Lindsay Perigo: Team Of Champions
It was the best & worst of New Zealand on Saturday night. The best - the Crusaders' thrilling victory over the Australian Brumbies in the Super 12 rugby final. A more seamless, relentless, clever & at times dazzling performance we haven't seen in a while, including from our national team, the All Blacks. Fifteen brilliant players formed an invincible chain, with not a single weak link.
All the more incongruous, then, that the beer commercials played on television before & after the game & at half time referred to the Crusaders as "a champion TEAM, not a team of CHAMPIONS." Only in New Zealand (well, maybe not!) could a feat of individualism be poisoned by this sort of collectivist spin. The sponsors - a private, voluntary brewery who should know better - went out of their way to blur the strengths & identities of the individual players & harangue us that the team is the thing. THIS - of a team consisting of Andrew Mehrtens, Reuben Thorne, Richie McCaw & all the rest of these godlike heroes?! What a vile insult!
The Crusaders are a champion team BECAUSE they are a team of champions. Yes, of course team work is important in a team sport. Yes, each must fulfill his role to the hilt. The better each player, the stronger the team as a whole. But why on earth should that simple fact be used as an excuse to play down individual merit? For all that they have their allocated functions, players are NOT simply mindless cogs in a machine, & must be ready & able not just to play their part but to seize an unpredictable moment & go it alone on occasion. Who can forget, from last night's match, Caleb Ralph's cheeky little intercept in the last moments of the game, which saw him - solitary, smiling & unstoppable - streaking down a full third of the field to score a hilarious, outrageous & completely unnecessary try? Are the sponsors going to condemn that as individualistic arrogance?
Now you might say, "It was only a game, only a beer commercial - get a life!" Problem is, in the game of life, this emphasis on the "team" becomes an enforced subordination of the individual to "society." Right on cue, to add injury to insult, who should pop up on tonight's TV news to pontificate about the Crusaders' win but the Prime Minister? What on earth did she have to do with it? The only contribution politicians make to talent is to put coercive obstacles in its way - in the name of the greater good of society. All this "not a team of champions" stuff only encourages them.
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