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April 15, 2013 | by  | in Opinion |
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Hoopin’ and Hollerin’

The rules of rugby union dictate that a single match should include two halves of 40 minutes each. These are separated by a half-time break, and during the match the referee may control the clock as he sees fit. There’s more to it than that, obviously, but from start to finish, you should roughly budget somewhere in the neighbourhood of one-and-a-half to two hours of your life to an individual match. I can understand a little bit of introduction and analysis to set the sports fan salivating, but what’s with three-hour telecasts?

Soccer, rugby league, cricket, tennis and golf are all the same, and don’t even get me started on America. You can’t get away from it by going to the match live. There’s a pre-game, a half-time show and even a post-match, despite nobody ever sticking around to watch it. If all you want to do is sit down and watch some footy, you’re plum out of luck.

That said, it’s quite obvious why they need to do this. Firstly, there’s advertising—they need to take advantage of every possible break to squeeze in as many words from the sponsor as possible. That’s taken to all new levels of crazy with the aforementioned US sports like football or basketball: I wouldn’t bat an eyelid if you told me that the time-out was first proposed by Don Draper.

That’s the practical angle, though, and you can bet your ass I won’t stop there. This is a university publication, after all. Sport, particularly live sport, needs to tap into our psyche to get us hooked. They’re trying to tap into the same party feelin’ that underlies the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. They want to make us leave our normal selves behind, to be fully devoted to the spectacle. Think the Wellington Sevens, which is undoubtedly a commercial triumph despite leaving the sport (and the city) in figurative (and literal) ruin.

When it comes to TV broadcasts, they can kill two birds with one stone. I mean, when was the last time you actually learned something from ‘expert’ analysis? When was the last time you really listened? I bet you watched it though. By turning a 90-minute spectacle into an all-singing, all-dancing evening of television, they’ve got you hooked on advertising and have dragged you more and more into fanatic devotion to the Game. America is again the best example, with their Super Bowl coverage being turned into a de facto national holiday.

It’s about putting out the best product you can, and if that means Dane Rumble playing at the Phoenix then, er… so be it. Clearly, New Zealand remains just a little too laconic for such things. We’ll just have to listen to Justin Marshall’s expert half-time interviews, and by golly, we’d better like them.

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