as many of you may know, i've got a significant love affair with new zealand, and specifically with the all blacks, the country's mighty fine and also the world's top rugby team.
and of all the things i love about the all blacks, perhaps my favorite (next to first five-eighths heartthrob daniel carter) is the haka. it's the traditional maori chant and dance that the team shares at the beginning of every match. the haka, as i understand it, is an homage to the legends of the country's maori people, and is an honor within maori tribes to perform it. on the rugby pitch, before the team begins the game, it's a way for them to unify and to build up energy in preparation for the match. aside from being entertaining, it's inspiring, riveting and chilling to watch.
mickey called attention to a recent article in the times, in which the haka is under fire from an american journalist who sees it as racist and inappropriate, relating it to a football player's celebratory dance in the end zone, or a death taunt at a sporting match. has this guy really watched the haka, and does he really understand how intertwined the haka is with the all blacks' history?
unlike those gestures identified in the article, which i see as egotistical, showgrabbing antics, the haka builds team and calls upon history to give them strength to succeed. and, i'm certainly no expert, but how is it tribally insensitive for the ruggers to recount classical tales to prepare them to perform at their best? with the passion and pride they demonstrate on the field during the haka, i see it as exactly the opposite -- as an honor, not only to the country and its people, but to people like me who now appreciate maori culture more than before, in large part because of the haka.
i say, let the all blacks continue to pay tribute to their culture and their traditions. let the opposing teams choose to invoke similar gestures to respectfully accept the challenge put forth through the haka. the lions honorably did so during their '05 tour, using a blade of grass laid at the feet of the all blacks.
don't take the haka off the field and out of the eyes of people who could stand to know more about other countries' cultures and traditions.
PS: interested in seeing these guys in action? check out the thirsty lion on second ave downtown, where they show international rugby most days of the week. yeah!