The New Zealand team does the haka to celebrate winning the
final of the 2011 Wellington Sevens tournament at Westpac
Stadium. Photo by NZPA Images.
Another Waitangi Day has passed and, for some, it was yet
another day at work, a holiday, an opportunity to reflect on
our nation's history, or a day to debate race relations and
what it means to be a New Zealander.
Whether we see it as a positive or a negative, it is New
Zealand's national day that acknowledges the Treaty of
Waitangi as our founding document.
New Zealanders don't tend to shout from the roof tops how
proud we are of our history as a nation, unless it is to do
with sport, and even then we are lukewarm in our enthusiasm
compared with, for instance, the Americans during occasions
such as the Super Bowl.
The day on which the Super Bowl is played is now considered
by some to be a de facto American national holiday, and Super
Bowl XLVII didn't disappoint when it came to over-the-top
drama and ''Americanisation''.
Both teams were previously undefeated at the Super Bowl, two
brothers were opposing coaches, there was a 34-minute
blackout to add to the drama, Beyonce's much-anticipated
halftime performance delivered, and there were enough ticket
sales, food consumption, television viewers, and expensive
advertising space to make capitalists around the world puff
up with pride.
Does New Zealand have a sporting event to rival the Super
Bowl that would start a new chapter in our nation's history?
What other sporting product in New Zealand creates just as
much intensity and drama as the Super Bowl? In terms of party
atmosphere, consumption and sporting excitement the
Wellington Sevens is probably the closest we'd get. Watch out
Super Bowl, here comes the Super Cake Tin.
Imagine organising the ''Super Sevens'' to fall either side
of Waitangi Day. People could choose to dress in something
that expresses their sense of national pride, icons, or
Already, the crowd at the Wellington Sevens embrace each
other irrespective of their political beliefs or state of
intoxication. Wouldn't it be great to see people smiling and
celebrating in this fashion during Waitangi Day?Of course,
there will always be those who want to protest and challenge
the status quo. That is what makes our country such a great
place to live. Everyone has the chance to express themselves,
and to disagree and debate in an atmosphere that is
relatively safe compared with what tends to occur
There always seem to be protesters at the Wellington Sevens,
protesting, for instance, against the political coup in Fiji.
So what better platform to do that on than a packed out Cake
Tin with a large television audience both domestically and
Alternatively, what about playing an annual fixture between
the All Blacks and the Maori All Blacks on February 6 to
emphasise the ''national'' nature of rugby union, and to
recognise the spirit of the Treaty of Waitangi while
embracing our multicultural New Zealand face today?
What would happen if the All Blacks lost? Would this indicate
that Maori will ''take over'' New Zealand and kick all other
ethnicities out? No, but perhaps the political nature of such
a fixture is why it remains in the ''ideas that are too
volatile'' folder at the NZRU headquarters.
Following the rugby theme, there could be a Ranfurly Shield
challenge match on Waitangi Day because, in many ways, the
Log o' Wood is probably the closest we get to the devoted
fever that the Super Bowl causes for millions of Americans.
In no way am I suggesting rugby will bind all New Zealanders
into one warm and fuzzy bundle. There are other sports that
we pride ourselves on, and that may be more effective in
terms of creating nationalistic passion and pride.
It seems the Coast to Coast is in need of a makeover,
according to Richard Ussher, so hosting that around Waitangi
Day and linking to New Zealand's early history along the
journey could be one way of revving up this well-loved event
that exudes that incandescent ''she'll be right, mate'' Kiwi
There are numerous festivals and events at a local level that
occur up and down the country on February 6, and my challenge
to sport event organisers and national sporting organisations
is to see if Waitangi Day could be associated with some
culturally meaningful sporting event.
Why not let our passion for sport transfer to our love for
our country which embraces our heritage as well as our