Monday, December 1, 2008

Rugby: So Much Better Than Football

The All-Blacks vs England Game: November 30, 2008

When someone mentions sports, my eyes tend to immediately glaze over and I start searching out the nearest exit. I have no interest in statistics, players, games, crazy fandom, (ok, I am, admittedly, intrigued by the odd breed of the Super Fan, but I digress) records, fantasy anything, and, worst of all, I hate sports bars. With a passion. All that noise. The chest banging grunting. The cheap beer and the chicken wings. Ugh. I would rather spend an afternoon in the dentist's chair than have to suffer through even fifteen minutes of sitting in a sports bar. This says a lot, since my dentist has gag-inducing smelly rubber gloves, the mere sight of which triggers a whole body production of bile and other nasty secretions. I hate the dentist. I have a cavity that I refuse to have filled, so much do I despise his gloves.

Two weekends ago, I was, in a moment of intoxication induced pliancy, convinced that I should not only agree to willingly go to a sports bar, but then sit there and watch a sporting event. For more than three minutes. And, oh, be excited about that. So much so that I should even wear something special for this event. It never takes much convincing from anyone to get me to dress up, so I agreed.

My defenses had been horrendously compromised due to my consumption of multiple bottles of beer combined with a painfully extended stomach full of jilebi. I couldn't refuse. All plans for the future sound like genius ideas when it happens around a roaring bonfire and I am blissfully sated through sugar and alcohol. Gah. It felt like a calculated set-up. I am nothing if not a woman of my word, however, which is how I found myself wearing a black shirt and driving to the World Sports Grille on Sunday afternoon.

I walked into this bar and began to wonder what it was, exactly, that I had agreed to do. There were hundreds of large screen televisions everywhere around which were situated groups of jersey wearing, semi-intoxicated lugheads. Men and women, screaming and yelling at these televisions, their faces greasy from fried food and their hands dripping with ranch dressing. A high pitched squealing whine began, right behind my left eyeball. My right eye started to twitch. I had serious doubts that I could survive the afternoon, let alone the next ten minutes. Mike, my kiwi buddy, jumped up and gave me a hug, 'Oh, this is going to be an awesome game! You'll be so glad you came!' I smiled, trying to ignore the drilling that was trying to escape out of my brain and through my eye. His wife winked at me.

We sat down in front of a giant screen television. The station was changed and the game was already underway. Mike was incredibly disappointed, telling us that we had missed the haka. I was also highly disappointed -- this had been one of the main reasons I had decided to attend! Luckily, several haka highlights were shown throughout the game.

The first few minutes of the game were rather uninteresting. I spent a lot of time quizzing the waiter on the beers that he had on tap and examining the menu. After the first points of the game were scored, however, I was hooked. Mils Muliaina grinned as he sailed across the goal line in a successful try, as though he had practiced his score smile in the mirror. I laughed -- seeing that was one hundred times inherently better than a touchdown victory dance! The game continued from there to be a bloodbath, with the All Blacks winning 32-6. WOO!

After paying the bill, Mike asked me what I thought of the game. 'I loved it! When is the next one? Can we watch it here?'

He smiled sadly at me,' That was the last game of the season. They won't play again until June.'

I'll just have to become a haka buff in the meantime, I guess.

New Zealand vs. Tonga:

New Zealand vs. South Africa:

Ireland seems to like to taunt the All Blacks. Most famously, they edge closer and closer to the All Blacks as they do their opening haka:

Just this year, Ireland's Munster team decided to attempt to preempt the All Blacks' haka by performing a truncated version of their own:

They didn't appear to be particularly intimidated. Or really, to even notice.

My favorite haka performance (though, admittedly, I've only been paying attention to rugby for a very short time) comes from the World Cup Game of New Zealand against France in 2007. France had Chabal on their team, a famous barbarian of a rugby player. Even me, with my limited knowledge and interest in sports, had heard of this guy. He is a living ghost of Gaul, playing rubgy instead of slaying Romans -- a modern day Vercingetorix!



It takes very little imagination to think of Chabal out on the battlefield, stealing babies:

In watching this haka, Chabal gives the All Blacks the fiery eyeball, but does seem mildly impressed with their showmanship.

It wasn't enough though -- France still won that game. As impressed as I am with the All Blacks, France will always be my team. Sheesh. I have a team? Can Sundays spent watching NASCAR be far behind?