(First published in the Curmudgeon column, The Dominion Post, January 18.)
IS IT MY imagination, or have we been bombarded with more cricket than usual this summer?
I always get the feeling that the media gives this quaint sport far more attention than it merits. It gets saturation coverage, but I notice from TV that the grandstands are often almost deserted. At Seddon Park during the first test against Pakistan, you could have sprayed the stands with machine-gun fire and not risked hitting a single living soul.
It’s a different story in Australia. Matches between Australia and England attract huge, obstreperous crowds, but these encounters carry a lot of historical and cultural freight. The Australians haven’t forgotten that their first white settlers were criminal exiles from Britain, and they like nothing more than to give their former colonial overlords a bloody nose (a pleasure denied them in the recent Ashes series). Perhaps cricket here would be more exciting if there were the same grudge factor.
What intrigues me most about cricket, in New Zealand anyway, is the sociology of the game. Of all our popular sports, it seems the most unremittingly bourgeois.
The young men playing it all look as if they come from comfortable, white, middle-class suburbs with neatly manicured lawns. I bet Tawa has produced lots of cricketers.
They all have white, middle-class names like Ben, Tim and Scott and look as if they were brought up by conscientious parents who drove them to practice sessions, watched all their games and kept scrapbooks recording their progress. Dad, who’s probably an accountant and stalwart of the local Rotary, would have spent hours patiently practising with them in the back yard. Mum would have carefully packed lunches for them on match days and ensured their whites were always Persil-clean and neatly ironed.
Although Maori and Pacific Islanders are natural team players, you don’t see a lot of dark faces on cricket pitches. I wonder why.
Even cricketers’ bad behaviour tends to be of the white-bread variety. Though the sport produces the occasional outlaw – Shane Warne and Jesse Ryder come to mind – most cricketing transgressions fall into the temperamental, hissy-fit category, such as whining at being left out of the team, rather than 4am brawls outside disreputable nightclubs and sleazy group sex sessions in hotel rooms.
Cricketers are a self-absorbed lot too, given to embarrassing displays of hand-wringing introspection after every crushing defeat. If I were the Black Caps’ coach, John Wright, I’d be more worried about their mental fragility than their erratic performance.
As for their childish rituals of team solidarity, such as the high-fiving and back-slapping every time an opposing batsman is dismissed – aaarrghh! What would W G Grace have made of it?
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THE EVIDENCE is incontrovertible that television newsreaders and reporters are sent to the same speech school as Air New Zealand cabin crew. The giveaway is the emphasis they place on prepositions and conjunctions – joining words – rather than the nouns and verbs that matter.
Rawdon Christie, who has lately been filling in as a newsreader on TV One, has developed this mode of speech to an art form. He informed us last week, for example, that the US Congress suspended sittings in the wake of the recent shootings in Arizona, that a courageous intern stayed with wounded politician Gabrielle Giffords (who, incidentally, remained in a critical condition in a Tucson hospital), and that a minute’s silence was observed for the shooting victims.
This is the same vocal mannerism adopted by Air New Zealand crew who urge passengers: “Do remain in your seats until the aircraft has stopped outside the terminal”. Lately I have even heard this peccadillo creeping into Radio New Zealand news bulletins.
Mind you, nothing TVNZ does should surprise us. This is the network that likes its reporters to be, above all else, young and easy on the eye, and obviously instructs them to adopt a breezy, conversational tone, as if chatting with their friends over a latte, rather than the more formal, authoritative manner traditionally associated with broadcast journalism.
* * *
AUSTRALIANS love to make fun of the way New Zealanders talk, and especially the way we pronounce the letter “i”.
A Melbourne-based friend recently told me he was asked to give a presentation at a business conference across the ditch. Unbeknown to him, the script he was given contained a little practical joke. He had to recite a figure that included several sixes – and when it came out as “sux thousand and suxty-sux”, to Aussie ears anyway, the audience roared with laughter.
But why sux should be considered any more amusing than seex, or fush and chups more absurd than feesh and cheeps, is beyond me.
I now see that the Orstrylian Broadcasting Corporation has published an iPhone app based on a popular Aussie veedeo that mocks the Koiwoi accent. It’s time we heet back at this tiresome peece-taking.