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A story of one country's lust for recognition
?The lunatic fringe wags the underdog.? - Henry Louis Mencken
Little Brother against Big Brother, David and Goliath, the Kiwi Battler, Number 8 Fence Wire. These are all images that New Zealand as a country identifies with, but its clearer than Lake Taupo that the great underdogs of the South Pacific have a dirty little secret.
What kind of psyche does the incumbent underdogs tag create amongst New Zealand sports fans? Do we really want our team to win for the right reasons? Do we as Warriors fans really want our team to stamp our mark on the NRL for our love of the game? Or is it for a darker reason, a reason that we do not openly admit but which has found a home deep in the heart of New Zealand League supporters.
For so long I shed blood, sweat and tears watching my beloved Warriors, hoping that each week we would crush our opponents under the mighty boot of New Zealand Rugby League. But one day I had my epiphany; I no longer wanted the Warriors to win for my love of the players and the club but instead I just wanted my club, and thus my country, to be recognised by the NRL heavy weights.
Each week I sat glued to the 'Footy Show' hanging off every word coming out of Fatty and Sterlo's mouths. Each time their lips perched my heart leapt, hoping on the slim chance that they might mention my club, mention my players and pay them a compliment. But the compliments never came and when they did they were but fleeting remarks passing me by quicker than a Dunedin Summer.
The source of this insidious disease is inescapable for most New Zealanders. This perennial underdog image, this die hard lust for recognition is beamed into our homes every evening. The groveling is evident when each celebrity visiting our shores is confronted with the barely palatable question of ?What do you think of New Zealand??. It's the same formulaic routine, every interview leads to a bumbling media school graduate railroading a celebrity into pledging their undying love for our country. This has lead to a nation with an unquenchable thirst to be more than a blip on the radar of the world and with an unrealistic hunger to move up the sporting food chain overnight.
This constant exposure to our TV personalities fishing for geographical compliments has planted the seeds deep within me and these seeds have germinated and grown into a tree I like to call 'Sporting Insecurity'. I now need my Rugby League compatriots to alleviate my distress and make be feel big again in the eyes of Big Brother Australia.
It is for the same reason that without fail I hunt for the Australian commentary each time a Warriors game or League test arrives on my Television screen. I don't want this option so that I can hear the commentators crushed by the victory of my team, but so that I can hear them say how well we are playing to. Because like many New Zealanders, the creature in the pit of my stomach can only be subdued by compliments or it rapidly mutates into 'Tall Poppy Syndrome'.
It increasingly seems that my quest has become a fruitless journey, for the good times are tempered heavily with the bad. It would appear that the object of my affection, an Australian commentator standing up and taking notice of my country as a Rugby League super power is the new Bird Flu; so much hype, all signs point to yes but all results point to no.
And now I've reached a problem, the real 'catch 22 '. In 2006 it's not the Clinton Toopis, Sione Faumuinas and Lance Hohaias who are the standout performers at the Warriors. It is the Steve Prices, Micheal Lucks and Tony Martins who are consistently doing themselves proud in a Warriors Jersey. So when the commentators and league analysts do decide to verbally express their admiration for players in the Black and Silver, it will be Australians who are being praised, not my compatriots, not those bred in the fields of Aotearoa. Maybe this is why the stands at Ericsson remain empty, a team of Australians can't give New Zealand what it needs anymore.
?Envy is blind, and she has no other quality than that of detracting from virtue? - Titus Livy