Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Go the All Blacks!

Every four years twenty teams from around the globe compete in the Rugby World Cup (RWC) for the rights to the Ellis Cup. The tournament is only surpassed in viewership by the Soccer World Cup, the Olympics and the Tour de France. This amazingly rough and exciting sport is viewed in more than 200 countries by millions of viewers, but most of the people in the US don't even know of its existence. This year, the RWC was hosted in New Zealand which is a huge ordeal and great opportunity to show off the country. And, even better, the New Zealand team (the All Blacks), were playing well too! It was looking to be a good year for New Zealand rugby fans.

My new flat screen tv for the RWC
In September, just after moving into my apartment in Chicago the RWC kicked off with an amazing opening ceremony. I stayed up late to watch it on my new flat screen tv, purchased so that I would have it in time to view the event. There were several hakas performed and some beautiful effects. Little did I know, this would be the last rugby game I would be able to watch live during the tournament.

I kept up with the news, I tracked my friends' updates on Facebook, I followed my teams as best as I could from the other side of the world (the time difference didn't help as most games were played at 11p and 2a). The United States didn't make it out of the first round. But the All Blacks were still looking strong winning games and showing promise.

In this video the All Blacks perform the haka before playing Australia in the semi-finals.

After years of preparation and speculation, and seven weeks of games the All Blacks made it to the final round. The game was slated for 9pm in Auckland at Eden Park against France. That meant it was a 4am kick off time in the Eastern United States, where I was staying in Tampa. After a fruitless search of the sports channels, I resigned myself to the fact that I would not be able to watch the game. I was wrong. Thanks to Skype, amazing friends, and my uncle's internet connection, I was video skypped (is that a word?) into the viewing party at my friend Daniel's house. Daniel, his girlfriend, and 10 other people were watching the game and were more than happy to include me (via Daniel's laptop) in the party.

Bright and early (3:45am), with my hair in a rough ponytail, my glasses on, no makeup and a sleepy glaze over my eyes, I waited on Skype to say hello to many of the friends I left over 8 months ago. Aside from the occasional nudity (courtesy of my friends in the room having a little too much fun with the computer cam), I had an awesome view and was able to watch the game in a prime seat (a table directly in front of the flat screen) for the entire game.

The haka took on a new excitement when I was around my Kiwi friends again. And then as the game progressed, I could hear the shouting and cheering as the time ticked down and the All Blacks scraped out a win against the French (final score NZ 8 v France 7). The raucous singing of "We Are the Champions" was the perfect end to my night (or morning) and it reminded me of how wonderful that country and the people that live there truly are... one more great memory to add to an incredibly long list.

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