Oh dear. Oh very dear. That’s not normal cloud: a pall is enveloping the proud nation of New Zealand this morning, following the All Blacks’ unexpected defeat on Saturday night to Robbie Deans’ brave Australians.
If you’re feeling the least bit blue, avoid the talkback radio interrogations of the big subjects – such as the national psyche and elbow hyperextensions – and turn instead to Wait of a Nation (“Home of New Zealand’s Crushing Expectation”), a deliciously sardonic rugby website designed to get us all mentally ready for the anguish and agony that will follow an early exit from the World Cup. Think of it as a preparatory hose-down of disappointment.
“Wait of a Nation is here to amplify the woe. It will fixate on and obsess about our World Cup frailties,” the site announces. “Think of it as a virtual lens through which the country can better focus its forbidden, ruinous hope for glory into a destructive force, like a looking glass sharpens the heat of the sun on an ant.”
Wait of a Nation is not solely gloom and gags. There are some pretty interesting statistics, graphs, historical rundowns – all of which illustrates the inescapable truth, that the All Blacks are scintillatingly brilliant pretty much all the time. Apart from at World Cups. They also sell T-shirts, which feature an All Black cowering beneath a map of New Zealand (weight of the nation, geddit?). User instructions: “Wear it in the foetal position.”
I got in touch with the bloke who runs the site, Eammon Conaghan, or “Beak”. In an email (he’s on his honeymoon, since you ask), he said:
I regard it all as a panicking aide. Not that kiwis are bad at panicking but we tend to do all our fretting in silos. It’s time to be scared together.
In honesty, though, I’ve lived abroad most of my life and I’ve seen NZ get a bad wrap for our rugby too may times. There’s a perception out there – perpetuated by rugby journos around the world – that we’re petty, entitled, ill-tempered and insular rugby fans.
(On which perception, I humbly refer you to my post of Friday, starring Alastair Campbell dancing the “chokey-choke”.)
I tend to disagree with all those views. NZ is, even if by economic necessity, one of the most unassuming and outward-looking countries in the world, so it annoys me to see the country misrepresented that way. Let’s face it, our real national weakness is negativity and pessimism, not arrogance.
I wanted to put a site out there that showed we are actually versatile people who can love the All Blacks and laugh at ourselves at the same time. So Wait of a Nation is here to square the ledger. And it allows us to prod the mental scars of past tournaments while dwelling on the mounting pressure of the next one. That’s important too.
As far as ways of dealing with this aspect of The New Zealand Condition, Conaghan’s site is, I reckon, a perfect tonic. Well worth a read, and much wittier than this sort of silliness.
Update, 8 September: Good to know the National Radio Nine to Noon team are keen readers. Kathryn Ryan’s interview with Conaghan is here: