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Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Coolest Chant of Them All

And it's not being done at any March Madness NCAA hoops game, either.

That might disappoint even the staunchest Kansas fan, who probably would swear to you that "Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk!" is the best thing going. Perhaps it could be in NCAA hoops, but it's not close on the world sporting scene.

I saw this chant once, perhaps on English TV when I was in London on a business trip and was watching something on Sky TV about a world rugby tournament. The New Zealand national team, called the "All Blacks", was playing, and they engaged in this tribal chant called the Haka that was compelling viewing, to say the least. I also think that the New Zealand men's hoops team performed a version of this chant at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, led by former Cal Bear and NBA player Sean Marks.

It's really cool, and, I agree with Eric McErlain of Off-Wing Opinion that I could watch it for a while. Eric blogged about the Haka, as the chant is called, today, and his post is definitely worth reading.

Ray Lewis sometimes does his own version of the Haka before a Baltimore Ravens game (of course it's not the Haka, but it's a spectacle nonetheless), but it's nothing like a group of burly guys acting in choreographed fashion before a game. The video clips that Eric attaches are compelling because not only do they show the All Blacks, they also show the reaction of the opposition. They say in rugby that perhaps it's not as important who wins the game as to who wins the party afterwards (where beer and bawdy songs carry the day), but it could be the case that the game is won during the warm-ups, when the Haka makes opponents befuddled, mystified, angry, bothered, demoralized or wondering why the heck their team's handlers couldn't come up with anything as creative or compelling.

Read the whole thing -- and watch the video clips. You'll be glad you did.


Anonymous Phil the Brit said...

Aaaahhh, the Haka! For years what to do during the haka has been as great a question for internatonal rugby teams facing New Zealand as what tactics to employ once the game actually gets going. It has often been believed that the ritual has stolen a psychological march for the All Blacks that contributed to their many, many victories.

Teams answers to this question vary, but most common is either to do your own thing, pretending it isn't happening, or to link arms as a team and face the Haka as it is performed, accepting the challenge the ritual represents (literally).

On one famous occasion, the England team inched forward as the Haka was being performed, bearing down on the All Blacks, who didn't appreciate their space being invaded.

The comparison with Native American symbols and customs is interesting. If you'd watched a Haka from thirty years ago, you'd have seen an overwhemingly white NZ team doing a pale (read embarrassing) imitation of what you see now. These days, the All Blacks are packed with players of Maori and Pacific island extraction. For these guys, the Haka is part of their heritage, and they feel (menacingly) comfortable doing it.

For my part, such things as having a football team called the Redskins is detestable. You wouldn't tolerate the New Orleans Negroes (or that other 'N' word; you know the one), and rightly so. It is also a perversion to characterise objections as political correctness. What we're talking about here is simple decency and good manners.

7:13 AM  

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