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It’s because there’s always some punter waiting to dob you in. Suddenly you’re all over the telly, and can’t get through the airport because there’s hordes of reporters baying for you to apologise. Apologise, apologise! Honestly, we’re sick of it. There was a time when a decent All Black – a bloke’s bloke – would refuse to say something wet like "I’m ashamed and sorry."
He’d just man up and tell the pests: "You can all get knotted. Got that?"
It’s gone too far. Take the other night in Dunedin. Hurricanes played the Highlanders (sods beat us), then me and my mate Dodger go out. It got to five in the morning – you’d have to agree that’s early, not late – so we grab a Big Mac, go to a mate’s flat, and sit down to dine.
Next thing a couple of sheilas in their onesies burst in shrieking – turns out we’re in their house, not our mate’s. No big deal you’d think, because this was an honest mistake, easily made. At 5am one Dunedin door looks exactly the same as the next. You’ve probably noticed this confusing fact if you’ve visited Dunedin – each door has a knob. No exceptions.
We tried to do the right thing. Dodger tells the birds he’ll get them tickets in the players’ box. I offer to autograph their shoulders. But next thing – well, we’re dobbed aren’t we? Figures.
The cops didn’t lay charges because they couldn’t decide if it was break and enter or being on unlicensed premises. Still, we end up dobbed yet again, this time to the media. (Who else?) We get to the airport, there’s a tribe of them, and their big question is: "Five in the morning, wrong house, were you drunk?"
Idiots. Of course I wasn’t. It was an innocent night out. We’d started by hitting Dunedin’s entertainment precinct – what’s it called – the Pentagon, the Saxophone, the Octopod? Whatever, we go into one of their tearooms, and I say to the guy behind the counter: "Six pints of Darjeeling. Set ’em up, buddy!"
Dodger’s just behind me and tells the cove: "Same for me, but with Earl Grey chasers."
They hardly hit the sides, so we go a second round, then I tell the guy to set up a third half-dozen.
"You’ve had too much to drink," he says.
"Too much Darjeeling?" asks I.
"Look, I’m as jober as a sudge."
I cartwheeled two lengths of the counter to prove it, but he turfed us out anyway. Outside, I noticed this big bugger in the square – a giant sitting up on a chair. Dodger helped me up on to his knee, and I begin singing him a good footy song.
"The Captain of the Lugger," I think.
A passer-by yelled: "Have you got no respect for Robbie Burns?".
"Who did he play for?" I asked politely.
It turns out this Burns was a revered Highlander, so I made no further fuss. All Blacks respect rugby’s local heroes.
We trotted off to a couple more joints, and while mixing Dilmah with Twining’s is risky, I swear we weren’t the shlightest bit stickered when we got to the girls’ place. But as you know, it was then that the fit hit the shan.
I got hauled up before Steve Hansen who had a grizzle, then gave wise advice.
"Son, the PR people say that when you’re caught you announce: ‘I’m disappointed with myself.’ It’s the weasel phrase of the decade. If you just say ‘disappointed’ you seem like a sound bloke who took his eye off the ball a moment.
"You know Francis of Assisi? Well, say the patron saint of pets gets plastered and runs over his cat. Next day he’d ’fess up and tell the press he was ‘disappointed’ in himself. That hints that while cat-flattening is regrettable, at heart he’s still a jolly good saint. So do you reckon you can front up to the press and do disappointed?"
"My oath I can," I told Steve.
"Because it’s the absolute truth. I’m disappointed."
"Yep, it’s best I finally set things straight about that night. I’m disappointed that when Dodger and me were sprung, we totally lost our heads. I’m disappointed I didn’t finish my Big Mac. And I’m disappointed that when we rushed out of the chicks’ flat, we left a bottle of Smirnoff and an entire carton of Speight’s."
- John Lapsley is an Arrowtown writer.