Now - Rugby World Cup song genius

Well, the announcement has been made and apparently already every twit... er sorry twitter, is denouncing the choice. Not to mention widespread disgust online.

Now, it is often hard to work out what this means. Kiwis love denouncing things and pulling down tall poppies so all this activity could mean New Zealanders are really happy with the choice. After all most so called 'grass rooters' seem to like being unhappy.

And it seems to me that people should be pleased. Picking the RWC song was extremely tricky. After all it had to meet two very stringent but almost mutually exclusive criteria. First, it had to be a relatively good song and very catchy. Second, it couldn't be anyone's (or at least many people's) favourite song.

Why couldn't it be a widespread favourite you might ask? Well, because it could well end up forever being associated with losing the Rugby World Cup... again! Having an all-time classic song, like AC/DC's "Back in Black" lumbered with this association would be more than I could bear on top of losing the World Cup.

And I'm not trying to be mean spirited to the All Blacks. The World Cup is very, very hard to win. Any team can have one bad game at any time; and lose one game from the quarter finals on and you're out! I know this! I was in Cardiff three years ago.

"Right here, right now" is a great song choice. It's fun. It's catchy. We won't mind hearing it for the duration of the tournament; and, if we do happen to lose, well then never hearing it again will be a shame. But, I can live with it, or rather without it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Greenies need more exercise

I have a theory. Admittedly it's probably not a very good theory but I like it. It struck me while undergoing my regular gym torture. I was nearing the end of a workout and starting to look forward to the best part of exercise - stopping!

I was feeling particularly sorry for myself on this occasion and I couldn't help but think that people are a strange design. All we really want is a nice comfortable, pleasant life and yet living healthy (which for most people is about living long) we have to suffer so much. And there it is. The Catholics were right - man was born to suffer. Not suffer in the context of not wanting to live (that would be extremely counter-productive) but living is a double edged sword. A wonderful experience for the most part but full of backlash; and sometimes the backlash can cut deep.

Here is the point, physiologically we are designed to be permanently fighting for our lives and for scraps of food. Before civilisation this made us naturally healthy (in a fitness sense) and therefore we are not designed to be comfortable (well not all the time at any rate). Therefore, we are left with a sense of not being quite right - not quite at one with the world - and so we translate this into guilt.

Oh, and what a guilt it is. Unconstrained guilt makes us so worried about all kinds of things. For most people this seems to translate to a reasonably healthy respect for our environment and desire to not treat it too badly. But for some the guilt is so consuming that they must spend their whole lives in state of denial and self-flagellation. The problem is, though, because this doesn't make them feel any better they then believe the problem is everyone else isn't trying to do things we actually can't control and chastising themselves for it.

Now, I don't have this problem. Somewhere along the line someone managed to convince me that I would die instantly if I didn't exercise hard, this proved to be motivation enough and so I do. The common wisdom is exercise gets easier as you get fitter. This shows the true value of common wisdom. It is b-grade ollux. I've been saving my life for four or five years now and it isn't getting any easier. It's always hard and it always hurts. It is awful; but, as a result I don't feel guilty. I've paid my price.

So here's the solution. Let's get all the Greenies exercising properly. Hard exercise I mean. The kind of exercise that makes you wonder if living longer is actually worth it; not just nipping down to the hemp shop on the bike. Just a thought.

Monday, March 15, 2010

New turbo power

It has often been joked that the hot air coming from the beehive could supply the energy needs of the country. But perhaps the reality is closer than we think. After all, there is more force available than just the hot air. There is the political spin, the about faces and the entire perpetual motion of bureaucracy.

And let's face it the beehive looks like a giant steam turbine tipped on its side. It would be a massive engineering exercise, but it could be done. Jack the beehive up, get it on some bearings and connect it to the national grid. Then get all the pollies to coordinate their efforts... damn; and it seemed like such a good idea. Of course it won't work. The politicians couldn't work together if you tied them all together and dangled a microphone in front of them.

Talk about your atmospheric warming - hot air, spin, about faces, backstabbing scrummages (I think this is called parliament in session) all expending huge amounts of energy achieving nothing of much value. It's like having a giant concrete mixer and only ever getting slurry.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Does anyone really want democracy?

It is with a heavy heart that I come to the realisation that no-one (well very few people) really want democracy. Oh, there are very many people fighting for it, in name at least. Unfortunately, most of the time I see democracy defended it is simply an emotive defence for someone who doesn't want something that is being forced on them. Fair enough, as far as it goes. Except then it seems that what is really irking such people is that there is someone else that really should have something forced upon them.

This then is modern democracy - don't tell me what to do but for goodness sake tell everyone I don't like what they must do. And, I am desperately afraid that the telling others what to do is more of a priority than the not being told what to do oneself. It seems to me that there is an opporunity for the genius despot to come in and order everyone about.

Of course such a despot can't be a nutjob, nobody (well very few people) want the kind of despotism where people go 'missing' and everyone lives in fear. However, as long as everyone is prevented from enjoying themselves and everyone must behave 'seriously' then I think that the very large majority of people would grudgingly accept the new despot.

This isn't as easy as it sounds. It can't be a set of blanket rules. Each preventative regime (and there would have to be many) would have to be very carefully tailored. If anyone thought that someone else didn't mind being told what to do then it would unravel very quickly. No, every person would need to be able to look at every other person and be able to smugly think to themselves "Hah, serves them right".

This would be stable. What's a little misery when anyone you could possibly not like is also miserable? For most people (and let's be honest, especially elderly people) this is nirvana (the state not the band). Of course very young children would find this somewhat illogical but what do they know? Young children would find parliamentary debates silly so that shows what they know. They would soon be matured to understand the societal benefits of enforced averageness.

Of course there might be one person who was still happy. The despot might actually quite enjoy telling everyone what to do, but then this is a small price to pay. One might say this is just reward for delivering so much and widespread smugisfaction.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Are National Education Standards really such a good thing?

Well, there really is quite a lot of brouhaha over the issue of national educations standards; but maybe we shouldn't be so wedded to education standards. After all most modern educationalists suggest that things shift. Grammar and spelling evolves, and all that. This does seem to be true. Invent txt and twitter (BTW, is a user of twitter a twit, or a twitterer, or both?) and a new, more efficient grammar appears quite quickly. Sure a large proportion of the population can't understand a word (or efficient concatenation thereof) the twits/twitterers/tweets/tweeterers? tap but this tends to be isolated to the portion on the population that might be described as 'older'. And, let's face it this problem gets sorted out in time.

I'm not sure that the case is much stronger in other education disciplines. The premise that 2 + 2 = 5 seems to work very well in politics, advertising, journalism, economics, accounting (the financial reporting standard ones not the good ones), sales, climate science and a number of other jobs. Fluid history is also very useful in these disciplines. Of course a number of jobs are a bit difficult without 'firmer' mathematics, science, language and history but most of these jobs aren't cool so it doesn't really matter.

New Zealand is firmly dedicated to inalienable rights (and the prevention of the alienation of inalienable rights - which seems pointless but never mind), creating an infinite set of definitions for fairness, being inconclusively inclusive, the power of moderate politics (providing that it doesn't pick winners or losers - or indeed anything in particular) and obstructive regulation (providing that it deosn't alienate things that can't be alienated). Education standards matter to these things not a jot, therefore why bother?

No, as long as milk keeps coming in cartons, China is willing to put stuff in big red sheds, and fancy electronics grow on trees (like Apples) then... she'll be right!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The sport of politics

When it comes to easy sports there is little easier sport than politics.

A world class tennis player has to dedicate her life from an early age to training and fitness. She has to give up a lot of her childhood and maintain a passion that must be strained more often than not.

By comparison those that want notoriety the easy way just have to turn up and make a racket (not racquet because that would be useful). It seems strange that all the evils of the world can be laid squarely at the feet of one young woman (she was obviously busier than I realised).

The protestors at the ASB tennis classic claim lofty ideals of fighting for freedom and justice. To me, though, they just seem to be interfering with young ladies.

Monday, January 4, 2010

What about the efficiency argument?

So now they're making cell phones for five year olds. Cutesy phones with restricted functionality and GPS tracking. Of course this sparks the traditional could we or should we debate among child development 'professionals' but what about the efficiency argument?

At least a child will be able to use their phone; and all of its features. Somewhat more efficient than letting someone have them who was born before 1965; but there is an efficiency leverage here. Not only will the littlies be able to operate their own phone but they will also be able to help Granny with hers. Truth be told some of them will even be able to help out poor old Dad.