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Stateside With Rosalea: Two Lovely Telly Days

Stateside With Rosalea Barker

Two Lovely Telly Days

::NY Giants::
Last Sunday, tired of news and commentary about politics, I watched the second playoff match to decide which team would advance to the SuperBowl on February 3. (I have a theory that everything you need to know about US politics can be learned just by watching a game of American Football. Every yard is parsed and dissected, and the players seem incapable of stepping outside some pre-decided “play” even if it means running head-on into a wall of other players when there’s an obvious way around them.)

But I happily put my skepticism aside and entered into the spirit of things, my choice of which team to support matching my voter registration: Decline to state. Actually, I was torn between the two of them. The Green Bay Packers wear green and gold—an obvious strike against them for any Kiwi because those are the Aussie national colors. On the other hand, the Packers are based in Wisconsin, which is a state I loved visiting and can relate to because it has a lot of dairy farming, like my native province of Taranaki.

Facing the Packers were the New York Giants, who were playing in white with a touch of red and blue. The logo on their helmet consists of the lowercase letters “ny” in a fat typeface reminiscent of the lettering used on hippy posters in the Sixties. Haight-Ashbury connections aside, they’re not to be confused with the San Francisco Giants, who are a baseball team. Maybe it was their white uniforms, but for some reason they struck me as snowflakes—a very lightweight opponent to the beefy Packers.

The game was played at the Packers’ Lambeau Field, an outdoor arena where the wind chill of minus 14 degrees fahrenheit and an icy playing surface were major ingredients. By the fourth quarter, the teams were tied 20-all, and it looked like a sports commentator’s prediction the previous night—that it would come down to a field goal in the last two minutes—was coming true. And then came the magic.

The Giants decided to try for a field goal, and the kicker—Lawrence Tynes—missed. They got the opportunity to try for another one a few minutes later. He missed again. The game ended with the score still at 20-all, so it went into overtime, with 15-minute quarters—won by whichever team scored first. Incredibly, the Giants got another chance for a field goal, from the furthest distance yet, and Tynes tried again, this time getting it over for a NY Giants victory.

On the face of what I saw, I concluded that the team had enough faith in this guy to let him keep trying even though he was clearly not on a winning streak just then. (Tynes had earlier kicked two field goals on the way to getting to the 20 points.) What a wonderful thing to have people have faith in you even though you’re failing at a time when the stakes are so high, I thought.

But as Tynes explained in his appearance on David Letterman last night, he just ran straight out on the field to try for the goal, without giving anyone a chance to choose another option. Wow! Talk about self-confidence!

::NZ Giants::
Monday being a holiday here in the US, and Tuesday in New Zealand, I was able to watch TVNZ’s webcast of Sir Edmund Hillary’s funeral at 2 pm Pacific Time. Kudos to the channel for resisting putting commentary over the service itself, and thanks, of course, for making an international webcast available. (While I was watching the live action online, the 3 pm US edition of BBC World included a clip of the casket being taken into the church earlier.)

I confess to having been very surprised at the extent of coverage Sir Ed’s death a couple of weeks ago got in the media here. Every local TV news bulletin mentioned it, as did the national networks, and ABC’s late night current affairs program Nightline played its item about the adventurer-humanitarian last, doing the equivalent of having a minute’s silence by not running music or closing credits over their final image of city lights. However, I didn’t see any coverage of the funeral, apart from that glimpse on BBC World.

Perhaps it’s a measure of how long I’ve been away from New Zealand that the service seemed so awfully old-fashioned and irrelevant. Like an ad for “Religion” that swamps the real bits where people speak about what the deceased person means to them. Here in Oakland, I’m used to seeing glimpses of funeral services all the time on TV news bulletins. The congregations are usually African-American or Latino because those are the people most prone to violent—and therefore newsworthy—deaths, and their services seem much more emotional and involving of all the people in the congregation. Not just because of the tragic circumstances, but because of the way worship is perceived here in the States.

Sir Ed’s funeral was terribly funereal. People acting on their best behavior, aware of all the eyes watching them. Carefully choreographed and scripted, as I suppose it needed to be if TVNZ was to keep up its reputation for flawless live productions. But it was like a dutiful trudge up a mountain, instead of an adventure; self-consciously serious about itself in a way I don’t think reflected Hillary’s personality. However, I never actually knew the man and it’s hard to see how anything other could have transpired, especially if the service reflected his own wishes.

The one unexpected moment in it was a gem—his granddaughter’s reading of Hone Tuwhare’s Haiku One. Tuwhare’s death a few days after Hillary’s was another loss to the landscape of the Kiwi psyche, and the poem was a perfect choice for the mountaineer’s funeral. It speaks of matters anyone who spends time in the outdoors knows well, but also to that very human trait of feeling sorry for yourself, and to the possibility that just the act of dealing with forces that threaten to overwhelm you is a path to happiness:

stop your snivelling creek-bed
come rain hail and flood-water
laugh again


--PEACE --

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