Why?

Sometimes I wonder why I?m a rugby league fan. Well, that?s a lie; rugby league runs in my family, and my journey to become a full-blown footy fan was mapped out ahead of me from birth (well, maybe I was supposed to stop along the way and actually be a decent player at some point- but let?s ignore that for a minute). We all stumble across hobbies, past-times, and passions in many different ways, in our piteous attempts to spend the interminable hours of our meaningless existences doing something not merely enjoyable, but also personally consequential. Or something like that. It?s not my intention to get metaphysical but sometimes I can?t help myself. As an avowed pessimist, a manic-depressive cynic, and so on and so forth, the fact that I am a compulsive sports fan in general is a constant source of fascination to me. We all know the taunts of non-sports fans, the predictable yet almost indomitable force of their mockeries of the bizarre games that we watch, the absurd rituals we go through every weekend (at least). Why do we do it? What is the meaning? Is there a God?

These are all interesting questions, of course, but need they be asked? It could simply be that we follow rugby league because, like all people, we have nothing better to do. Certain attributes appeal to us in an aesthetic sense, as pure entertainment, real life human drama- but then again, Survivor and Big Brother don?t get their own regular spot in ?serious? news coverage. Rugby league is much more, or perhaps much less, than human drama. It is utterly contrived; players are paraded in front of thousands of people, dressed in matching uniforms, expected to conform to set patterns of behaviour, and judged purely on attributes such as size, strength, and speed. They are pitted against each other in a frantic rat race. I could say this was a metaphor for ?modern life?, or the oppressive socio-political systems that constrain all members of ?civilized society?, but that would be getting ridiculous. Suffice to say, we enjoy competition, especially competitive violence. It?s human nature, no more or less.

But I?m merely stating the obvious. We all know that rugby league has that intrinsic gladiatorial appeal. We bay for blood, and know that we?re expressing the more bestial side of human nature. There?s no shame in it, because it is best expressed in a relatively safe, controlled environment, between teams of consenting adults who are handsomely paid, and may even be enjoying what they do. This doesn?t explain our passion, our loyalty to a particular team, or even this particular sport. I don?t think of myself as a nationalistic person, but I can?t quell the Kiwi fervour that fills my soul (I don?t really believe in that, either) every time the black and whites play a test. Perhaps in the future I will leave Auckland, and god forbid, decide that there are nicer cities in the world- yet I will never stop supporting the Warriors. Again, this is human nature- our desire to identify ourselves with something, so that we can feel like we are part of achievements that transcend our individual capacities. To truly identify oneself with something, it is necessary to be loyal. It is a quirk, perhaps a frailty of the human condition, that we cannot truly appreciate the multitudinous successes around us, but must permanently and narrow-mindedly align ourselves to one particular team in order to feel the pure elation of accomplishment.

Why not just side with those sport haters who can see through us, and pick apart our reasons for enjoying rugby league? Why can?t we accept that our local prejudices are manifestations of the basest idiocies of human nature? We revel in violence and conflict, and wallow in groundless hatred, and we lamely attempt to bask in the reflected glory of others.

Should we be excused this luxury? Of course. Whatever your philosophy, whatever your politics, we can all agree that life is short, and people are people. Can I come up with any coherent argument validating our inanities, proving why rugby league should be so important to people? No. All I can say is that it keeps us entertained, and allows us to thrill, if only for brief, joyous moments, in the feats of our insignificant, glorious heroes. Personally, I can?t think of a better way to spend the interminable hours of my meaningless existence.

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