07 October 2007

rugby football

i always say that americans don't like teams that win too much; we prefer underdogs. a team that wins its first championship in years is a crowd favorite. if the same team wins again the next year we are happy for them, but losing our patience. a third win in a decade and the team is suddenly the one to root against, the common enemy.

as a new england patriots fan i witness this phenomenon all the time. nobody likes the patriots, and why? "they always win" is the complaint i most often hear. ok, they've been winning for the last five years, but for the first 25 years of my life they never won. and now it is the du jour to hate the patriots. we americans don't like winners.

last night i went against this seemingly ingrained american quality by rooting for the favored-to-win new zealand all blacks against the french les bleus in a quarterfinal game of the rugby world cup. the bar was full of french people and i was with my kiwi friend. although i didn't have too much emotion riding on the game it's easy to root for new zealand, and easy to root against the french.

new zealand dominated the first half of the game, and seemed to be easily coasting to victory, as was expected. but then france snuck up and played harder, made fewer mistakes and wanted it more. although the french fans in the bar were kind of obnoxious you had to be happy for them. their jumping up and down and cheering in the face of the annointed favorites gave me a taste of how everybody will react if the patriots lose this year.

you see, the patriots are just a little too favored, they're a little too good this year. they are set up to fail, to rest on their laurels, to believe the hype. and while i love my team and think they deserve to win this year, i know everybody else will be even more satisfied to see them lose. so to the all blacks and the rest of new zealand i lend my condolences and hope i won't be sharing a similar fate come january.

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