How a people-person writes about the Rugby World Cup

How to watch the rugby world cup 2011 by Spiro Zavos     How to watch the rugby world cup 2011 by Spiro Zavos
Spiro Zavos is such a smart, forthright, engaging writer that I'm reading How to Watch the Rugby World Cup 2011 with much pleasure. That's despite the fact that my rugby-gene is a sleeper. (I only like watching rugby on TV when Our Team is winning.)

As I read, a tiny part of my brain has been asking, 'How does he drag me further and further into this book, given my disability?'

A few linguistic clues show that to Spiro Zavos is mainly writing about people.

One grammar-checker clue concerns those collective nouns that are so troublesome for business writers. In sports writing, they pop up in every second sentence.

Are the words team and side singular or plural? Spiro Zavos and his editors usually treat these words as plurals. I imagine that's because Zavos sees each team as a group of highly individual identities, not a product or a block of players acting as a single unit: If either side have lost ...

Occasional inconsistencies sound natural in the book's conversational tone, and only pedants will froth at the mouth over them.

Similarly, is the name of a country singular or plural? Plural when it refers to a national team: England have struggled, Wales have continued their slide. But singular when the name refers to a nation: Romania has quite a long history of playing rugby.

Is a team a thing or a group of people? The latter, because Zavos writes as a people person, not as a prospective investor. So he uses who (not that or which) to refer to teams: England, who are now fourth in the world rankings ...

This passage hit me with a thud on page 69:

The US-based international Reputation Institute found in 2010 that Australians are more positive about themselves than any other of 33 nations surveyed. The national anthem enshrines a positive call: 'Advance Australia Fair'.

So the Aussies declare with their national anthem, 'We've got a bloody beautiful country and we're going to get better and better under our own steam. No worries!'

And what's the key message of our national anthem? 'God Defend New Zealand.'

What a pathetic, whiny, poor-little-us, oh-dear-the-baddies-are-coming message to send the world, and worse, to tell ourselves.

Thank heaven for the haka as an antidote. Identity. Assertion. Positivity. Go the All Blacks!

How to Watch the Rugby World Cup 2011, NZ edition, Awa Press
How to Watch the Rugby World Cup 2011, Australian edition, Penguin

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