Posted by: scribe9 | February 8, 2010

Super Bowl Monday

Here it’s Super Bowl Monday and, never fear, ESPN is showing the whole shebang, including the four-hour countdown. (I tried to explain Super Bowl Sunday to an English couple here, but forgot to compare it to the World Cup finals, so I don’t think I conveyed the magnitude of the observance.) I could spend the entire day (it runs from 8am to 4pm) in front of the television, eating corn chips (they make good rustic ones here) and guacamole (this is avocado heaven. People will walk up to me on the street downtown and offer avocados for sale, but of course I’ve already bought plenty at the Growers’ Market on Saturday morning). But I’m not a football fan (except for the  soccer or occasional Australian Rules game).

Here, football means soccer and the various kinds of rugby. Rugby is huge in New Zealand. The All-Blacks are national heroes. When we first moved here, I was in a store downtown where a very sturdy, tall man was signing books. I didn’t see a sign, so I asked the clerk who he was. The clerk–realizing that more nuance would be lost on me–said simply, “He’s an All-Black.” There’s a rugby channel, broadcasting games from around the world (mostly from the British Isles, although rugby is played by many countries without ties to England), and endless replays. Rugby Sevens, being played now. is a much shorter game with half the players of regular rugby, which is divided into union and league—one is much more casual and popular than the other, and I can never remember which is which.

Here it’s summer so it’s cricket season. Cricket is very much a vestige of the British Empire. Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, South Africa, the West Indies (one of two teams to represent more than one nation—the other is England, which includes Wales) and Australia are all playing now. Yes, the players still dress all in white with old-fashioned caps and play three- and five-day test matches. But—more line extension in search of audiences—there are also one-day and other shorter versions, in which the teams switch to colored jerseys and swing at virtually every ball, yielding faster, higher-scoring games. (Query—will baseball ever come up with a shorter, faster version?) But the umpires, also dressed more casually, still hold the bowlers’ caps and sweaters.

We’ve studied up a bit, and watched parts of some matches on television, but we have yet to see the regional team (the Northland Knights) play. When Saturday afternoon rolls around, we head to the beach instead of to the local oval. Yes, oval, not diamond. Ovals, or simply cricket grounds, are multi-purpose; in winter, they’re used for rugby or soccer and, in Australia, Australian rules football.

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