1981 marks the point where – for good reason at the time – the left ceded the idea of sport to National.
We still begrudge it. We begrudge it even more than the flag debate.
We hate it because it’s full of mean-old competition, winning and losing, and injuries.
We hate it for its pervy sexism, male media dominance, and macho muscle over mind.
We hate it for its self-glorification, commercialization, and wealth focus.
We hate it for its patriotism, corruption, and taxpayer and ratepayer subsidies.
We hate its regulated violence, alcohol dominance, and sheer meaninglessness.
So they hate sport, competition, winning, losing, muscle, commercialisation, wealth, and patriotism!
But there is hope:
It’s 34 years since those dark days. Time to figure out how to complain about sport less, and learn to win with it more.
We could love it for the proud communities that sustain the clubs.
We could love it because it’s something we do well.
We could love it for the wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, husbands and children that help them up there.
We could love international sport as a good substitute for war.
We could find who among the athletic elite are also Progressively inclined.
We could love it as we can our country.
We don’t have to cede the whole enterprise of sport to the right.
And now, in the middle of Rugby World Cup, we can grind our teeth watching the apotheosis of Key with Saint Ritchie into the global heaven of sport.
Or we can get out to the nearest RSA, to the televised bars. Be with the people. Yes, sink pints.
Recognize that actually sport is as good as education for class mobility.
Actually, sport can be a unifying community force for good.
Sport can focus male teenage energy away from petty crime: into sport, out of court.
Sport is where the common people are, as well as the elite.
Until the left learn how to love sport as well as the right, we will continue to cede massive territorial ground before the game has started.