All Blacks David Havili and Akira Ioane after losing their match against South Africa last weekend. Photo / Photosport
It’s always good when the All Blacks lose. For the reason that it puts things into perspective.
And I say that as someone who watches most All Blacks games, except those against Italy or
the USA, where the contest is inevitably too one-sided. Though on current form, maybe not.
There’s got to be a balance in being a sports fan. You can care, but you can’t care too much.
That self-aware feeling after a disappointing loss, when you suddenly notice the daffodils in the garden or you’re especially nice to your partner, is your brain resetting itself. It’s telling you that it was only a game of rugby. It was silly to care as much as you did.
And maybe you won’t get up in the middle of the night to watch the next game, and instead, enjoy your Sunday fresh and excited about other things. You might not even check the score until mid-afternoon.
Because “everything in moderation”, as the ancient Greeks were known to say, who did care very much about athletic competition.
Some of the best lyric poetry of the time, by a guy called Pindar, were hymns to young men victorious at the Olympics or another of the many Panhellenic games.
I haven’t seen any poems written about Beauden Barrett. Though a lot of column inches have sung his praises from him over the years.
Our sports columnists are kind of poets. They must elegantly express what the fan is feeling. Awe at incredible performances and convincing explanations for when things go wrong. Elation one week, despair the next.
After so many losses, it’s clear the All Blacks aren’t a good team right now. So I sense a tone of resignation in our rugby writers of late. Livened with some bitter humour.
Many a fine word can still be said in defeat. Our rugby writers are getting good practice honoring their skills in that regard.
To wax lyrical about All Black defeats, after so long winning, will be a refreshing challenge. If the losses continue, it could get quite Shakespearean.
It’s said that sport teaches you life lessons. Winning all the time is certainly not the experience of life for most of us.
When it comes to our national sports teams, however, we’ve been given a healthy philosophical dose of losing to get about.
The men’s test cricketers were beaten 3-zip by England. The All Blacks have lost 5 of the last 6. The women’s cricket team has struggled.
The All Whites heartbreakingly lost their must-win World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica.
The men’s and women’s rugby sevens teams both failed to reach the final at the Commonwealth Games. Neither did the Silver Ferns, losing to Jamaica in the semis. The men’s and women’s hockey teams didn’t make the medal podium.
For now, fans of our national sports teams have probably had enough of learning the lessons of defeat.
Just as well there’s been individual star performances at the Commonwealth Games to revel in. Aaron Gate is a legend.
New Zealand’s record of sporting achievement hasn’t been erased by the recent results of our sports teams. For a small country, our record is remarkable. Though we’re selective in what we compete best at, success in sport is part of the national identity.
That doesn’t mean it will always be as important to us. In a fast-changing world, with many threats and problems, there might be alternate ways to take pride in ourselves as a country. You can’t help but wonder what the future is going to bring. Not too much seems certain.
Winning rugby games may not always be a high priority.
Or are these just the rambling thoughts of an All Blacks supporter getting over his disappointment? And like many of you, I’ll be back willing the team to victory at next year’s World Cup. Probably.
There are bright yellow daffodils growing in my garden, though. With the dew on them in the morning, they look lovely.
It’s all about keeping perspective.