Sunday, April 01, 2007

Brownie drops the ball

August 3, 2006

Wee bit of house-keeping here...

A couple weeks ago I promoted and linked a column written by Rugby Channel commentator Matt Brown.

This week however, Brownie fumbles the ball and makes himself appear what the kids these days call a "player hater," complaining:

I don’t like the Haka. [...] The reason I don’t like it is that I believe it gives the All Blacks a decided emotional advantage at the beginning of test matches. [...] I’ve got an unusual idea, how about singing the anthems and then just playing some rugby? There’s plenty of time for ceremonial singing and dancing at the post-match function. [...] Isn’t facing off against the All Blacks intimidating enough without having to watch them make gruesome faces at you?

Now, first order of business, there is no link to that commentary. I read Brownie’s columns every week, but it’s always a chore for me recommending it to others. You see, unfortunately, the Rugby Channel website — as awesome as their online live rugby coverage clearly is — has some drawbacks, in particular a clumsy interactive service.

For instance, each week Rugby Channel provides excellent previews and highlight packages, however:

  • their comments page uses the exact same URL as the week preceeding;

  • this is compounded badly because their archived (or “Last Weeks”) comments URL doesn’t work;

  • their comments box is only a tiny inch-wide and doesn’t provide preview or formatting options; quotation marks often appear as question marks making the comments confusing;

  • the link to Brownie’s “Rugby-centric analysis” column is often difficult (sometimes impossible) to find;

  • Matt's column doesn’t provide a contact email address to the author; &tc.

  • So, the easiest solution is to simply register and subscribe to his column here (look for the small box on the lower-right side of page) for weekly emails and avoid the hassle and frustration. Brown does a lot of good writing, but I wish Mediazone would rectify their links, navigation and ease of interactivity.

    Second point of order, as way of reply to Brownie's opinion, I'll simply repeat what I wrote in my reply over there:

    Brownie, you might as well ask the Yankees to remove their pinstripes or demand Liverpool FC ban the singing of "You'll Never Walk Alone." They give their team unfair emotional advantages too, uh-huh.

    C'mon, the whole "haka is an unfair advantage" canard is tired and bollocks. Was the haka an unfair advantage at any RWCs 1991-2003? Whingers and losers always make excuses. Curiously, we only ever hear complaints about the haka when the ABs win.

    Ireland backrower DENIS LEAMY in the January 2006 issue of Rugby World magazine, thankfully shows a lot more intestinal fortitude, telling the magazine, quote:

    "Facing the haka was something that I'll never forget. Whenever the All Blacks are over here, you always have somebody writing that the haka should be done away with, that it's disrespectful to opponents. Rubbish. It was the first time I ever faced it. I watched it on the telly when I was a kid and being on the pitch when it was being performed was special. That was the highlight of my autumn, being so close to it. I really bought into it. I suppose I tried to reverse it, tried to psyche myself up. I'll not forget it."

    Short version: "Always somebody writing... Rubbish."

    Thank goodness there are still international forwards with steel in their belly and not a bunch of namby-pamby easily terrified wimps.

    If an opponent is psyched out by a "dance" before the ref even blows the whistle to kick-off, that player needs to give up the ghost and find a new sport, 'cos he's not going to cut it on the field of play in rugby union.

  • Sidebar: George Smith admitted much the same thing a couple days afterward about a different matter, but the point still stands: "If pulling your hair gets you up for a Test match you're in the wrong sport," Smith said. Is there a rugby fan alive that honestly believes George Smith is psyched-out by a haka? Please.

  • Continuing directly...

    And regards your opinion that teams should stick to the national anthems, as a neutral observer I'd like to see the anthems done away with. They mean nothing to me, they are terribly boring, and yes, truthfully, some anthems are better than others. France has a far superior and emotionally engaging anthem than does NZ. Is that an unfair advantage for Les Blues? Get real! Besides, most AB fans would tell you as they have told me, that the haka is their preferred anthem in any event. If it came down to dropping one or the other, they gladly pick the haka over their anthem.

    Source. (As above, the link changes weekly and will probably be broken in a few days and you'll have to try to find it at a broken archived link. Good luck.)

    Third point, by way of extrapolating further, I think the All Blacks should perform the haka (Ka Mate or Kapa O Pango) for home tests only. For road (or "away") tests, the ABs should only perform the haka at the specific request of the host nation to the NZRU. If the Aussies don't want the haka desecrating their turf, fine, the NZRU and ABs should honour that and not perform the haka. Same goes for England -- if they think the haka is too violent or gives New Zealand an unfair advantage, they should request that it not be performed.

    Alas, something makes me think if the haka is not performed at Suncorp or Twickenham in the future, opposing players and fans will direct their displeasure at their own unions, the ARU and RFU, and not at the All Blacks. That is how it should be. Let those unions deal with hostile phone calls from their grass roots rugby supporters. The number of rugby fans who want the haka banned is a tiny vocal minority, made to appear bigger than they really are because they whinge louder and moan longer. Most rugby fans understand the haka is not only an integral part of what makes the All Blacks special, they know it's also one of the most fantastic rituals in all of world sport and makes rugby union special. Bok players and Bok fans may well be suffering some humiliating results the past few years, but one thing you can count on is their spine -- you don't see them trembling like whiny-ass titty-babies when they see the haka.

    Final point of order, in that same above comments section to Brownie's haka column, a poster named Benjamin Haswell goes on an unrelated tirade that confirms many ignorant fans are commiting Stephen Jones' favoured talking-points to memory. Haswell writes:

    "Maybe Brownie would score more points if he wrote about New Zealands' ability to get Fijians, Samoans and just about everybody else to sell-out their countries to play for the big bucks that come with playing for the All Blacks. They're simultaneously decimating the Island teams and showing how commercialized even the Haka has become. One wonders if these so-called New Zealanders have to get Haka lessons from the few genuine Maoris that still know it?"

    Reality check and clues for the clueless here, here, here and here.

    It gets tiring having to refute this repeated nonsense on an almost monthly basis. But as long as whinging fans keep defecating on the sport with lies and deceit, some of us are going to stand up and fight back with facts and truth.

    End o' today's rant.


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