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April 2, 2012 | by  | in Opinion |
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Nothin’ But Net: A Match Made In Hell

Sometimes things just click.

Things like coffee and chocolate, Ross and Rachel, Jesse Ryder and cheap booze and Richie Benaud and retirement (fingers crossed!).

Then again, at the same time things can go so horrifically and painfully together that it’s a mystery they didn’t spontaneously combust at the time of asking.

Last weekend I had the absolute displeasure of witnessing one of these moments as I sat through ten minutes of Dane Rumble’s performance at the Phoenix match. The ten minutes felt like an eternity. It had the seamlessness and compatibility of a Taylor Swift performance at half time of the Warriors.

But that’s the reality of modern sport– clubs have to bring more into the match- day experience, to make it an ‘event’ in order to stay afloat. The Phoenix are making an absolute meal of it, naturally, but there are examples of it everywhere you look.

We’ve all been to a match with fireworks and cheerleaders. Wellington gets a dude to dress up like Austin Powers every year and sing to thirty thousand drunks. I’m told that Auckland City Football Club hire a Croatian man to sing ‘Summer of 69’at the break (which sounds must-watch if you ask me). The IPL like to arbitrarily light fires at strange intervals and, in another glaring oversight by the NRL’s organisers, some idiot allowed Kelly Clarkson to perform pre-game at last year’s Grand Final.

The epitome of this combination of sport and entertainment is the clusterfuck of popular culture crammed into the NFL’s Superbowl. And I’m not necessarily saying that this is a bad thing–however, I wholeheartedly believe that Mr Rumble should leave his guitar at home next time. The point is that sports need to implement whatever gimmicks they can to draw fans through the gates, as they are drawn into a war with TV producers over their audiences.

Needless to say, TV is winning this war with the ease of Tim Southee hitting on women. Half-time breaks are filled up with interesting insight and analysis (or so they would have you believe), and for that one-in-a-million fan who actually wanted to see Kelly Clarkson, they can flick over to MTV for the innings break.

There are hot-spots and hawk-eyes and jib-jabs and several other nonsensical hyphenated gimmicks offered by the television companies to package sport in an easily consumable, Dane-Rumble-free product.

Not to mention the cost-effectiveness of just sitting on your couch, ordering a pizza, and listening to the hauntingly creepy voice of Francis Payne as he talks you through cricket’s most recent ‘Stat Chat’. In fact, it’s a miracle that live sport even has an audience to speak of.

Test match cricket especially, which seems to love to cling hopelessly to the past, will continue to be surpassed by the shorter forms of the game. Not because they’re any better, mind you, but just because they’re better at finding some sort of correlation between half-naked women and pyrotechnics and overs, runs and wickets.

But for genuine sports fans the reality is unfortunate. As long as the telly is winning the war, sports are going to be encroached by other forms of entertainment.We will just need to hope, desperately, for no more Dane Rumble.

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