But with good reason, right? After all, with rugby being the third most popular sport in the world it’s undeniably impressive how well New Zealand do in both the men’s and women’s league. However, personally I feel as if our rugby culture has been taken too far, due to the negative consequences that have partially stemmed from it.
First and foremost, I think it would be fair to say that New Zealand’s rugby culture is strongly tied to its binge drinking culture, to the point where they have arguably become intertwined.
While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a few drinks over a game, it’s gotten to the point where rugby has become an occasion to get incoherently drunk – whether it be celebrating a win or commiserating a loss. I mean the fact that alcohol companies, mainly beer companies, are some of the biggest sponsors for teams as big as the All Blacks says volumes about our drinking culture as it appears to be that of an endorsement for it.
This is also noteworthy because of the fact that beer has been deemed to be a more masculine drink, with men being the main perpetrators of our binge drinking culture. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve certainly partaken in this myself – with the stadium in Dunedin having a space called the ‘Zoo’ which is largely reserved for drunk students to make a spectacle of themselves, but I still think it is an out of hand issue nonetheless.
Additionally, rugby has been held to such a high regard in New Zealand that it now has indirect connections to our domestic violence rates. Reports from both the Women’s Refuge and the New Zealand Police suggest that there is a spike in the frequency and severity of domestic violence whenever the All Blacks lose a major game. More often than not these acts of violence are also fueled by alcohol consumption, which reiterates the previous point about how New Zealand’s drinking culture functions alongside our rugby culture.
This idolization of rugby can also be seen through the way our rugby ‘heroes’, such as Richie McCaw and Dan Carter, are presented to us in the media. Though the severity of this may be less damaging than our increased binge drinking and domestic violence rates, the effects are still very prevalent. For instance, by having these figures fronting things from breakfast cereal to depression awareness, they are encroaching on our day to day lives in a way that depicts them as being more than just rugby sensations, but instead as national icons and heroes.
However, I appreciate that they may well be considered icons and heroes by many, but I think that such glorification is placing too much weight on the sport and its superstars.
While I don’t want this piece condemning the sport entirely, I want it to draw attention to the fact that there is so much more to our national identity than rugby. Yes, it’s incredible for a country of our size to do as well as we do in it, but that shouldn’t be a justification for making it that of a religion – especially when it results in such adverse consequences, ironically not unlike many of societies ‘real’ religions.
Author: Harry Reid
Hi – my name is Harry Reid. I’m eighteen years old, and I’m originally from Greytown in the Wairarapa – which is approximately an hour out of Wellington. I’m the youngest of three children, with a twenty-year old brother and a twenty-two-year old sister. After finishing Wellington High last year I’m now in my first year at the University of Otago, doing a double degree in Law and Arts, with my Arts Major either being Communications or Politics – and whichever one I decide against will become my Minor. Some of my interests outside of University include photography, socializing with friends and keeping up with current affairs– among other things. Over the coming weeks I’m going to share with you some of my experiences (both good and bad) in my weekly blog. Feel free to follow my Instagram @harrrryreid for a more personalized view of what I’m up to!