There are many interpretations to the meaning of the Don McLean classic, and I certainly do not regard myself enough of a musical boffin to venture into analyzing the meaning of the lyrics in a musical context, but when I look at the state of affairs from another great passion of mine, rugby union, the 1971 classic resonates resonate with me on certain level.
It is believed by some that the song signals an end to a special era in American music and culture brought on by the deaths of musical legends Buddy Holly and Richie Valenz in a plane crash, along with the American culture losing its innocence from the 1960’s with politics taking on a whole new dimension following the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Whether by choice or design, America entered a new era from which there was no turning back, and not everyone was looking forward to it.
The game of rugby union has been with us since the late 18th century where the romantics will have you know that a young lad once picked up a football and started running with, giving birth to the game of rugby union which today, is followed by millions of people in over 100 countries.
The game itself survived two World Wars, economic depressions and if we look closer to home, even Apartheid. It was able to survive all this and much more thanks to the foundation, and ethos around which the game was built, played and enjoyed. Camaraderie, respect, honour, tradition are just a few words that are synonymous with the game of union.
Rugby has always been more than just a social past time, or something to keep us entertained or occupied, it was a culture, a movement, a religion, a way of life. And the moment you became part of this movement, you simply understood all this without having to be told, or taught.
You could walk into any pub anywhere in the world where there was one or more fellow followers of the game, and you would make a friend for life, sharing stories of the great game and how it brought people together.
That exists no more.
By choice or design, the game of rugby union became a professional sport in 1996. This following arguably this country’s greatest achievement as a rugby nation, winning the World Cup in 1995 as a united South Africa. It is actually quite ironic how rugby’s greatest moment or achievement was also the catalyst for events that sent rugby down a road from which it could never again return.
Unknown by many at the time, rugby was able to achieve its success and cult following for over 100 years because it managed to keep the two of the world’s most dangerous demons at bay, money and power.
Throughout the existence of humankind nothing has destroyed or corrupted more than the need for money and power – so when rugby lend its ears and soul to those two things, it started on a slippery slope from which it would never be able to return.
Of course rugby is still around today and still passionately supported by millions, but one cannot help but feel it is all just a bit hollow…
The game seems to be moving from one crisis to the next while constantly trying to re-invent itself to compete with other ‘entertainment’ products or options available to the paying consumer. It is perhaps in this quest to turn rugby into a ‘drive-through’ entertainment product where the game is actually failing.
Those who run the game has real difficulty in preserving the building blocks and ethos of the game whilst trying to build a commercial brand or identity and in the process they are not only losing ground on the traditional supporter who is slowly turning his back on the game, but also failing to attract a new breed or audience to the game.
While we still sit around our braai’s today discussing our favourite team or players, or give the odd comment on social media sites, rugby’s tank like the Chevy is starting to run dry with more and more television sets being turned off and stands only getting emptier every passing week.
We can still hear music today regardless of what Don McLean wrote in 1971, even so, the biggest part of me believes he was right, and the music did in fact die …