Sunday, November 30, 2003

England - winner

Yes, it's difficult to contain my enthusiasm for the Pommes winning the 2003 Rugby World Cup, but I'll manage. It did turn out to be a good final game, almost very good, but it had everything to do with the hype surrounding the game than the actual play itself. This article, I think, captured the pre-game festivities just about right. World sporting events just help to show everything that is right with the world - in my humble opinion. From the previously-mentioned article, check out the joking that will go on between the Brits, the Aussies, and the New Zealanders:

Ordinary Australians are more likely to joke about the English not taking a bath; your average Pom about the Australian finding culture only in the bottom of yoghurt cartons. Both will joke about New Zealanders being over-enamoured of sheep: hence the notion that the "Cormo Express" be re-named the "Love Boat" and sent to Auckland.
We got at least one great headline (coming soon) out of it, though.

Johhny Wilkinson was superb, per usual, for England. He kicked the winning goal with just one minute remaining in overtime.

Now, let's get to detracting. Rugby is far too slow for my taste, even though I had some Brit sitting across the table from me (at Summers) explaining to his significant other how much faster and continuous - continous? - Rugby was than American football. Now, I'm not going to sit here and defend the American football as a continuous game, but to call Rugby continuous because it has slightly fewer stops than American football is like calling Afghanistan a nice place for a visit because it's slightly less violent than Iraq.

Let's set up another joke - it's worth it. During the runup to the final, the Aussie press was all over England for playing a predictable, sleepy game - and the criticism wasn't all undeserved. With that, there is also a general knock that the version of Rugby played in the Rugby World Cup relies too much on the not-overly-exciting 'goal' - like a field goal in American football. The 'try', worth five points instead of three, is akin to the touchdown in American football, and like the touchdown, it is much more exciting than a 'goal'. When you add the automaticity and long range of a goal-kicker like Johnny Wilkinson to the mix, you get more and more predictability, more stops in play, etc. Here's the joke from an Aussie:

I was sitting in my favourite local pub last weekend, watching the England v France semi-final. There was a group of England supporters at the bar, and they had a mascot with them. A dachshund done up in a little red-and-white vest. Don't ask me how they talked the doorman into letting them bring it in, but they managed it somehow.

Well, not long into the match, France gave away a penalty and, true to form, Johnny Wilkinson nalied it through the uprights for 3 points. The dog started yapping and rolling about, much to the delight of the English, and the amazement of everyone else.

A little later, Johnny made one of his famous field goals, putting the English further ahead. The dog went mad! It did three back-flips on the bar, and then ran up and down high-fiving all the punters. Most of us were agape by this stage at the dog's athletic ability and intelligence, so I went over and said to his owner, "That dog really is amazing. I've never seen anything like it, but I have to know... What does he do when England score a try?"

The Englishman gave a shrug, and with a totally straight face said:

"I don't know. I've only had him for three years."