Fri, Sep 28, 2007, Posted by Stan Doffe, International Correspondent
Has anyone other than me noticed what has happened to the All Blacks in the last 8 years? Aside from hardly ever losing and absolutely destroying even good teams, the All Blacks have spun completely out of control with their image and mystique. This year’s Rugby World Cup has already seen the All Blacks demolish all of their opponents so far, albeit in a very week pool and all signs point to an inevitable victory for the storied All Blacks. But as in past years, the All Blacks will fall again.
The problem with the All Blacks is that their team has become Americanized as I like to call it. That is the team has lost sight of what the game of rugby is about and have turned it into more of a them against the world conquest. This team is so far ahead of other rugby teams in the world that it almost seems as if they’re a different race of people. I mean have you seen the size and speed of these guys, it’s disturbing at the very least. I often wonder if the pressure of being the best in the world has driven many of them to do steroids. I read an article recently about one of their players who had to stop working out his biceps because he was having trouble wrapping up people for tackles!!
The pressure has become so great for the All Blacks that several players have been quoted saying they don’t even enjoy playing for the All Blacks because it’s too much. Too much pressure, too much hype, too much of everything. These guys just look foward to being done with this years World Cup so they can get back to playing with their club teams as they’ve put it. The pressure has gotten so great that the team hired a psychologist to travel with the team and talk with them during the World Cup. I mean c’mon this is getting a bit ridiculous, it’s still just a game. And I swear that stinking Haka isn’t helping them either. Enough is enough, I’m sick of seeing these aliens do their goofy little dance again and again. I got news for ya Kiwi’s, it doesn’t intimidate anyone anymore so give it up. I watched a show on Setanta on the history of the All Blacks and every single one of them said that when they first started playing, they were so worried about screwing the Haka up that they stayed up late the night before practicing it. Now I’m no professional rugby player, but I’m pretty sure you should be putting more effort and time into match preparation then Haka preparation. The night before my wedding I was thinking about how my life was going to change and how I need to be a better man, I wasn’t standing in front of a mirror practicing the electric slide (because I’m already so freakin’ good at it!). These are the things that have brought down the All Blacks, it’s not about rugby anymore, it’s about the All Blacks.
Part of the problem too is their fans. Further into the show I was watching, as I mentioned earlier, fans were coming out of a match where New Zealand won by forty something points. Fans were being interviewed and all of them were saying, “it’s not good enough, they need to play better, they made too many mistakes.” Are you kidding me!!! Winning by forty points against a solid international team isn’t good enough?!
This is where the subcategory of Americanization comes in. It’s called New York Yankee Syndrome. It’s never enough for the Yankee’s, just like the All Blacks now. The Yankee’s this year will be making the playoffs for the 13th straight year, very impressive, even more impressive considering at the All-Star break they written off for dead. But you know all those godless Yankee fans are nonetheless complaining that Boston won the division. It’s not good enough that they actually rallied and made the playoffs, fans still crucify them for not winning the division, just as they’ll crucify them if they don’t win the World Series and just as all of New Zealand will crucify the All Blacks when they don’t win the World Cup. For years now the Yankees have had the best team year in and year out and they always falter in the playoffs. Why? Too much pressure, it’s too much for a human being to endure, to be put up on a pedastal like you’re some uncanny supernatural being. The All Blacks take it a step further by the players actually believing they are. The Yankees havn’t won a series since 2000 and now they have A-Rod, Johnny Damon, Bobby Abreu, Robinson Cano and all these other good players. The All Blacks are in the same position because they glorify their players like the Yankees do.
Dan Carter, the outstanding fly-half for the All Blacks, is the latest to be given the rank of God by New Zealand, with Richie McCaw, arguably the best openside flanker in the game, as Jesus. Rugby never used to have superstars, now with the growth of the All Blacks, we have superstars, which will ultimately hurt the game more than help it. New Zealand was the first team to have a superstar, a player whom the world would know and who would honestly be worthy of such accolades.
Jonah Lomu was his name, the most complete rugby player I’ve ever watched. He coupled size, speed and agility and absolutely dominated rugby at the wing position. His career was unfortunately cut short after he lost one of his kidney’s due to a long struggle with kidney problems, but the mark he left on rugby was indelible. Rugby doesn’t need superstars though, superstars ruin the game, they become bigger than the game and no one is ever supposed to be bigger than the game. I’m sorry, but when there’s 30 people out on a rugby pitch, one man does not make the difference Michael Jordan did on the basketball court. Not according to the All Blacks though, they believe their players are so good that they ARE rugby and therefore can be bigger than it. The reason I love rugby so much is that it’s the most complete team sport there is and no one player is bigger than it.
Next time you watch the All Blacks play take a close look at their jersey and tell me what you see. What you WON’T see is the words New Zealand over the silver fern like you used to. The All Blacks took the words New Zealand off of their jersey’s. Kind of funny when the motto of this year’s World Cup is “The world in union”. I guess the world doesn’t include the almighty All Blacks. If I’m a new fan to the sport and I see that jersey, how do I know who the All Blacks are and who they represent? I know I’m reaching here, but you get the point. They are the only team in the World Cup and probably the world period who do not have their contry’s name or flag on it. To me this is just shameful. These guys have actually elevated themselves in such a way that they’re too great for their country? They’ve put themselves in such a class that the Al Blacks have colectively become dillusional.
So another World Cup will pass and as George Gregan could be seen saying when they beat the All Blacks last world cup and time was running out, “Four more years.” Another World Series will pass as well and the Yankees won’t win either. While the All Blacks have risen to such fame and have marketed their crap all over the world, they have also disgusted fans like myself and many others and have turned themselves into the team we love to see lose, just like the Yankees. We want our teams to be good, but no THAT good and we certainly don’t want them thinking they’re better than us.
I’m going to be a little pretentious here myself and offer some advice to the All Blacks:
Forget the psychologists, the legend, the mystique and all the rah rah. Go back to what you remember when you were a kid, that this is just a great game that you love to play. It’s not about dancing or personal records, it’s about rugby. Somewhere you lost sight of that when you let the dark lords of New Zealand rugby suck you into the black hole. Just go out onto the field and play your game. Leave the expectations and criticisms to the fans and just play the game.
Speaking of dark lords and New Zealand. didn’t they film the Lord of the Rings movies in New Zealand? Maybe the All Blacks are orcs and Graham Henry is Sauron.