New Zealand 2005

Journal 7

Gallery 4 Gallery 4 New Zealand is a sporting nation. Even though there are only four million people, there are professional leagues for rugby, cricket, basketball, netball, and soccer. In addition to all of those mainstream sports, New Zealanders also enjoy golf, tennis and many of the new adventure sports.

Since we are on a cross-cultural program, we have all been encouraged to attend a New Zealand sporting event. Most of the students have in one way or the other attended an event, but I am sure that everyone has had very different experiences. Some students got to see New Zealand vs. Australia in cricket while we were in Auckland. Almost all of us attended the rugby league match between the Crusaders and the Chiefs while we were in Christchurch. Adam Savanick and I also got to see the first day (yes, a full day) of the five-day test match between New Zealand and Australia (more cricket).

Crusaders vs. Chiefs
American gridiron football? HA! That is the usual response that we get when we try to make comparisons to rugby. The Crusaders are the team that we are supposed to be cheering for in this match, they are the home team. My host dad got us the tickets in the lively student section for this game. The arena, Jade Stadium, is like any open-air arena in the States, and I am sure the typical fan is pretty much the same too. However, the game is totally different from any other, even though it still comes from the same roots as football and soccer. The pace of the match is faster than American football, with an 80 minute running clock, almost like a soccer game. It also seems like the players are trying to get tackled. I am used to football players trying to run away from the opposing side, but these rugby players bull straight through until they are taken down. There are also not that many substitutions, and there is a penalty box called the sin bin (an apt name). The arena is almost like a big bowl of testosterone at the beginning of the match, and the usual outlet is a punch in the face of the other teams supporter sitting next to you. During the game there are three fights in the crowd. Another routine sight is of that precious commodity called beer, being thrown at other fans. And then there is more fighting. When there are fights like the one on field in this match, there is no wonder that the spectators do not fight more! Our host dad tells us that this is a pretty calm night in the student section. The game is close at the beginning, with the Waikato (Chiefs) cowbells making a racket when their team is playing well. But finally around half time the Crusaders hit a switch and pour on the offense. The cowbells are not heard for the rest of the night, much to the delight of the home team fans. The final score is 52-18; the first time the Crusaders have hit the half-century in a couple of years. As you trudge out of the stadium, that testosterone stuff stays with you, secretly prompting you to tackle the jerk that just butted in front of you in line for the exit. I wonder if that is the cross-cultural learning that is supposed to be happening at these events?

Cricket Match
This event is extremely special. Firstly, because our host dad scored some corporate seating tickets for Adam and I. Second, Australia is No. 1 in the world for cricket (and labeled perhaps the best side ever), and they are New Zealand's biggest rival.

Our host dad took off of work to come see the beginning of the match with us. The match started at 10:30, with a lunch break, two tea breaks, and it usually lasts until 5:00. That same schedule is repeated for the next five days, or until every player from both teams gets out twice. Then the winner is finally decided based on how many runs a team has. To be honest, cricket is much more exciting than American baseball. There is so much strategy and the different types of bowling and batting make the game different all of the time.

We had amazing seats for the match. Corporate seating is all that it is cracked up to be. There is a plush lounge inside with TVs that we can take advantage of, even though we have the best seats in the arena already. To top it off there is a fridge beside our outside seats that is well stocked with beer and other drinks. We are told that we can help ourselves to the contents of the fridge. Our host dad enjoys a beer with us before lunch, but then he has to get back to a meeting before one. Adam and I eat a hearty lunch of spicy wedges and sour cream. We end up staying almost the whole day, leaving at 4:30 to get home for supper.

New Zealand does okay, they only have 3 out of their 10 people out after the first day. They amass 237 runs and Hamish Marshall, a young New Zealander, has hit the century mark and is still not out. The pace of the match is pretty fast with Australia on the attack with their bowlers. After 4 o'clock the pace slows, with New Zealand not wanting to get out, and Australia not wanting them to score many more runs. During the day we watched as the Aussie bowlers launched over six hundred pitches. In the next couple of days, New Zealand does not do well in their next innings and Australia barely has to work to beat them. Not many people were at the cricket game because of how poorly New Zealand has been playing lately. This proud sporting nation is being crushed by another British Commonwealth state in one of their stronger sports. But then who likes it when you lose? Especially when it is to an old penal colony.

- Joel Shank

Other current program:
Latin America
Spain