Leading Edge: Dunedin gets real … maybe too real …

Sunday Times


TELFORD VICE in Dunedin

“HOWZIT,” is not what you expect to hear from stadium security guards anywhere. But that’s what a guard womaning the gate said to a couple of South Africans as they approached University Oval in Dunedin this week during the first test between New Zealand and South Africa.

Actually, that’s not quite right on two counts.

University Oval is not a stadium. It’s a ground, and thanks the gods for that. Stadiums we have way too many, grounds not nearly enough.

And, being a Kiwi – or a Saffer who has been Downunder for longer than the month it takes our accents to start eroding here – she said something closer to “Yeowzit”.

Still, it’s the thought that counts.

There was more friendly thoughtfulness on the menu of a nearby food tent, whose menu offered boerie rolls.

Again, not quite: “South African Boerewors sausage in freshly baked baguette with tomato and onion and relish.”

Still more kindness was shown another flavour of foreigner.

A fat American in the coffee queue, having had cricket explained to him with due patience and understanding for his cultural deficiencies, voiced questions that cut an annoying swathe through the welcome steamy burble of an espresso machine.

“Is it cumulative? Can you, like, win the test match over the course of the four days? Or whatever?”

Today Mr Ignorant, tomorrow Mr President.

But eyes did not roll. Perhaps being fat and American was an acceptable buffer against the wider world’s realities.

Not that we were short on reality with 35 people being thrown out of the ground during the last session on Thursday.

All of them, according to the venerable Otago Daily Times (Est. 1861), were “males aged under 25, senior sergeant Trevor Thomson said”.

The copper was proper: “They were swearing at players, each other, other people and there are kids around.”

Kids! At a test match! On a Thursday!

Worse yet, the kids would have heard the crowd chanting, “Neil is a Wagner” to the same tune as Saffer spectators who consider themselves clever like to warble, “Siddle is a wanker.”

As Dale Steyn and Dean Elgar would have told them, it’s “‘Neil is a ‘vaagner’, you idiots.”

Honestly, New Zealanders have a responsibility to not raise a generation as ignorant as Americans.

On Friday afternoon vast pools of students spilled onto the grass. It soon emerged that they were undercover as beer down-down aficionados pretending to watch the cricket.

None of them noticed when Mitchell Santner chipped one of Morne Morkel’s deliveries into the covers, where Keshav Maharaj made a complicated catch look simple.

But they did notice when, his over bowled, Morkel trotted to the noisiest boundary and picked up a plastic bottle filled with what looked suspiciously like water …

“Down! Down! Down! Down! Down …”

Morkel obliged, even tapping the empty bottle on his head to show he was done.

That earned him the healthiest, heartiest, hoariest standing ovation he will receive from any supposedly hostile crowd anywhere.

It also made the police and security staff train their gaze more sharply on that section of the crowd, perhaps out of misplaced patriotism.

There were shades of the 1981 Springbok tour to New Zealand as the ringleaders – drinkleaders? – were weeded out and led away.

“Bet you didn’t go to university,” one of them snarled slurringly at a security guard, who was pouring a beer into a flowerbed.

The guard snapped back: “But I’m a damn sight smarter than you.”

The student had another go: “Bet I’ll get a better paying job than you.”

The guard didn’t have to think too hard: “Yeah – at daddy’s firm.”

Degrees of separation, you might say.

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