«ESSAY 9 ALL THE SUFFERING ON OUR BACKS Rugby, religion and redemption amid the ruins PHIL I P C ASS Published in 2014 by ePress All the suffering on ...»
Out of proportion it may be, but the semi-divine status accorded to rugby by the media and its fans has deeper antecedents and, as we have seen, is not confined to New Zealand. According to Mazur and McCarthy (2011, p12) the rejection of institutional religion by younger Americans has made sport, among other activities, an “alternative site for meaning-making.
” Citing pioneer works by Geertz, others see religions as fulfilling a group, rather an individual function and working to maintain groups and society (Geary, 2012).
In this view religion is not a personal matter, but one which supports society through ritual and performs the socially specific function (Eller, 2007; Swatos, 1998). Certain aspects of sport might be seen as mimicking religious rituals and if we accept this premise then we might understand why some fans, players and sections of the media expect (and accept) that a sporting event will have the same power to order the universe and motivate its devotees as the most profound religious experiences (Kunin, 2006).
Unfortunately, however, for all the post-match euphoria that may have been felt after the Rugby World Cups of 1995 or 2011, or after the Super Bowl returned to New Orleans, that city, Christchurch, South Africa and parts of Japan still face serious problems. Two years after the Japanese earthquake many areas remain uninhabited and there are still debates about the long-term effects of radiation, although a recent UN report claims there are no long-term health risks (Asian Scientist, 2013).
In New Orleans, the population had only returned to 81 percent of its pre-Katrina levels by 2012 and seven years after the hurricane devastated the poorer parts of the city, 20 percent of the damaged housing stock has still not been rebuilt.
(Eggler, 2013; Webster, 2014). Jonassen (2012) paints a grim picture of a city still in a fragile state, its streets marked by crime, rotting houses and packs of wild dogs.
The situation in Christchurch is less grim, with tourists now riding busses through the ruins in the centre of the city and real estate agents claiming that things aren’t as bad as they seem, but many people are facing a third winter in trailers or houses that have still not been repaired because, it is claimed, insurance companies and the government bureaucracy have not acted quickly enough (Unknown author, 2013; www.news.com.au/world-news/two-years-laterchristchurch-quake-recovery-slow/story-fndir2ev-1226582311033).
The reality, of course, is that the catharsis, the high, the feeling of relief from suffering that might be engendered by a victory in a Rugby World Cup or a Super Bowl game, is transient. It is the momentary elation of mob hysteria, the euphoria of a revival meeting that permits those crippled by arthritis to think they can walk again, only to wake the next day still bed ridden and in pain.7 When Geary (2012) asserts that sport is ‘not just a game’ she is wrong. Football games do not repair damaged houses or shelter the homeless or bring back the dead. To borrow a phrase from Lineham, such beliefs are out of all proportion with reality. Neither the All Blacks nor any other sportsman could bear the weight of the semi, quasi, or pseudo-religious expectations piled upon them by the media and nor should they. New Zealanders are proud of the All Blacks, but the next time there is a national or international catastrophe the New Zealand media should treat them as the highly skilled sportsmen they are and not as semi-divine beings who can work miracles.
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Retrieved September 28, 2014, from http://www.asianscientist.com/2013/06/topnews/fukushima-radiation-poseshealth-risks-science-panel-2013/ 7 Since the metaphors of redemption and re-birth surrounding sport and the devastation of Christchurch, Fukushima and New Orleans borrow so heavily from Christianity, it is worth, perhaps, noting the words of the Book of Kings (1
…a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
If God is not in the wind or the earthquake or the fire, one might ask whether He is really is to be found barracking in the football stadium.
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