I was musing amusedly about the post below this one, and the one below that, and figured I had good grounds to flog the PJ O’Rourke title I very nearly quoted above. PJ O’Rourke used a red-hot Italian car to refute the decline of the west; I’m going to use a red-hot embarrassment of Italy’s soccer heroes. So listen up.
For years we’ve been bleating that NZ has gone PC; that we’ve forgotten how to win; that we’ve become a nation of whingers who need their hands held even to be able to show up. For the most part, it’s the All Blacks that have provided the litmus test for that critique—the brainless, brawnless, limp-wristed loss to France in the Quarter Finals of the last Rugby World Cup being the most-cited piece of evidence for the prosecution—but while the mascaraed and cossetted rugby heroes have been having their hands held and complaining about “burn out” and other rigours of the professional sporting life, other New Zealanders have been getting out there and playing well above what the local talent pool would suggest would be our station.
Two cases in point:
- the Tall Blacks under Tab Baldwin, who played out of their skins at the 2002 FIBA World Championship, including completely unexpected wins over Russia and China to finish up with fourth place, two ahead of the United States. At basketball!!
- the All Whites, under Rikki Herbert, who just played out of their skins to humble the world champions into throwing embarrassing theatrics to steal a draw.
How can you look at results like that and say New Zealand is as mired in political correctness as we might have thought?
These were two national teams without any of the natural skills and talent to be anywhere near the results they achieved, but who pulled down success out of the clouds by courage, clear-sighted appreciation and application of their skills they did possess, and a fierce all-encompassing will to win.
It’s like a philosophy lesson in miniature.
Faced with the reality of competing above their station, they refused to fake reality and instead focussed on what they could do, and set out to do it.
Looking at the talents and skills their team with which their team was endowed, they dug deep into their reservoirs of character to make themselves resolute in their performance, succeeding by focus and sheer willpower.
Never mind the vicissitudes of the All Blacks, let’s celebrate the spirit of those Tall Blacks and these All Whites. Between them they help refute the claim that all NZers have learned in recent years is how to lose.
UPDATE: Reader “Gantt Guy” reminds me that perhaps the finest refutation is provided by the stunning victory over the weekend of the Nude Blacks over the Welsh Leeks.
I crave his pardon.
Watch it on video to see grass roots rugby at its best. If you know what I mean.