Please join me in welcoming our newest co-writer, our very own Comedic.Sans. CS has been a frequent and valued contributor for the past year. His excellent writing is backed by a big football brain and IQ, sportingly used to baffle trolls with brilliance as well as hijack threads to heaven knows where. Comedic.Sans hails from the beautiful island country of New Zealand, over 9,128 miles from Mecca aka: Foxboro, MA (this would be 14,688km for the enlightened).
I'm always curious how Patriots fans so geographically separated from Foxboro, MA keep their fandom alive. I'm also curious about their home as seen through their eyes. So, serving as an introduction, I thought it appropriate to interview our friend from the Southern Hemisphere. Breakout your dictionaries and be prepared for The Queen's English. Let's welcome Comedic.Sans to the frontpage.
What do you do in real life?
My family and I have always been particularly sporty - my mother's parents were a national cricket player and Olympian in small-bore rifle shooting respectively, and my mother represented NZ Universities in tennis and netball. My father's father played alongside, and was best friends with, Colin and Stan Meads. Colin Meads is basically the Jerry Rice of the Rugby world - he was voted the rugby player of the 20th Century, if that says anything. My father grew up in that environment, so it's no surprise he played rugby and cricket at high level. I've played representative sport myself - cricket and rugby - and tried my hand at pretty much anything with a ball, a bat, or combination thereof. My younger sister is a national representative at badminton, too. So I was drawn to pretty much any and all sports at least once.
I got drawn into the NFL in particular at the same time as I became a Pats fan - during the run-in to the Pats Superbowl victory over the Eagles. I was watching a lot of sport when I was recovering from sprained/ mildly torn left knee ligament, and the NFL happened to be on during my summer break from University. I picked up the rules fairly quickly, and was drawn to the Pats. I saw a lot of the traits I associate with New Zealanders in the Patriots, from the coach's demeanour on down. Bill Belichick is a dead-ringer, personality-wise, to the current NZ rugby coach Graham Henry (down to answering "Why did they beat you?" with "They scored more points than us" in press conferences).
Moreover, the entire "Patriots way" is very Kiwi - NZers are plagued with tall-poppy syndrome - even if your team is 100 point favourite, you never, ever say you'll win, you'll never even say you will do well. If asked to make a prediction, you assume underdog position, inflate the other team's chances, and say something like "I hope we do well". You never posture before the game, and you never brag afterwards. The Pats showed the the kind of outlook I was most familiar with, and it was a stark contrast to the *other* contender that year, the Eagles - TO at full-flight is completely anathema to what I'm used to.
Troy Brown. He was a consumnate professional, quiet, dedicated, did his job to the best of his (perhaps limited) physical abilities, yet eked out the absolute most he could've hoped for. He was never egotistical, yet had a quiet confidence in his abilities and was sure enough of them to put his hand up and do pretty much anything necessary. Most impressively, he did whatever was necessary to help his team, and he did it when it was most needed - big punt returns in playoff games, clutch third-down receptions, interceptions as a DB, stripping CBs of interceptions to save games. That all suggests that his mental toughness and sheer desire to win was above and beyond that of pretty much any guy he played with or against, and that demands respect.
Favourite Rugby player?
I've got a few I'd rate above him as rugby players, but it terms of notoriety, overall impact on the game, and sheer physical freakiness, I'd pick Jonah Lomu. At his prime, he was 6'5", 254lbs, yet could run the 100m in 10.8 seconds. He was Randy Moss height, speed and agility, but with Ben Watson's mass and strength. He could run around, over and through people, and he did it with ease and grace. More to the point, I got to play against the guy when I was 17 and playing in the Wellington club competition, so I get to say "yeah, I played that guy once" for as long as he's famous.
Hah, I've only met a couple of American rugby players, and they're soft in comparison to the NZers. One guy from a Mid-West university, Brodie something, played over here for one winter. He lasted 5 minutes of an 80 minute game and was blown away by the pace and physicality of the game here. I'm not sure they're 'tougher', per se, but I'd wager they're far, far more physically fit and conditioned. American footballers might make harder-hitting individual tackles, but they can afford to - there's no three-and-outs or substitutions in rugby.
The biggest difference is that in American football, it's all about the tackle. In rugby, it's the post-tackle time that matters most - it's when turnovers occur most often. Instead of tackling the guy hoping to lay him out or force a rare fumble, the best rugby players will be keeping three variables in mind - how the ball-carrier will be laying after the tackle, where the ball is, and how the tackler can tackle the guy in a way to be able to get up and steal the ball from him when the tackled guy is still on the ground. It means there's a lot more technique and skill than sheer brutality, and it's the finesse in doing it that distinguishes merely good tacklers from the great ones.
And I have all my teeth, and a non-bashed in nose. In fact, I don't remember seeing anyone with a missing tooth here who played rugby. Weird.