Do you read the back page of the paper before the front page? Do you take out a Sky TV subscription purely to watch the netball or the footie? Do you spend your weekends ferrying kids from one suburban playing field to another? Do you walk light-headed when the Black Caps actually win; and do you cross your fingers when the Silver Ferns are one goal in front of the Aussies?
If the answer to any of these questions is ‘yes’, then I am happy to say you are an unreconstructed sports fan. Welcome to the club. The entries we’ve published today, on Sport and society and Sports reporting and commentating, may help you to understand your obsession. And if you are not a fan – even if you think of sport as war by another name – then hopefully these entries will allow you to find out where the disease that infects others, perhaps the men in your household, comes from.
Greg Ryan’s story on Sport and society focuses on participation in sport and explores the question of who played games at different times and why. He shows that factors such as ethnicity, gender, location in city or country, and economics are central to the story of sport. To take one example, many colonial sports were played for small amounts of prize money, and some of our earliest heroes such as Joe Scott, long-distance walker of the 1880s, were thoroughly professional (i.e. paid). Then the games ethic of the English public school arrived to elevate the amateur sportsperson. Working people could no longer earn a living from sport. Those who tried, such as the All Blacks who switched to league, were widely condemned. But in the world of the late 20th century, as television brought in huge revenues, the amateur ideal became increasingly anachronistic. Professional sport and new stadiums with corporate boxes arrived. Sport became big business, and people could make a fortune as sporting stars. Young working New Zealanders, especially Polynesian people, saw a future on the sports field.
Keith Quinn’s story on Sports reporting and commentating focuses more on the world inhabited by fans. The changing media – from newspapers, to telegraph, to radio, to television, to the internet – helped build up support for games. The media created heroes and villains, and turned sporting contests into high dramas. Arguably the strength of analysis and column inches devoted to sporting journalism in this country has exceeded that given over to politics. So this is a rich and engrossing story which features some fine television and radio clips.
These stories are but two of 49 on New Zealand sports and sporting codes which Te Ara will have published by the end of August. They have been great fun to prepare and the sports journalists and historians who have written them have done us proud. The entries will in effect provide New Zealand’s first sporting encyclopedia. So sports fans, enjoy the coming flood; and for those who consider sports either boring or socially dangerous, be warned!