New releases in New Zealand, 25 June 2019
The Game (You’ll Never Walk Alone) – Tackhead
On Sunday morning I watched Big League Soccer on TV. I remember three things:
- The sound and feeling
When I was watching, Liverpool was the team that won everything. They seemed great. I remember a lanky chap with a mustache. Millwall kept winning unexpectedly.
I never followed it though. Never understood the history, the rivalries, or who was who. Didn’t understand about the rise of the hooligans.
It was the sound and feeling of it that partly captured me. Watching the soccer on telly was like having a pass to witness a primal mass event. The roaring, chanting, groaning crowd was just as much a part of it as the actual game the crowd were responding to. Witnessing the shared grief (it did seem like it was actual grief), and the ecstasy (again, it seemed like it was actual ecstasy) was one thing, but there was also a sense that everything could go the wrong way at any point and violent blood-letting might only be a heartbeat away.
Fairly soon after I started playing soccer in 1980 the All Whites went to the World Cup in Mexico. It was exciting stuff, and watching those games and Big League Soccer on the telly temporarily filled my head with all kinds of soccer dreams. However, in all my fifteen years of playing soccer I was never in a good team (and I was a mediocrity). On the up side there was never a dull moment as I was a defender and my team was never on the attack.
I must have started school at Scots College in 1979. Because it was the late 1970s and early 1980s while I was there, and because it was New Zealand, and because Scots College was a bastion of conservatism, there were only two sports offered to the boys. In summer you played cricket, and in winter you played rugby. Problematically, my mother had absolutely no desire for me to play rugby which she regarded (more or less accurately) as a rather violent game in which only children might get maimed, trodden on and eye-gouged. New Zealand, it seems to me, was not a place that was particularly tolerant of people with views like my mother’s in 1979. The mainstream view at the time seemed to be, in short, if you had a penis you bloody well played rugby.
My mother enrolled me at a soccer club in Khandallah.
I believe that to achieve this my mother had to have a meeting with the Head Master to explain why I wasn’t playing rugby. Looking back on it this seems extraordinary – that schools could be this narrow and dogmatic – and it reminds me why a lot of change in New Zealand has been for the good. People often think that New Zealand becoming more accepting of diversity is just to do with accepting people from other cultures into our country, but it has mainly been about accepting other versions of what a Pākehā can be. Let’s face it, that’s all it really has been. The interests of minority groups have always tended to be playing third fiddle to Pākehā men (first fiddle), and Pākehā women (second fiddle).
So I played soccer for a couple of years along with the other bunch of weirdos, freaks, and unhappy, pastey sons of ex-pat Brits until a couple of funny things happened: the Springboks came for the tour in 1981 which turned a lot of people off that game (briefly), and New Zealand went to the Soccer World Cup in Mexico in 1982.
For a brief moment in time soccer was popular in New Zealand. One of the lesser known seismic changes that occurred with the arrival of the Labour government in 1984 was that Scots College, in my last year at that school, started its first soccer team. This was very exciting, and I dutifully showed up for the trial one day after school. To my utter amazement I wasn’t picked (I’m actually still a little miffed about it), and so ended my time at Scots in a soccer sulk. I carried on playing soccer and enjoying it right through to university in the mid-1990s, by which time you could look another New Zealand man in the eye and tell him you played soccer and he wouldn’t automatically assume you were a homosexual. I don’t mind if someone thinks I’m gay, but I prefer it to based on something other than what kind of ball sport I play.
Played. I stopped in the early 90s.
I don’t watch sport anymore. There are quite a few reasons but I think the main one might be that sport is quite silly. That’s ok – art is silly too – but I just lose interest in silliness I can’t do, and being at a certain stage of life I can’t “do” sport anymore. Which doesn’t mean I think I am physically incapable, it means I have far too many other things going on to want to give up hours of my week to running around a field.
Also, professionalism has a weird affect on sport. It makes it technically better, played on better surfaces with better facilities, but far less emotionally involving. Once money becomes the motive all the other stuff begins to feel a bit like a con – a lever – to get your money. Being loyal to a team now feels like being loyal to a corporation. Corporations of course seek your loyalty but everyone knows that every person in a corporation is expendable so giving loyalty is a very foolish thing to do likely only to make you work harder and longer than you really should. Once the workers/players realise this then they begin to move around, and all the teams just become temporary conglomerations of people on a payroll for the financial year with no particular affiliation to the place they are supposed to represent.
Don’t take it so seriously.
It’s something I’ve never been able to do. Whatever it is I will always take it too seriously.
New releases in New Zealand, 25 June 2019
- Tim Finn and Herbs – Parihaka
- Living Color – Open Letter (To A Landlord)
- Stevie Nicks – Rooms On Fire
- Tackhead – The Game (You’ll Never Walk Alone)