So, it’s finally so close you can smell it. The smell I refer to is a mixture of damp turf, sweaty socks and, more specifically, the smell of four and half million Kiwis mentally preparing themselves for the possibility of yet another disappointment – the potential for an All Blacks “choke”. That’s right, the tournament that legally inhibits anyone from publishing it’s proper name due to copyright infringement, gets under way in less than 48 hours. And, I don’t know about you, but I’m as nervous as a pubescent boy asking a pretty girl for the time of day. Maybe even more…
Ever since I was a young lad, any “Individual Study” in Intermediate school (Did everyone else have these? The ones where you chose your own topic?) I would, without a second thought, choose the All Blacks or Rugby as my topic to study for the next 2-3 weeks. This would follow, 5-6 months later, with me absolutely stumped for another topic when the teacher ran out of material and decided we needed to do another “Individual Study”. Needless to say, as a LOT of other Kiwi kids did, I loved rugby. So much so that, when I stayed up until 3am to watch that fateful 1995 final in South Africa, and endured the torture of seeing our beloved AB’s giving semi-digested-food donations to the surface of Ellis Park, and that final drop goal from Joel Stransky go sailing over the cross-bar, I may or may not have cried.
The next three World Cups hardly need mentioning. Suffice to say that I remember exactly where I was for each of the two semi-final losses and that atrocious quarter-final-that-shall-not-be-spoken-of. Each of these moments are burnt into my subconscious and refuse to be erased by any attempt to mentally remove them from my mind. And, having been so disappointed and deflated in these previous four-yearly tournaments, I’m loathe to get as excited this time around.
But I can’t help it! There’s no way that I, the guy that turns into a screaming lunatic in front of any semi-important rugby game, who manages to attract numerous sideways glances from fellow viewers for my sporadic F-bombs and loudly broadcast, bias commentary and who, hours prior to any All Black game, breaks out in a cold sweat, am going to go into this world cup without anything but faith in our national team.
My amazingly resilient better-half has regularly been embarrassed by my blind following of our national rugby team over the past six years… and for good reason probably. So, it is with this amount of gusto, self-imposed empathy and one-eyed fanaticism that I will don whatever NZ-based rugby jersey is in arms reach (probably my BOP jersey), trackies and slippers and get up at 8am this Friday (UK time) to watch the opening ceremony and the AB’s show the Tongans how to play real rugby. Heck, I may even have a morning beer (after all, I think it’s actually illegal to watch an AB test without a beer?). And I will enjoy every minute of all of this world cup… unless the AB’s lose of course… which will probably send me into a downward spiral of depression and end up with me lying semi-naked in a gutter, somewhere near central London, muttering maniacal nonsense to myself. Well… just for a day or so anyway.
Go the AB’s!!