Note: this is in response to this post on December 19.
I agree in theory… but I wonder whether the comparison is fair.
For me at least, the reason the NBA players are so intriguing is that their stories speak of an experience very alien to my own. They are extreme – we are constantly hearing of players stabbed (Pierce), family members shot (too many to name), suicides attempted and, most importantly and basically, massive hardships overcome to rise to the top of their sporting arena. This is human drama all bundled up and thrown down on court, splendid and terrible, for us to see. Delivered with no excuses, no apologies.
I imagine most All Blacks’ ‘stories’ are as, if not more, pedestrian than our own. We just don’t have the distance to romanticise growing up in Darfield. We couldn’t (or wouldn’t want to) live vicariously through them, or I certainly couldn’t/wouldn’t. I would be afraid that learning what drove our great players would be more disconcerting than their stony silence. Maybe their PR team know this, or maybe the attitude is just too ingrained in them to shake off.
Look at the NBA version of stony silence – Tracey McGrady. It is all calculated and weird, and paired with his droopy eyes, it makes the other (and his own) team think he is half-asleep. Which he apparently is, until he drops 13 points in 35 seconds without so much as a twitch. Compelling viewing. Tears well etc.
This is not to say that I am bagging rugby as boring per se, more trying to say that the players are products of their game, and furthermore the type of audience that game has to appeal to.
Basketball and rugby, the games themselves, seem so fundamentally stylistically opposed. From my limited knowledge, rugby is all hard-grind and sustained physical contact. Man against man and the strongest prevail. Whereas, in ball there is so much room for wit, cunning, intrigue and deceit… the duck, the weave, the fake, the cross-over. Freedarko call it ‘swag’ – all I understand about that term is that its what is so seductive about watching (love them or hate them) Allen Iverson, Josh Smith, Rasheed Wallace, Rajon Rondo etc etc etc. Sure this individualism/flamboyance/swag is disgusting when misused (as in the case of Marbury, even Artest), but it’s the drawcard of basketball, its lifeblood.
Swag would be cut down in New Zealand rugby, rubbished as show-pony-ism and benched for life. It just isn’t the game for that sort of individualism. And would we want to see it anyway? How would it manifest? I shudder to think. Did Carlos Spencer attempt swag? I hope there is a more convincing example out there.