You know that famous adage “it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose it’s the playing that counts”? I couldn’t agree more, as long as it’s the other guy that loses!
If you have no idea what I might be referring to, let me give you some clues: The entire nation of New Zealand, all 4 million including babies, is now able to hold its breath for approximately 4 minutes without passing out; over half the nation is probably still suffering from a sore throat; John Key, the current prime minister, is certain of re-election later this month; 93% of the electorate in a spot vote felt the French team should not be fined for crossing the Maginot line….
Still no idea what I am talking about?
France and New Zealand went into battle Sunday, October 23rd for 80 minutes. Thirty men took to the field ready to lay down their lives to get their hands on William Webb Ellis.
And in case it still isn’t clear to some of you, New Zealand hosted the 7th edition of the world rugby cup competition which finished last weekend in a grandiose clash between 2 exceptional teams: Les Bleus (wearing white) de France and the All Blacks of New Zealand.
Six weeks of media focus on this major sporting event had convinced most New Zealanders and the rest of the world that NZ was a rugby nation and that Kiwi kids grew up running around bare footed, kicking a ball. One was given the impression that any male child over the age of 7 ran the risk of expatriation if he didn’t show some kind of aptitude for the sport and a girl, by a misfortune of birth, could never aspire to the highest honor in the land: All Black status.
And if belief is nine tenths of truth, then New Zealanders, regardless of gender or where they live, are indeed experts on rugby and spend much of their time eating and breathing the game. It would not be difficult to believe, either, that immigration authorities in New Zealand might seek to test eligibility for citizenship by requesting that all foreigners be au fait with the language of scrums, rucks and forward passing. This would make France’s preoccupation with testing immigrants for proficiency in the French language look positively banal.
Any of the above items may or may not tell a part of the story of how I came to live in France but it most certainly explains why I invited a group of one-eyed Kiwis and “other-eyed” Frogs to share the final of the world cup at our place last weekend. “May the best team win,” bleated our two toned Pommy friends, unsure about where it was safest to place their loyalties.
The game started even before the kick off with the French slowly advancing V shaped, hand in hand, towards the All Blacks sacrosanct Haka and spooked out, not only their opposition, but 4 million other people as well. No one had forgotten the mythical defeats the French had inflicted upon the Blacks at other decisive moments in Cup history. With true Gallic panache, the French threw down the gauntlet, silently saying “We are not afraid of you” as they crossed the forbidden half way line.
I poured myself another cup of tea and sent an expletive via cyber space to friends at Eden Park.
“Our Boys” took things in hand in the first 10 minutes, expediting Parra to the sidelines with a smashed cheek bone, “sadly” removing France’s best kicker from the fray. “All’s fair in love and war”.
When we had our first try in the bag it felt really good until Weepu missed the conversion and two subsequent penalties. France scored beside the posts and easily converted it, even without Parra.
And then the doubt set in.
Could the French do it to us again?
Yes, they could!
I pace the kitchen.
I send more expletives.
Weepu is replaced by a lanky lad in an undersized T shirt.
My nephew tells us he is the laughing stock of NZ.
Must be the goofy grin and exposed belly button.
“Never judge a book by its cover”.
Three more points!
Four minutes left to play and one point separating joy from misery.
The nation draws in its breath.
There is a tight stillness in the universe.
And then it is over.
My nephew sums it up, “Only one point but we’ll take it!”
And now that New Zealand has its name safely inscribed on the damn cup and the national psyche has been assuaged, it is actually possible for Kiwis to admit that the French probably deserved to win that particular match. The French are so pleased with their unexpected performance that I suspect they don’t mind the one point loss. They don’t appear to have complained about the 5000 dollar fine for crossing the line either.
Who was watching? Was justice done? What do you think of the French coach referring to his team as spoilt brats and then crying in public over Paradise Lost at Eden?
Have a good month of November and enjoy watching the leaves change color.