Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Vulgarity Blues

Inky is one of my favourite rugby columnists; indeed, one of my fave bloggers on any subject. I read every weekly column he writes, beginning to end.

This week he's touched a raw nerve. I like the free markets and busty babes as much as the next fella, but the cheerleader bullshit doesn't belong in rugby, and the vulgar uglification of field advertising and sideline boards isn't much better.

Go get 'em Inky.


Goodbye to taste?

My mate and I took our kids to the Blues versus Stormers game at Eden Park on Saturday, taking advantage of the early evening kick-off to see some live action.

The rugby itself was very exciting. The new laws improved the spectacle by making play flow [...] we were all exhausted from the adrenaline of an emotional roller coaster ride.

But there were many things wrong with the experience, all to do with bad marketing. I wonder how many fans have been turned off by such things to the point where they no longer bother to attend live games. [...]

It wouldn’t have been so bad if we’d finally gotten inside the stand and seen tastefully presented signage, but when we did it was a visual cacophony of garish orange-on-blue, black-on-yellow and green-on-red everywhere, all higgledy-piggledy and badly assembled. Every flag and goalpost pad was sponsored, and the pitch itself was emblazoned with logos angled especially for cameras.

If the transition to professionalism had been managed properly, the main brand inside the ground would be that of the home team. All the sponsors’ merchandise would include the home team’s logo, not the other way around. Value would not have been eroded.

It looked like a junk mail circular for a bowling alley in Las Vegas, and I felt very sad for the passing of the old ways. All the austerity was gone.

Remember brass bands, marching girls and curtain-raisers, anyone? Not anymore. Once some fat, navel-and-eyebrow-pierced girls in hooker costumes had waggled their tails at the wide-eyed children and an idiot had screamed MAKE SOME NOISE fifty times at the crowd, hoping to exhort more than a distracted whoop of support for some motorcross riders, the rugby finally began. [...]

It was incongruous, idiotic and as a New Zealander slightly embarrassing. Luckily the only foreign fans were South Africans, where Pat Benatar and Bon Jovi have just hit big. [...]

I’m not going to stop taking the kids to games. Security aside, this essay is meant as testimony to Auckland’s crass, headlong corporate culture in particular and not New Zealand’s in general. Waikato Stadium is nowhere near as badly corrupted as Eden Park, Westpac Stadium in the capital still has a touch of magic, and you can’t rub shoulders with the rabid fans in Christchurch without actually acquiring a surface film of red-and-black paint flakes.

When I return to Eden Park I will remember to pre-peel my drinks and prepare for sensory bombardment. I just have a nagging fear that it’s going to get worse before it gets better and there will be new unpleasant surprises sprung on us each time we venture there. It’s already only a bloody-minded stubbornness that keeps me going now, along with an iron gut and a willingness to empty the coffers in exchange for a few tiny, uncomfortable plastic seats. Let’s hope the other grounds aren’t going to go the same way quite so quickly.

And television, by the way, will not be the winner in this battle, it will ultimately lose right alongside everyone else if people stop attending grounds.

Sport is competing with a rising flood of bad taste on television. It’s obvious that television programmers already take advantage of people’s small screen addictions by pushing whatever cheap guff is available... degenerates and assorted other craven, selling their souls for any fleeting measure of fame... and the fast dollar driving standards down will turn a population’s brains to mush in the historical blink of an eye. While a few too many logos and desperate sales clauses at sports fields are still a long way removed from Brett Michael and Flava Flav swapping diseases with hoochies on primetime, the connection is there no matter how tenuous. Sport can promote itself without cheapening itself.

Inky's whole column here.


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