by Jim
on Mar 18th, 2006

Sporting times

There seems to be no end to high-publicity sporting events. Right now I’d say for most of you this would currently mean March Madness. Down here no one knows or cares about the NCAA tournament, but the Commonwealth Games have just started so that’s taking over where the Olympics left off (not that the kiwis seemed too interested in the winter games either). And then there’s cricket, which runs in the summer here and is still going on, or so I glean from the occasional news report. But even that’s a distant second to, of course, rugby.

This is a one sport country from what I can tell. People schedule their weekends around upcoming rugby matches, the media blasts ads for matches constantly, and the in-depth sports news seems nearly devoted to rugby. I’ve been watching the games and find them reasonably entertaining, as did I cricket. In the Commonwealth Games they play Rugby Sevens which is the same game with half the guys and crammed into less than 20 minutes. I watched the finals last night and to no one’s surprise the Kiwis won gold. Actually, the commentators tried to create surprise, because despite NZ being ranked #1 they somehow were portrayed as going to Melbourne as underdogs, eeking out a win. It was weird. And since TVNZ just picks up the Aussie feed as-is, there was outrage that the post-win Haka (a Maori war dance that NZ Rugby annexed) wasn’t aired. It’s a pretty cool dance but I’ve already seen it 5000 times since I’ve been here so I wasn’t too put out. Then came arguments why Rugby Sevens should be in the Olympics. Enough already! Yes NZ kicks ass at rugby, yes it’s popular here, but exporting it beyond the League of Nations Who Care About Rubgy seems futile. I heard NZ beat Japan roughly 150-0 once. Fun!! Watching the Dream Team was fun once too, until the last Olympics when it was more fun to root against their arrogance.

There is one international forum that continues to sting the Kiwis: The Rugby World Cup. They haven’t won since the first contest in 1987 (ouch!). This despite doing well against the same core strong rugby nations in all the other international tournaments. (For a taste of what the Olympics would be like, take a look at some of the World Cup scores between the strong vs. other: NZ-Tonga 91-7, England-Uruguay 111-13, NZ-Italy 101-3.)

What I’m most interested in now: that I still have 187 points possible in my March Madness bracket.

3 Responses to “Sporting times”

  1. Christianon 20 Mar 2006 at 4:57 pm

    My bracket basically collapsed with Illinois and NC out of the picture.
    But how about those Braves?

  2. Jeff the Boldon 21 Mar 2006 at 11:07 am

    It sounds like Olympic rugby would be roughly similar to Olympic baseball, which has now been deleted from the summer games for the same reasons that you were talking about; it is a sport that is dominated by only a few countries. To fill the void in the baseball world, they have inaugurated the World Baseball Classic (see, which is supposed to run every four years I guess.

    It hasn’t really caught on here, but I’ve been enjoying some of the competition. It’s been really big in the Asian and the Caribbean countries that have teams. I doubt that it has even merited a mention in NZ. The Aussies fielded a team, but they didn’t fare too well, so I suppose that is something for the Kiwis to celebrate. Tonight (20Mar06 — 21Mar06 afternoon NZ time) is the championship game between Japan and Cuba. Even Barbara — not usually a big baseball fan — is interested in this one.

  3. Jimon 21 Mar 2006 at 11:49 am

    Occasionally I’ll hear mention of ‘grid iron’, and basketball gets a token news update now and again (there are some US college players that are imported here for a year or two), but I’ve never seen any evidence that anyone here has played, watched or thought about baseball. On the flipside, net ball is very popular here but I doubt many in the US would have played or seen that one.

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