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May 22, 2017 | by  | in Sports |
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Too Much of a Good Thing

Winning does strange things to a fandom. Since their first test match in 1903 the All Blacks have maintained a winning percentage in the high 70s and have only lost to seven of the 19 test playing nations, with Ireland securing their first win over the All Blacks in 30 matches just the other year. Yet reading the Stuff article following the All Blacks World Cup win in 2011, an ignorant reader could be forgiven for thinking they were a historically tortured team.

On the other hand, nothing strengthens a fandom more than consistent losing. It makes a fan hard and cynical, but the curse of fandom is a short memory, as all past pain must be forgotten by the next match when redemption is always possible. In New Zealand this type of fandom is exemplified by the Warriors. Like little brothers to the All Blacks, the Warriors have yet to win the National Rugby League (NRL) title, though they have come bitterly close. Yet every new season the same old adage is expounded by media pundits and fans alike: “this is the year.”

The All Blacks exemplify the inverse of this theory. Consistent winning has soiled the taste buds of the fandom. Winning is the expectation, rather than something the All Blacks do; “winning” has become something they are. This in turn has required the denial of “losing”, the very thing that makes winning taste so sweet. In this context winning has become less a triumph and more a slow, excruciating release of those expectations and the tension that maintaining them creates. Hence why that Stuff article reads like a funeral avoided rather than a celebration of winning.

That is to say, I would rather sit with a Warriors fan when they lose than to sit with an All Blacks fan as they win.  

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