The travel agency that handled my last trip to Melbourne for the tennis advertised upcoming international attractions this week with a pitch that began, "Sporting spectacles without spectators, rolling fixtures, hubs and bubbles sums up the state of sport for the moment."
Spectacles without spectators? Not here. The Sunday before last I was sitting with my family at Eden Park, watching the Blues play the Chiefs. The sun was shining, the park looked a picture and 33,000 people were making an enthusiastic din, thousands of kids waving flags, Mexican waves, fans cheering and groaning as the Blues' fortunes fluctuated.
It all felt absolutely normal. You had to remind yourself this is not happening in the rest of the world. The Aussie agency's ad featured major events of interest, near and far, for the remainder of this year and into next.
They included: "Indy 500, a 25 per cent capacity crowd", "Tour de France, sceptics doubt it but organisers sure the Tour will go ahead", "US Open. Grand Slam tennis will be back in the Big Apple but spectators won't be", "AFL Grand Final – Cox Plate double-header! Footy at the G seems unlikely this year", "Melbourne Cup. Still scheduled to race, decision on crowds will be made closer to the date" ...
As for tennis in January: "Expect a reduced and domestic-only crowd for the 2021 Aus Open." Right now, of course, nobody is going anywhere in Melbourne and the shock of its Covid-19 resurgence is being felt throughout Australia.
If New Zealand sports fans need to find out what "limited crowds" means, they should stay tuned on Saturday nights when the telecast of Super Rugby switches to the match across the Tasman. Suddenly a living, breathing, humming event is replaced by a quiet, grey game of rugby watched by small knots of silent people sitting at their required social distance in an otherwise empty stadium.
Commentators have largely given up trying to generate excitement. Televised sport without a lively crowd is dead. There must be armchair sports fans all around the world pining for a truly live event on their screen.
NZ Rugby and Sky TV are not yet making the most of having the world's only decent crowd (as distinct from those in the United States taking a Covid risk).
Closed borders left rugby unions everywhere with no option but to revive domestic competition and, for New Zealand rugby fans, that has been marvellous. Super Rugby Aotearoa has been like a return to a time when provincial rugby really mattered and the rugby today is far better than it was then.
To add to the nostalgia, we are soon to be treated to an interisland match at Eden Park. Auckland rugby writers have been a bit snooty about a North-South game, maybe not realising what an interisland match meant to the South Island and still does. I have family coming up for the game.
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South had to wear white against the North's black and such was the population imbalance, even when I was a kid, that South were always the underdogs. Sometimes it looked like Fergie McCormick facing the All Blacks alone. And sometimes he won.
Now the sides will be more even, because northerners recruited young by a southern franchise will be playing for the South and vice versa. Pity. Island of origin would be more interesting.
But the domestic seasons of old were not entirely introverted. Every year an international tour would be a highlight. A team would come here, stay for months, visit all corners of the country and play a host of provinces as well as a test series.
Those were special in many ways, not least for their intimacy. We'd get to know the visiting players almost as well as our own and they would see parts of New Zealand most visitors never reach.
With Super Rugby winding up next weekend we should be preparing for the arrival of a full-strength touring side, preferably last year's World Cup-winning Springboks. If not them, the Wallabies, the Pumas or Japan's sensational World Cup team or a Pacific team - in fact, why not host more than one tour since there is a risk a squad will not be able to come out of quarantine?
But not much risk. A foreign film crew and America's Cup syndicates have come through their isolation period and gone about their business, causing no outbreak of Covid-19.
Two weeks' quarantine is impractical for brief international exchanges but ideal for a touring rugby team that could use the time to prepare quietly in local conditions.
All sports capable of drawing a Kiwi crowd should be urging their international bodies to send contests to New Zealand for television spectacles with real, roaring spectators. We alone can do this. Let's do it.