(Almost) nobody says it better than us
The good news is that for this column’s first contribution to The Detail podcast (a cool collaboration between Newsroom and Radio NZ that drills down deep into subjects of import), we came up with some incredibly articulate, succinct and apposite zingers.
The less good news is that, in the time-honoured tradition of almost great conversationalists everywhere, many of these zingers came to us about 10 minutes after we’d finished recording.
Let’s not make that mistake again, and crack into the big issue raised by the two sentences above: why in the heck is this dude referring to himself in the first-person plural?
We’ve done that, of course, in homage to Samuel Whitelock, the maybe next All Blacks captain who achieved the rare feat of referring to himself as a ‘we’ for the entirety of a very lengthy, brutally honest, and very lengthy press release announcing their decision to sort of stick with NZ Rugby for maybe a full George Gregan (four more years).
Big Sams’ offerings included this gem:
"I thought we were just going to go to Japan and not come back to New Zealand. But full credit to New Zealand Rugby, they sat us down and we worked through some issues and we're really happy with where we're at now."
Full credit to you Sams. We’re thrilled for yous. Bloody good to have yous hanging around in the event yous don’t decide to stay in Japan or get injured or bored or snubbed by the next coach for the captaincy.
Back to the podcast, which is something you should most definitely access via the RNZ app and then listen to in your car next time you fancy listening to a commercial-free 12-minute chat chocked full of almost zingers.
The subject of our first contribution was the vexing issue of the Crusaders’ name. We said a bunch of stuff, effectively doubling down on a recent column in which we argued the champion franchise’s name must change.
We said stuff about the Crusaders fans whose main argument for keeping the name is that the word Crusade doesn’t mean to them what it actually means; that it is solely a reference to a rugby team and has no relation to an identical word used to describe centuries of holy wars.
We said those fans (and thanks for all the lovely correspondence last time around you lot) were burying their heads in the boggy ground behind the Rugby League Park goalposts.
Of course, we didn’t say it that cleverly, for reasons already explained.
But we did point out that those fans’ world view was very much at odds with, you know, the world.
And we recited these words issued by Isis leader and apparent Blues fan Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi in a typically insane video rant that surfaced this week: "The Battle of Islam against the Crusaders and their followers is a long battle."
Mr Al-Baghdadi also said some other crazy stuff about his band of monsters and cutthroats striking fear into the hearts of the Crusaders and blah blah blah.
The point is that, when placed in the following order, the letters C R U S A D E R S spell out a reference to the perpetrators of some pretty heinous acts in the name of god – something there is still far, far too much of happening 1000 years later.
You don’t get to brush that just because you’ve never thought too deeply into the symbolism of dudes in chainmail wielding swords on horseback rocking out to gothic music at a rugby match.
Yep, we said a bunch of clever stuff on The Detail (did I mention the RNZ app?). But what we didn’t say, and should have, was this.
Imagine you are a Muslim living in Christchurch. Now imagine you lost a loved one or a friend, or a friend’s brother or sister or child on March 15 (given the tightly interconnected nature of our Muslim community in New Zealand you can take that as a given). Imagine how you are feeling right now.
Now imagine how you would feel if the city you called home decided not to change the name of its rugby team from something that is a direct reference to a campaign of violence committed upon people of your faith. Imagine the thoughts evoked by references to the glorious deeds of the champion Crusaders you’ll have to live with, day-in, day-out.
Consider the message you are sending those people if you cling to a name because, well, you just really like it. And, when you do, consider the words of our Prime Minister that were heard around the world. That the victims in Christchurch are not an other, not a them.
“They are us.”
And WE need to do the right thing by our people here.
The Crusaders aren’t the finest franchise in global rugby because of their unfortunate marketing brand. They are great because of a culture and institutional capability that both prizes and consistently generates excellence.
They’ll continue to be champions by any name – except, of course, the one they have now. If they cling to that, they’ll be losers.