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It only needs a few agitators and strong personalities to get others to follow, who in normal circumstances wouldn’t have the strength, courage or conviction to make a stand or get involved.
Mob and pack behaviour is part of our DNA, which ranges from positive outcomes in bringing down oppressive governments and regimes to the cowardly, where people are attacked because they are a different race, creed or religion, or for simply no reason at all.
The dust-up between Christ’s College and Christchurch Boys’ High School supporters after their annual rugby match on Saturday is a classic case of a few stirring up and the rest following.
It wasn’t much of a scrap, but again the historic rivalries at this particular match came to the fore, prompted by a few, joined by many. Nothing much happened apart from pushing and shoving and maybe the odd punch thrown.
But a spark can set off a powder keg.
Years ago at Aranui High School I played basketball. I was selected for my speed, not my height.
The school had always produced top basketball teams over the years and the era I was there was no different.
A double-header home Friday match against Xavier College involving our open grade team (fifth, sixth and seventh forms) and us, the fourth-form side, was memorable, but not for the basketball.
Our match was fiery; the open grade clash even more so, which fed an increasingly restless and hostile crowd.
When the main game ended and the Xavier teams and their supporters headed back to their van, they were jostled, kicked and punched by Aranui supporters. The Xavier van was damaged.
A number of us players tried to intervene and protect the Xavier players and supporters but the mob, while not large, was by now well out of control. Normally mild-mannered supporters had the smell for blood.
The fallout between the schools was considerable. Weeks later our team was dispatched to play Xavier at Xavier. Not sure why, as the game was scheduled for Cowles Stadium and it was our open grade team and their supporters, many of them who had left school, where all of the after match trouble had stemmed from.
But clearly we were the sacrificial lamb. It was to be payback. The Xavier gym was full with their students and they gave it to us.
We were glad to get out of there.