Friday, March 31, 2006

Jim Hopkins: Hakaroo key to forthcoming and not coming fourth

Oh, kamate, kamate, oi oi oi." Just relax, folks. There's no need for any alarm or discombobulation. Nothing diabolical has occurred. No sinister transformation hath been wrought.

The poor old tangata whenua haven't been surreptitiously microchipped in the dead of night or anything of that sort.

Unlike our (revered and revised) National Anthem, the haka hasn't been rewritten.

The bilingual version you see above is not official - at least, not yet.

But if that teak-hard ninja, the taxpayer-salaried, all-expenses-paid, limousine-chauffeured, Koru-clubbed Minister of Sport and Recreation, Mr Trevor Mallard, has his way then it, or some similar fusion, could well be our mantra at Beijing.

According to the brine-pickled Mr M, we need a bit of Aussie mongrel if we're to perform better in the all-important medal race at future Olympic and Commonwealth Games.

And there's no doubt that "Kamate, kamate, oi oi oi" does offer an amalgam of multiculturalism and mental toughness that would make us nigh unstoppable.

Adopting a transtasman "hakaroo" should see a host of medals forthcoming - instead of us always coming fourth - and must therefore receive the most serious consideration at the highest level.

Mind you, it must be noted that, stirring as the haka is, a modified version will not, in and of itself, secure the mental transformation that Trevor "The Terminator" so earnestly desires.

Mr Mallard will need to implement a wider range of initiatives (as they say in the bureaucracy) if our athletes are to move up the value chain and become the merciless, foot-on-the-throat, take-no-prisoners, grind 'em down psycho-winners he expects them to be.

One obvious way to turn the wussy Kiwi into a ruthless Ozwi (or Kiwoz, if you prefer) would be to tell the current bunch of post-Lydiard quitters that their new High Performance Coach is David Benson-Pope. Watch their eyes water then, mate.

Not only would the knowledge that "Coach" Dave might turn up anywhere at any time greatly stiffen their resolve, but the fact they'd need to keep pestering for three vexatious months before getting a straight answer to a simple question like "How am I doing?" would undoubtedly help our athletes acquire the synapses of titanium they so desperately need.

As would the simple expedient of making all of them honorary Cabinet ministers - and thus obliged to train regularly for the Resignation Relay - a gruelling event in which competitors are required to drop their bundle rather than their baton.

But there is a simpler means by which the minister might achieve his end. Old Tensile Trev could simply instruct SPARC to, henceforth, bestow its largess only upon those sportspersons brave enough to wear the new Air New Zillun uniform in public.

Assuming the reaction to said attire this week is a reliable guide, this move would quickly separate the wimps from the winners.

You see, if scorn and derision fuel the furnace of character, then Air New Zillun's cabin kit has raised its temperature immensely. People simply don't like it.

Apparently, the colour selected for the ensemble is "schist" although the term most commonly used to describe the overall effect is, while similar, much less complimentary.

Such photographs as have appeared reveal a garment which makes the poor chaps and chapesses who dispense our boiled lollies look alarmingly like refugees from Thunderbirds.

That's certainly been the talkback verdict; and there is merit in the judgment. Claims the costume is bland and unflattering do appear justified.

Even if we accept that one of the most reassuring things about wearing "fashion" is that such branding allows one to look ridiculous with complete confidence, the new uniform still seems to fail several important tests.

To begin with, it may be so bland and grey that, in the unlikely event of an emergency we will not be able to follow the instructions of our crew (who "know what to do") because they've so effectively blended in with the smoke that we can't work out where they are.

We could end up relying on a seat cushion or some similar inanimate object for aid and comfort in our time of need.

The other problem with the uniform is that it doesn't really reflect the motivations that lead people to pursue a career in the skies.

It is, after all, a well-known fact that young women only become cabin attendants to find a husband - indeed, there are those who say the same goes for many young men in the profession - but it's hardly flattering for an alluring sylph to be required to perch what looks like a mutant fez atop her rampant bouffant.

Something a little more diaphanous would certainly have found greater acceptance. Mercifully, what's bad for matrimony is magnificent for medals.

And that's why the Mighty Mallard should oblige our athletes to wear that uniform everywhere they go for the next two and a half years. By that simple expedient, Sir, you will deliver to the Chinese capital a squad of Olympic sportspersons who would make Ricky Ponting look as soft as a Spice Girl.

No need to threaten them with a Heineken bottle, Trev, just stick em in Zambesi and watch their inner Aussie grow!

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