Girly Man vs Sporting Establishment

What on earth is going on in Richard Boock’s column in the Sunday Star Times sport section?

First he tells off Sir Brian Lochore for missing the good old days, when men were men, women were a decorative irrelevance important mostly for keeping your home running, and children could be left in the car with a packet of chippies and smacked – but not hit – when SBL deemed it necessary.  Richard Boock says:

If anyone was in any doubt about the link between New Zealand’s rugby culture and male-perpetrated violence, they only had to read the comments made by Sir Brian last week during a speech to Parents Inc. Essentially, the implication was that if we were to bring back the biff at home, all would be solved.

Richard Boock got a mauling from many over this column, which was partially rebuffed by a feature article by Donna Chisholm the following week which rehabilitated Sir Brian as a family man.  In his column, Mr Boock described the responses he had received:

As for some of the other feedback, being criticised for the strength of my opinion by NZ Herald columnist Garth George and lectured on the need for moderation by Martin Devlin, hasn’t yet persuaded me that I’m on the wrong side of the argument. To those who kept their messages brief: “you are a knob”, a “whiney prick”, a “nancy-boy”, a “girly man”, and “you make logical connections just like a woman”, thank you for participating.

Not content with being described as a girly man, a couple of weeks later Mr Boock had a go at sexism in sport:

Sportswomen are shabbily treated in New Zealand. They’re the patronised, poor cousin of sportsmen, and on the rare occasions they do get a moment of publicity and exposure, they’re often marginalised and trivialised; judged on their looks and appearance as much as their tactics and performance. For them, sexism is an everyday reality. Blokedom rules the roost. Misogyny lurks in the shadows.

He also discussed lack of access to top facilities for sports women (Canterbury women’s rugby team stopped from playing at Rugby Park, but he could have chosen almost any sport and almost any province) and links between super-macho sports cultures, women-hating and violence against women.

But today there’s more still, as Mr Boock asks:

WHY DID the Auckland rugby team bomb this season? Too many Polynesian players in the critical, thinking positions, apparently. That’s what I’ve been told, anyway. Almost on a daily basis, come to think of it. Auckland were eliminated from the quarterfinals because they were an undisciplined, Pasifika rabble; Canterbury qualified because they realised how important it was to play the white boys where they were most needed.

Talking about racism in sport in New Zealand is as brave as talking about sexism – and just as likely to get Richard Boock pilloried by our sports community.

Because make no mistake – comparatively New Zealand has better access to sport for all our ethnicities, more women play sport than almost anywhere else, we have Maori All Blacks that those of us who love sport can cite going back decades.

But we also have some strange resistance to discussing how, even if we do this better than many other places, gender and racial politics are still present.

As Mr Boock points out, beliefs over who are ‘thinking players’ are perpetuated by many in rugby, and lets not forget former New Zealand men’s cricket captain Martin Crowe’s assessment of why cricket remains such a white sport in New Zealand:

“Not many Maori make good cricketers because they don’t have the patience or the temperament to play a through a whole day, leave alone over a test match.”

This wasn’t back in the mists of time, but in 2003.

Then we have the disparities in funding for women’s and men’s sports, regardless of results – how many people know the New Zealand women’s cricket team held the world cup in 2000 despite minimal supports, something the men’s team have never managed?  Or what about the Black Ferns, the women’s rugby team who have held the world cup in three out of five attempts?

Let alone recent ‘inventions’ like the introduction of female cheerleaders to Super 14 games.

I have to hand it to Richard Boock. I’ve been critical of him in the past, but recently he has not shirked writing about wider sport issues – which is highly unusual in a country in which many rallied around ‘keeping the politics out of sport’ while we played racially selected Springbok teams prior to the dismantling of apartheid.

But then I’m always a sucker for girly men. 

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One thought on “Girly Man vs Sporting Establishment

  1. I detest Richard Boock. He has singlehandedly taken one-eyed, knee-jerk commentary to levels above and beyond anyone else in the journalistic community. He’s New Zealand’s Germaine Greer without the intellect, wit or commitment to a cause.

    Article 1: Sir Brian Lochore’s comments were taken entirely out of context. It’s pointed to clearly in Boock’s article, the bit which says ‘Essentially, the implications were’ which to me reads: ‘I interpreted this as…’ which to me then discounts the entire article as being a biased opinion taken from someone who didn’t even attend the event at which the speech was given. Boock then followed up in a later article with what amounts to a retraction, saying he’d spoken with SBL who’d politely pointed out exactly what he was trying to say. No retraction or apology from Boock, just sniping about the mountains of criticism he received from the general public and other media at large, saying that they’d taken his comments out of context. Weird, I thought they were criticising him because he was a dork and took SBL’s comments out of context.

    Sportswomen are treated shabbily. Well, for me this article was challenging as it did hold a few grains of truth. But it was inherently imbalanced. Boock barely noted any of the positives that come from male sport – focussing instead on how inequitably women are treated in sport without providing an adequate baseline for comparison. NZ are behind of some countires, sure (Australia, probably USA) and ahead of other countries in sports equality (South Africa). However, he also didn’t mention that the gap between men’s and women’s sport has been steadily closing since 1985 and that upcoming generations of New Zealanders have largely dropped the attitude that sports are for men and celebrate female sportspeople, which bodes extremely well for the future. Why try to force change on the conservative majority when they’ll die out in 30 years time, and be replaced by people who have an open mind?

    His final article, on race, was pointless. The comment he’d written about was from an email sent by an irate supporter of Auckland rugby, claiming that there were too many Polynesians playing in the Auckland team and that’s why they didn’t win the NPC this year. Which Boock then took to mean there’s still racism in sport.

    Erm, what? Context again.

    There are distinctly different playing styles between the Pacific Islands and New Zealand, which is evidenced everywhere. From the rugby sevens tournaments to international pacific nations tournaments, Pacific Island teams play with aggression, flair, and speed. It turns out that this style of play didn’t work against the traditional, conservative New Zealand style of play this year. Auckland needed conservative and tactical players and only had access to fast, physical, expressive, running players instead. Trust me, if the NPC was a sevens tournament, Auckland would’ve won.

    What’s wrong with attributing a style of play with a nationality? Boock seems to think it represents racism. Well, only if you let it. Kenyans lead the world in distance running, but are hopeless at swimming. Is that a racist statement? No, it’s not.

    The Auckland rugby team exhibited a style of play common to Polynesian rugby which limited their success against other teams who adopted a more structured and conservative style of play.

    He’s a two-bit hack, ludditejourno, and his recent ‘controversial’ pieces smack of desparation – I suspect that he’s not been selling too many books lately. And the last line of your 2nd last paragraph really doesn’t wash with me, and shouldn’t with you. It was a long, long time ago that NZ toured an apartheid South Africa, and apartheid has swung back the other way now, where players are selected on quota, not on merit.

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