Diatribe - 14

If thereís one thing I canít stand, itís the nationís obsession with rugby. Itís an all-consuming obsession, one that some (namely Jim Flynn, God bless him), would say is bordering on the unhealthy. Expressing ambivalence/complete disinterest in our national sport is on par with treason. Say you hate rugby and people recoil in shock, or get defensive: ďitís probably just because you canít catchĒ. And this unhealthy obsession has become patently obvious during the latest rugby related scandal: green-shirt-gate.

I hate that a rugby club’s decision to change shirt colour spurns the public into uproar, commandeering on third of Campbell Live on Monday and numerous front-page headlines of the ODT. I hate that it’s such an “issue” that 2664 people voted on ODT’s poll (just for reference, that’s 2.2% of the population of Dunedin. It’s about 12% of those who voted for David Cull in the latest mayoral election). With all the outcry, you’d think the sex scandal of the century had been exposed, or a series of mass murders at the hands of a city councillor had come to light. But no. An item of clothing had been redesigned.

So why are these people all up in arms? Basically, the green-haters are all upset because the team won’t “feel like theirs”; there will be a disconnect between supporters and the players. A caption on the ODT website beneath a green rugby shirt read: “would Adam Thomson look good in a shirt something like this?”, inevitably forcing the reader to respond with a resounding “no”. Highlander fans were quoted in the ODT as saying that the move was "disgusting", "ridiculous" and "a slap in the face of tradition".

If our self-worth and love for a rugby team is so tied in with the colour of a shirt, what does this say about us? The problem with green-shirt-gate isn’t a disregard for “tradition”, it’s about our fucked up attitude to sport. Ultimately, sport is about playing a game. It’s about 30 men in tight shirts competing against each other for an hour and a half. It’s about having a good time, physical exercise and sportsmanship. It shouldn’t be about the people of the region’s personal self-esteem (unless we’re playing the game itself), or about some sort of regional pride. It’s nonsensical to feel so emotional about something that you have neither directly contributed to, nor have any real connection with.

When we lose sight of the fact that rugby is only a game, and only a moderately interesting one at that, and start to associate it with our identity, things get a little twisted. When we start using words like “believe” and “faith”, we stop being a secular society and begin adopting rugby as our “religion”. It’s bloody weird.

At the end of the day, it’s not all that big a deal. Brands re-brand all the time. Look at The Warehouse, Countdown, Herbal Essences and so on and so forth. We get a little nervous about change, and then we move on, same old same old. It’s still the same product after all.

Posted 4:16am Wednesday 6th July 2011 by Hazel Green.