Choking

Kiwis are really, really good at a small range of minority sports. So good, in fact, that the weight of the entire nation’s expectation rests on the hope that these sports might firmly, and finally, put New Zealand on the map.

It is a heavy burden to bear by our national sports stars who, lets face it, are not altogether the smartest, most well-rounded cookies in the jar.

Which inevitably leads to the one sport in which New Zealand truly leads the international field…Choking.

In two rugby world cups New Zealand has been knocked out in the crucial stages by France – a country whose minor level of national interest in the sport, is limited to the culinary possibilities of half time l’oranges. Some even go so far as to suggest that the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior, by the French Government in Auckland Harbour in 1985, was intended not to bring about the financial ruin of Greenpeace, but was a rather more subtle psychological tactic against future encounters with the All Blacks. However, these sorts of conspiracy theorists tend to be unhinged retards, with few or no friends. Or Jason Gunn.

Then there is the oh-so-democratic, peoples’ sport of Billionaire Yachting, otherwise known as ‘The America’s Cup‘.  For two series during the late 1990s New Zealand appeared unbeatable against the world. Until 2003,  that is, when Russell Coutts, the Kiwi skipper who had previously defended the title for Team NZ, defected to the Swiss team of Alinghi (in exchange for vast sums of Nazi gold), mounting a serious and threatening challenge.

Deeply concerned about the eyes of the world no longer giving a shit about Auckland’s viaduct once every four years, New Zealand got behind their team with a level of fervour and jingoism not seen since the Nuremburg Rallies. The government pitched in vast sums of taxpayer’s money. Local christian-rock crooner, Dave Dobbyn, reworked his classic love ballad, ‘Loyal’, into a thinly-barbed attack on unpatriotism. And the rest of the country wore red socks until our feet turned blue.

The pressure of all of which pushed the young, inexperienced Team NZL skipper Dean Barker, and his crew, into a fit of world-class choking from which the yachting world is still wiping the flecks of spittle from it’s face.

New Zealand sport is indeed a game of two halves. One half overwhelming expectation, and the other half, inevitable bitter national disappointment.

Thank God we’re not into football, or we’d be practically suicidal.