DYLAN CLEAVER'S MIDWEEK FIXTURE - COMMENT
As a rule, if you value your sanity, it is best to avoid the wash-up from an All Blacks loss.
If you avoid your senses being battered by the angry Middle New Zealand flotsam, you'll still be blindsided by some social media jetsam.
Just once in a while, though, it's dangerous fun to jump into the churning seas of public opinion. This was one of those rare occasions, when an All Blacks loss, so utterly improbable to contemplate this time last week, left you wanting answers to one question: Why didn't the brains trust order a drop goal attempt?
This was a spectacular test match with an awesome array of storylines and angles but most of those are ignored in search of an answer to this narrow inquiry.
We want answers! We want the truth!
Was it arrogance? Maybe.
Those of you bought up before the digital age did for attention spans what microwaves did for cooking times, may recall senior lock Ali Williams' sniffy response to being asked whether a drop goal might have been a nifty plan in the dying moments of their 2007 quarter-final loss to France.
"New Zealand rugby has never taken a drop goal... I think the last time we won a game through a drop goal was 100 years ago."
So yeah, arrogance can't be ruled out.
Could it have been naivete? Hardly.
Kieran Read has played 113 tests, Beauden Barrett 67 and TJ Perenara 49. If you want to include Damien McKenzie in the conversation, well he is a relative neophyte at 19 caps but even he knows that 34 + 3 equals 37.
It has been suggested it might have been collective stupidity? Not buying it.
Read and Barrett are both brilliant, intelligent footy players who value the All Black heritage and recognise the fact there is no such thing as a good loss when it comes to defending the honour of the "Jersey".
So, for what it is worth, here is what I believe the real reason they turned down an almost certain three points (the ruck when the Springboks were caught on the back foot on their own line with about 80 seconds left was the time to strike).
The snafu occurred because of a confused chain of command.
After the match Read talked about team drivers; the team drivers, presumably Barrett and Perenara, would have been looking to the captain to make a decision.
In tight games, with time slipping away, you need a strong, decisive voice, not many.
"It comes down to our drivers to make that call and go for it," Read said in the aftermath.
Not really. It is up to you, as captain to make the call. If you didn't, it is fair game to ask why. If you did, it is fair game to ask why it was ignored.
That apparent failure of leadership should be the only real ongoing concern about the bizarre loss.
The rest is quite flushable.
Talking of lack of accountability, Maria Folau's pass-the-buck comments re her dreadful shooting night against England also translated poorly.
Perhaps she was soft-soaping her role in the loss to keep her confidence up; confidence that resulted in a vastly improved performance against a powerless South African side last night.
"There are five other players on court [who] need to take responsibility for what we do," Folau said after the 68 per cent shooting horror show against England. "We just had an off day that's all. If you look at it as a whole there were things that happened across the whole court, it is a team sport."
That's kind of not how netball works. Only two people on each team at any given time can take shots. It's the weirdest (fans would say wonderful-lest) part of the sport. The actual shot itself is an entirely singular act.
Once you line it up and let it go, it's your job alone to get it through the hoop.
Folau, historically, does it better than most but doing that at a rate of 68 per cent is not going to beat many good teams, no matter how brilliantly or poorly the five non-shooters perform.
Folau is not captain but remains a senior and highly influential player. That was the time to take ownership for a loss, not deflect.
An update on the NRL/AFL popularity battle highlighted last week.
It was another resounding win for the native code.
More people attended the semifinal between Collingwood and Greater Western Sydney than went to the NRL semis combined – and the aforementioned AFL match was the least popular of the two played.
While 72,504 paid to watch that game at the ground, 90,152 flocked to the MCG to watch Melbourne beat Hawthorn.
Souths and St George drew a really good 48,188 crowd to ANZ Stadium but Penrith and Cronulla, two teams on Sydney's outskirts who have never been big-ticket teams, could only convince 19,211 to journey to central Sydney to watch a semifinal.
It seems mean-spirited to point out that as bad as that crowd might be for the third-last week of the league season, it was still significantly better than the 16,019 at the Wallabies match against Argentina.
Forget all the ridiculous crap that occurred following the final whistle to concentrate on this ugly number: the Wallabies played home tests on consecutive weekends in South-East Queensland (population 3.5 million) and sold just 44,000 tickets.
That spells C-R-I-S-I-S.
They both might float on top of the water, but Canoe Racing New Zealand appears to be in a much better place than their puffed up rowing cousins… on a third of the government high-performance funding. Granted, the men's programme is comparatively weak, but what they're doing on the women's side points to a much healthier environment than their flatwater counterparts.
THE MIDWEEK LONG READS
A midweek read for you about the dark side of the Cuban baseball story, from The Sunday Long Read. We stretch time and space with this column.
From the LA Times, the awful tale of former NBA first-round draft pick Lorenzen Wright, who is currently dead.
There is nothing so arch as a talented writer attacking the work of another talented writer. Bloomberg's Joe Nocera, guesting in the Washington Post, doesn't miss here as he dissects Mark Leibovic's book Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times.