Music:'I Threw A Brick Through A Window (31 August 1984)' by U2
The problem of professionalism.
This evening, I spoke to my Grandad on the phone, and as always, much of the conversation focused on sport - we both enjoy our rugby union, cricket, and soccer. In the course of the conversation, one point was raised, and that is since 1995, there has been one aspect that has been detrimental to the game of rugby: professionalism. In 1995, rugby union went professional, and I think that may have been the worst direction the game could have chosen. If there is one thing I do not like about sport, it is professionalism. I absolutely do not believe in it. My motto with regards to these matters is that you play for pride and the love of your town/region/country, not for money. Playing for money tends to do a nice job of sucking passion out of the game; it turns an athletic pursuit, a past-time (or in New Zealand's case, the national religion) into a business. Forget love for Wellington - the enemy, Auckland, just offered more money, so let's play for them! Rivalries become moot in the greedy quest for the most dollars.
I've always loved the 3rd Division in the NPC. Go look at a team such as Buller, the laughing stock of the entire competition. They can barely win a thing; if anyone's dead bottom of the entire three divisions of the NPC, there's a good chance it will be Buller. But I have to admire them, because the people who play for Buller play because they love rugby, they love Buller, and they love representing Buller in rugby. It's not about how much money is on the table; it's about passion. And that's what makes sport great. When you really care about the sport and the place you represent, the spirit of the game thrives. When you're just playing for money, it's greed. There is no place for greed in sport. I hope rugby union doesn't turn into the bloated, inordinately wealthy sport that football is in Europe, but it's a slippery slope and only a matter of time, I fear.
At least the All Blacks jersey still has some meaning. And for you Australians, the Wallabies jersey has no meaning. None. Except for 'shit'. (See, there's your regional passion!)