Short of the Black Caps discovering a cure for cancer and offering it for free to the rest of the world, could a Kiwi sports fan fall any more in love with them?
Not only does their record in test, one day, and T20 world championships make them the best all round cricket team in the world, but they're also a throwback to the days when modesty was ingrained in the national sporting psyche.
The template for our sports stars in the 20th century, which always involved underplaying achievements, was established by the greatest New Zealand hero of all, Sir Edmund Hillary. In 1953, another Kiwi, George Lowe, asked Hillary how things had gone for him and Tenzing Norgay when they returned to camp on the South Col from attempting to reach the summit of Mt Everest. "Well George," said Hillary, "we knocked the bastard off."
I'm not advocating a return to the days when an All Black would walk back after scoring a try looking as happy as a farmer who's just been told his whole herd has bovine TB. But there is something heartwarmingly retro about 21st stars reviving the self effacing sporting behaviours of last century.
So let's now praise some humble heroes of the 21st century.
The boys from Tauranga
Remarkably two of our most shining examples of grace in the spotlight, Kane Williamson and Peter Burling were good mates at Tauranga Boys' College. In 2008 Williamson was head boy, and Burling was sports captain.
Their low key attitude to success was there as teenagers. Two years ago Williamson told an interviewer of Burling the schoolboy, "I remember he'd come back from winning a men's world title, he'd achieve these unbelievable things, and he'd go on stage, and they'd ask him 'how does it feel' and he'd go 'pretty good'".
Williamson himself, of course, is himself an expert at down playing triumphs. In June he allowed that victory over India in the world test championship play-off was an achievement to be savoured, but demurred when it was suggested the victory was the greatest day In New Zealand cricket history. "We know we don't have the stars," said the man who had just been ranked the world's No.1 batter, "we rely on other bits and pieces to stay in the game and be competitive."
Neither man has ever denigrated an opponent, although my favourite gesture of the 2000s belongs to Burling, when, in the eighth race in the America's Cup in 2017, he cruised past a bemused Jimmy Spithill at the start line, where the stroppy Aussie's yacht Oracle was virtually becalmed.
Burling flicked an index finger off the wheel in acknowledgement. It was the unstressed casualness of the greeting that made it at once devoid of malice, and yet brilliantly dismissive. In a word, perfect.
The brilliant Portia
In the last decade Black Fern Portia Woodman has been so good that Sir John Kirwan, a man who knows a thing or two about wingers, believed there were years when she was the best wing in the world, woman or man, full stop.
It's therefore warming to know that inside the Black Ferns, a team full of grounded, likeable people, Woodman is one of the most warmly regarded. The secret of her success as a person? Kelly Brazier, another stalwart in the Tokyo gold medal winning sevens team, recently swore to Sky journalist Rikki Swannell, that Woodman "really, truly, doesn't realise how good she is at rugby."
You'll hunt in vain for anyone in motorsport who has a bad word to say about Scott Dixon. In his early days on the Indy circuit it was noted by a crew member Jeremy Burtner that Dixon seemed "like one of the guys in the background, but you get him out there on the track and he just pushes, pushes, pushes."
Nothing seems to have changed since he won the mythical Indianapolis 500 race in 2008. An ESPN story in May noted that the ultimate buzz for petrolheads was to be called over to chat by the "grease-monkey godfathers, Indy's racing royalty, AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti, or Rick Mears." Dixon's comment on mixing with the greats would do New Zealand's only Formula One world champion Denny Hulme proud. Hulme was so devoid of side that he was once told by his Brabham team boss it probably wasn't a great idea to keep driving qualifying laps for the British Grand Prix in bare feet.
Dixon told ESPN he would be "at an event, or in the paddock, and AJ or Mario or Rick will call me over to chat, and I instinctively do that thing where you look behind you, like, 'Oh, is he really talking to me?'"
On the one hand I'm enormously prejudiced. Working with Dame Valerie Adams on her autobiography in 2011 my wife Jan and I came to love the woman. Her arrival at our home for interview sessions was always a pleasure.
On the other hand, because she's a close friend, not just a media contact, I was able to reply "Yes" with absolute certainty to a Newmarket shop assistant who asked me, while Valerie and Jan looked through dress fabric if Valerie was "always a lovely as this?"
And there was a public lesson in graciousness from Valerie when, in a group including the chief bridesmaid and best man from her wedding, we watched the 2016 Olympic shot put final in Rio on television at the Millennium Centre in Auckland. We all reacted with shouts of outrage when Michelle Carter snatched away the gold medal in the final round. Valerie then shamed us all with her grace under pressure. "In the past I've done the same thing myself, winning with a late throw," she said. "I can't complain now."
Then there's the All Blacks
Uncurl those lips. In 2021 bagging the All Blacks started to rival Netflix as a way to fill the boring hours of lockdown.
But, having made a living reporting on All Black teams for a crazy length of time, I swear that while there have been a host of good men involved over the years, there's never been a more decently behaved group of All Blacks than the squads assembled by Graham Henry, Steve Hansen, and Ian Foster.
If you want proof the "no dickheads" policy in the All Blacks is not a public relations driven myth, then consider that since 2017 Gareth Southgate, the now hugely popular and successful manager of England's football team, has embraced, with the help of a Maori lawyer from Southland, Owen Eastwood, huge chunks of the All Black ethos.
Jerks can still succeed in sport. Does the name Novak Djokovic ring any bells? But it's a comforting thought in these stressful times, as the Black Caps will hopefully prove over the weekend, decency can still work too.