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«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 ...»

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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.

REF ER ENCES AFP (2011, April 8). Ex-All Black joins aid effort in Japan. New Zealand Herald. Retrieved from http://www.nzherald.


co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=10718059 Anthony, B. (2012). 7/7: One Day in London. Documentary, BBC.

Asahi Shimbun. (2011, May 23). English: The Asahi Shimbun Digital [Commercial]. Retrieved September 28, 2014, from http://www.asahi.com/english/ Asian Scientist. (2013, June 3). Fukushima radiation poses no immediate health risks: UN Science Panel [Commercial].

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

Kings 19-12):

…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.

–  –  –

Black, D., & Van Der Westhuizen, J. (2004). The allure of global games for “semi-peripheral” polities and spaces: A research agenda. Third World Quarterly, 25(7), 1195–1214. doi:10.1080/014365904200281221 Book of Kings, 19:11. The Bible.

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The Times-Picayune. Retrieved from http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/03/new_orleans_reached_81_ percent.html Eller, J. D. (2007). Introducing anthropology of religion: Culture to the ultimate. New York, USA: Routledge.

Ford, G. (2011, July 30). Christchurch’s AMI Stadium’s future in doubt. The Press (Stuff.co.nz). Christchurch, New Zealand. Retrieved from http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/christchurch-earthquake-2011/5363203/ChristchurchsAMI-Stadiums-future-in-doubt Fuseworks Media. (2011, September 8). Difficult time for Christchurch rugby fans - psychologist [Commercial].

Retrieved September 28, 2014, from http://www.voxy.co.nz/national/difficult-time-christchurch-rugby-fanspsychologist/5/100878 Gavin, M. (2007 November 26). Narrating tragedy: From Kennedy to Katrina, from sports to national identities, (Dissertation). University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, US.

Geary, N. (2012). Recovering home: From the storm to the Super Bowl. New Educator, (Fall), Online.

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com/home/news/newsid=2049216.html Jonassen, W. (2012, August 24) 7 Years After Katrina, New Orleans Is Overrun by Wild Dogs. The Atlantic. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/08/7-years-after-katrina-new-orleans-is-overrun-by-wilddogs/261530/ Kitson, R. (2011, September 7). Rugby World Cup 2011: England lend support to ravaged Christchurch. The Guardian.

Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2011/sep/07/rugby-world-cup-2011-england-christchurch Kunin, S. (2006). Theories of religion: A reader. New Jersey, US: Rutgers.

Lupica, M. (2013, January 31). Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans is another step in the recovery from Hurricane Katrina, and 2018 Super Bowl would help complete it. New York Daily News. Retrieved from http://www.nydailynews.

com/sports/football/lupica-super-bowl-encore-18-complete-katrina-recovery-article-1.1252832 Mairs, G. (2011, March 14). Christchurch’s AMI Stadium will not host Rugby World Cup matches after suffering damage in earthquake. The Telegraph. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/rugbyunion/international/ newzealand/8380574/Christchurchs-AMI-Stadium-will-not-host-Rugby-World-Cup-matches-after-suffering-damage-inearthquake.html Massey University News. (2011, September 29). World cup shows rugby is our “surrogate religion” [Academic]. Retrieved September 28, 2014, from http://www.massey.ac.nz/massey/about-massey/news/article.

cfm?mnarticle=world-cup-shows-rugby-is-our-surrogate-religion-29-09-2011 Matheson, V. A., & Baade, R. A. (2006, February). Can New Orleans play its way past Katrina?

College of the Holy Cross, Department of Economics. Retrieved from file:///Users/laurastephenson/ Downloads/09e415086b1d35c86d000000.pdf Mazur, E. M., & McCarthy, K. (2011). God in the details: American religion in popular culture (2nd ed.). London; New York: Routledge.

McAllester, M. (2011, September 1). How the Rugby World Cup became New Zealand’s healing game. Time. Retrieved from http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2091431,00.html McDevitt, P F (1997). Muscular Catholicism: Nationalism, masculinity and Gaelic team sports, 1884–1916. Gender &..

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Risk Management Solutions. Retrieved from http://support.rms.com/Publications/2011TohukuReport_041111.pdf Rugby International. (2011, April 4). The earthquake, the tsunami and rugby [Commercial]. Retrieved from http://www.

rugbyinternational.net/Rugby%20in%20Japan/rij%202011/2011%20The%20Eathquake.htm Rugby News Service. (2011, September 9). Japan determined to inspire quake victims [Commercial]. Retrieved from http://www.rugbyworldcup.com/home/news/newsid=2049216.html Savory, L. (2011, March 15). Ex-All Black watched Japan earthquake “in horror. The Southland Times (Stuff.co.nz).

” Southland, New Zealand. Retrieved from http://www.stuff.co.nz/southland-times/sport/4768354/Ex-All-Black-watchedJapan-earthquake-in-horror Serazio, M. (2010). When the sportswriters go marching in: Sports journalism, collective trauma and memory metaphors. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 27(2), 1550173. doi:10.1080/15295030903551009 Siddique, H. (n.d.). Japan earthquake - Friday 11 March part one. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.

com/world/blog/2011/mar/11/japan-earthquake Swami, P (2011, February 23). Christchurch earthquake: Collapsed cathedral spire the centre of the carnage. Retrieved.

from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/australiaandthepacific/newzealand/8343799/Christchurchearthquake-collapsed-cathedral-spire-the-centre-of-the-carnage.html Swatos, W. (Ed.). (1998). Encyclopedia of religion and society. California, US: AltaMira/Sage.

The Press. (2011, September 8). RWC focus good for quake-rattled Cantabs. The Press (Stuff.co.nz). Retrieved from http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/sport/rugby/world-cup-canterbury/5589904/RWC-focus-good-for-quake-rattled-Cantabs Tip News. (2011, February 25). All Blacks pitch in for N.Zealand quake clean-up [Commercial]. Retrieved September 28, 2014, from http://www.tipnews.info/sports/NDQ3NTU=/2011/02/25/nzealand_quake_rugbyu_allblacks Tonkin & Taylor Ltd. (2011). AMI Stadium geotechnical report (No. 51845) (pp. 1–46). VBase Ltd. Retrieved from http:// resources.ccc.govt.nz/files/canterburyearthquake/Engineering-reports-amistadium-townhall-convcentre/110808AMI%20Stadium-TTGeotechnicalReport.pdf Unknown author. (2013). http://www.news.com.au/world-news/two-years-later-christchurch-quake-recovery-slow/storyfndir2ev-1226582311033) Webster, R. (2014, April 30) Post-Katrina rebuilding in New Orleans and St. Bernard nears 80 percent. The TimesPicayune. Retrieved from http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/04/post-katrina_rebuilding_in_new.html Vaidyanathan, G. (2011). Dissecting New Zealand’s deadly quake. Nature News, (Online). doi:10.1038/news.2011.117 Wales Online. (n.d.). Jesus is an All Black: Cathedral seeks divine inspiration for New Zealand’s Rugby World Cup bid.

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