FASCINATION WITH THE HAKA
When it comes to covering the Rugby World Cup, the world's media sure do love a haka. This seems to be especially true in the United States, where a story on the haka is clearly a lot more popular with readers than a match report. Last week there was this piece in the Washington Post about why New Zealand's haka is "the world's most perfect act of nationalism", as well as this one in The Atlantic headlined "What Rugby Can Teach America About Honoring Indigenous Culture".
Often riddled with cultural inaccuracies and over-dramatic descriptions, these kinds of online stories draw a huge amount of clicks. In a nation known for its love of grand patriotic gestures, I can see how the haka captures the imagination of passionate American sport fans. But it was not until I stumbled across a Fox Sports story this morning about the Arizona Wildcats performing the "Ka Mate" haka before their recent College Football game against UCLA, that I realised just how popular it is in the US.
The University of Arizona side have been performing it for years and so have a bunch of other teams. Here's a longer video of their haka against UCLA, and here's one before their fixture against Louisiana-Lafayette in 2011. They also have this video on YouTube teaching people "How to Haka". As has been widely reported in the past, Arizona are not the only American football side to perform a haka before games - Brigham Young University (BYU) and the University of Hawaii also share the pre-game ritual. In fact it is performed by a lot more sports sides than you think. Here's a rough list.
"RUGBY WORLD CUP IS NOT SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO FOR NEW ZEALANDERS?" - AUSSIE NEWSPAPER
catches your eye for obvious reasons. While you're expecting a provocative opinion piece by an Australian - having a friendly dig at us in some way or another - it is actually a fellow Kiwi explaining why the pinnacle of our national sport is not so much fun for him. "I look forward to rugby world cups like I look forward to chewing tin foil," Mike Bruce writes.
It's not that he doesn't like rugby or the All Blacks, but more the pressure and burden that comes every four years. "While part of you craves the thrill of the ride and wants to take it all in, you mostly end up riding with your eyes shut, peeking occasionally, only to shut them tight again." Does this Rugby World Cup angst ring true with you?.
"THE GREATEST SPORTING UPSETS MASTERMINDED BY ASIA"
Singaporean English-language newspaper The Straits Times put together this list of great Asian upsets following the "David versus Goliath encounter" between Japan and South Africa. "In celebration of what has already been hailed as one of the great sporting moments in Asia's history," Jonathan Wong writes, "we look back at other standout milestones by Asian athletes and teams." Covering everything from cricket and golf to football and tennis, the list gives you a good idea just how much interest Japan's win over the Springboks has generated in Asia, and how it is seen when placed next to some of the continent's biggest sporting triumphs.
RUGBY FAN IN NEW YORK?
This piece by the New York Daily News lists the places you can watch the Rugby World Cup in the Big Apple. "It's about the only time that going to a bar to watch a hooker is socially acceptable," the article starts. It then goes on to list the bars and venues in New York that will be screening the games. So if you're a Kiwi feeling homesick, in the city that never sleeps, this could be a good guide to follow. Otherwise it also lists the TV networks that are playing the Rugby World Cup.