Will the last guy to leave get the lights please?

March 15, 2012
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Bye, bye Miss American Pie… Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry… Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey in Rye… Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die… This’ll be the day that I die…

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 …

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30 Comments

  1. avatar JT_BOKBEFOK! says:
    March 15th, 2012 at 11:10 am

    Not all doom and gloom mate! My season kicks off on the weekend and I am excited about it! :wave:

    REAL rugby! Amateur rugby! :support:

  2. avatar Sauce says:
    March 15th, 2012 at 11:19 am

    Money ruins most things , when you look at the music industry today – its manufactured not performed. They are voices with marketing teams while the true artists are left to eek out a living.

    Rugby on the other hand is just being cocked up by broadcasting and the IRB in search for entertainment when i suspect we would all like to see just a good game of rugger where the best team wins.

    More rugby players need to be like Jerry Collins – where he would often turn up at his club and play a Sunday fixture – for the love the game not the paycheck.

  3. avatar JT_BOKBEFOK! says:
    March 15th, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Reply to Sauce @ 11:19 am:

    there are a few still left like Collins! You can put Dallaglio in that catergory for example! This past weekend we had Joe Worsley at our local pub/club house and the guys had a great time.

  4. avatar Kat says:
    March 15th, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    Morné, the problem (as I see it) lies with the mixing of pro and amateur sport under one governing body. Pro sport is run very differently compared to amateur sport. Pro Rugby will work but it must be operated like the NFL is operated in the States (one of the best pro models available imo). We cannot mix amateur principles with pro principles (and the other way around) with the hope that both sides will benefit from this mixture.

    Pro Rugby must go its own way. Sell the pro franchises through a bidding process and let the new owners form a governing body amongst themselves that will look after their specific needs.

    SARU and the IRB can then run the amateur game on pure amateur principles. Pro sides can then go into partnerships with amateur unions and even help sponsor them if they want to be able to get access to amateur talent.

    Get rid of the substantial grey areas in rugby and things will improve for both pro and amateur rugby.

  5. avatar bryce_in_oz says:
    March 15th, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    Quite a lot of old school nostalgia happening at the Rebels this weekend with a Sunday game…

    Family day, clinics, stalls on the outer-fields before the Cheetah’s game… a real rugby union buzz…

  6. avatar Oranje Orakel says:
    March 15th, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    :whistling:

    :weed:

  7. avatar Kat says:
    March 15th, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    CITY OF CAPE TOWN

    JOINT STATEMENT

    The Executive Mayor of Cape Town, Alderman Patricia de Lille
    The President of the Western Province Rugby Football Union, Mr Tobie Titus

    15 MARCH 2012

    We are pleased to announce today that the City of Cape Town and the Western Province Rugby Football Union (WPRFU) have agreed to enter into formal exploratory talks to discuss the potential move of the WPRFU to the Cape Town Stadium.

    Now that agreement has been reached to start formal discussions, both the City and the WPRFU will establish a number of technical teams to deal with a range of issues that need to be resolved before a possible move can be considered.

    The City’s primary Department in managing these discussions will be Tourism, Events and Marketing Department, as Cape Town Stadium is one of six strategic assets that fall under their authority.

    We understand that there is a great deal of public interest in this matter and we therefore undertake to keep the public informed of any major developments related to this process.

    However, in the interim and in the best interests of the process, we ask that the technical teams are given the necessary space to complete their work.

    These discussions come at a time that Cape Town Stadium is experiencing one of its busiest periods since the FIFA 2010 World Cup, with three large events being held at the Stadium over the coming weeks.

    The City remains committed to doing all that is possible to make this world class asset truly sustainable and accessible to all Capetonians and we are grateful for the constructive spirit in which the WPRFU has agreed to enter into these talks.

    End

    Issued by: Communication Department, City of Cape Town

  8. avatar Aldo says:
    March 15th, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    morne, methinks this is a bit of an over reaction. Yes a lot of the old school values are gone, but this does change the game, but it is far from bye to the game we love.

    As long as we keep the passion going and instill the love for the game we love in our children, it will keep going strong. It is when we stop doing this that rugby is in trouble. Pro’s and administrators will come and go, but the game of rugby will outlast them if we as fans stay true to the game we love so much.

    I look at my son, lol he is to young to play bulletjie rugby, they only start at u6 level, but he joins in every practise on tuesdays and thursday afternoons, and dont you dare try and remove him, even though he is a year too young. So dont believe all the gloom and doom, but be wary of negative influences. Protect our game and never take it for granted, but dont ever believe the game to be as bad as its administrators.

  9. avatar bryce_in_oz says:
    March 15th, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    Reply to Aldo @ 5:51 pm:

    Agreed…

  10. avatar Morné says:
    March 15th, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    Reply to Aldo @ 5:51 pm:

    Aldo rugby is not coping with professionalism – it might not be visible at levels you refer to with your laaitie, but I am seeing with my own eyes how the game of rugby is systematically being destroyed.

    The situation currently is supporters and administrators in rugby has a glass-house mentality when looking at the game. Meaning that they are not worried as long as the shit does not come knocking on their door.

    I am truly surprised how blase the reaction of supporters (specifically in this country) have been with the recent news from NZ rugby on Otago…

    What has happened there has been the clearest indication yet that rugby is in deep shit.

    Guys like me and you (and most on this site) are old school – when we talk about the game or tell our kids about the game we do it from a perspective of amateurism – how we got to know and fall in love with the game.

    We are a dying breed – the next generation will be looking to the game itself and right now, professionalism in rugby is failing big time.

    The game will not disappear, not in our lifetime and not even our kids’ – but at what expense?

    Unions that have been around for 100 years will disappear and make way for commercial (IPL like) franchises whoring the game for every cent it’s worth.

    Rugby will re-invent itself as a microwave dinner, drive-through instant satisfaction product to satisfy a paying consumer market.

    I have said before the game of Sevens will become the flagship product of the game of rugby – with the 15-man code slowly but surely eroded to nothing but a social past time or memory with the odd test (like in cricket) being accommodated in a busy Sevens rugby calender…

  11. avatar JT_BOKBEFOK! says:
    March 15th, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    on another note @Davids and @Boertjie – this might interest you guys.

    We are playing a game on Sunday in Rovereto and I will be making a weekend out of it.

    Interestingly in this smallish town they have the largest WW1 museum in Italy:
    http://www.museodellaguerra.it/eng/index_eng.html

    I think I might just give it a visit!

  12. avatar DavidS says:
    March 15th, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    I hate you JT

    I mean that in the sincerest nicest possible way…

    Morne

    1976
    Kerry Packer

    Despite that test cricket is STILL the yardstick by which teams measure their own success whilst 20/20 and ODI are just there to make the money.

    That is almost 40 years of professionalism in a sport that started from an even more amateur boys club base…

    What rugby has done incorrectly is in their attempt to retain the amateur ethos of rugby right up to national level, whilst trying to act professional.

    ps.

    Go and look at cricket tours. The tests are the flagship events and the ODI’s the quick fix circus tours that rake in the cash.

    Sevens will not replace rugby for a long time to come, and probably never replace the 15 man code, but will far more likely become another professional arm of rugby union.

    I disagree with your assessment.

  13. avatar Aldo says:
    March 15th, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    morne, call me ignorant, but then ignorance is bliss, but I dont believe it. Yes we are old school, but the love of the game is just as much part of the new breed of supporters as it is for us. Do not blame professionalism for the way the game is going. Rather poor administration. It is time we the supporters, start taking the administrators to task, not the proffesional game.

    Look at the nfl, nbl and nhl in america. It has been pro for a looooooong time, but have you seen the passion those supporters still have for the game? No Morne, professionalism is NOT the end of rugby as we know it, there will be changes to make it more attractive, but in the end the game we love will stay. But only if we stop underestimating the power that we as supporters have and start taking those fatcats at sanzar and the irb to task. If we start doing that, rugbyy will stay forever, in the 15 man code we love, not the watered down 7′s version.

  14. avatar JT_BOKBEFOK! says:
    March 15th, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    Reply to DavidS @ 8:12 pm:

    get in the back of the line :twisted:

    Test cricket hardly bring in the crowds and the money but the players still hang on to it and the purists watch it (I love test cricket)
    But rugby is a game where guys can get injured and it is always a risk to play. So the day 7s is the cash cow and 15′s the empty stadium version then the players will be forbidden to play 15s because of the risk to injury.

    However watching HC and 6N rugby here in EU – the game is healthy with packed stadiums! S15 is the problem – no real meaning behind the games in such a long tournament. HC is a championship and the game are most of the time high profile!

  15. avatar JT_BOKBEFOK! says:
    March 15th, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    Reply to Aldo @ 8:17 pm:

    I disagree, NFL is all hype and the americans know how to blow something small into a big thing (WMD anyone? :soek: )even though there is not much to stand on. Most Americans I know that follow football rather watch College Football than the NFL!

  16. avatar Boertjie says:
    March 15th, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    Morné

    Just this: I gave you Wynand’s book on the 1981 Tour.
    I think there is enough evidence there on how
    professionalism has fooked the game.

    Not just rugby: Tour de Farce has become just that
    with its drugs and stuff.
    Athletics: Ditto. But only the very few get caught.
    Cricket: Match fixing – you all know the details.

    It doesn’t help me saying it again, but Doc Craven
    was right.
    The inevitable has happened, also to rugby, albeit
    on a much smaller scale perhaps.

    Forgive me, it’s only the rambling of an older man.

  17. avatar Boertjie says:
    March 15th, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    Reply to JT_BOKBEFOK! @ 8:21 pm:

    As for the SS15 – can’t agree with you more.

  18. avatar Morné says:
    March 15th, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    Reply to DavidS @ 8:12 pm:

    David economics are not going to get better for either sport.

    Already you see less cricket test matches with tour calendars filled with ODI’s and T20′s.

    2-match test series are becoming the norm today where 10 years ago a minimum of 3 and mostly 4 or 5 test match series’ were played.

    Crowds at test matches are dropping at alarming levels where the ICC is now even considering day-night tests!

    You mentioned that ODI’s and T20′s are used to rake in the money – and you are spot on – problem is – more money is needed so where are they going to go to get this? Not test cricket.

    We could all watch our boys in NZ at reasonable times in the ODI’s and T20 matches, not many are watching the test series.

    Test cricket is the yardstick traditionalists like you and me still measure teams by – given crowds and television audiences in the other formats, we are the minority.

    Pro rugby competitions like Super Rugby is in trouble because numbers are dropping – how long do you think it will take before a commercial decision is made?

    Locally our domestic 4-day (test version) SuperSport series is not even televised at all – if 50 people pitch up for a game it’s a lot! Compare that to the rubbish formats being broadcast on TV?

    It is all about money – and if the current formats don’t bring in the dough, they will get replaced by something that does.

  19. avatar JT_BOKBEFOK! says:
    March 15th, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    Reply to Boertjie @ 8:24 pm:

    professionalism has not reached us yet!! I would love to do what I do as a job but will I then have the fun I am having? :Dawie:
    With money and professionalism come responsibility and headache! Now i can enjoy it and know it won’t cost me a paycheck! :?

  20. avatar Morné says:
    March 15th, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    Reply to JT_BOKBEFOK! @ 8:21 pm:

    For now rugby tests will always fill most stadiums – as far as the domestic leagues in Europe goes – it is not difficult to fill 10 000 seater stadiums.

  21. avatar Morné says:
    March 15th, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    I am out till much later folks – cheers.

  22. avatar Boertjie says:
    March 15th, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    JT
    Somehow this referrals to a post is not working.
    Anyway, NO – I’m sure the fun will disappear when
    it becomes a job.

  23. avatar JT_BOKBEFOK! says:
    March 15th, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    Reply to Morné @ 8:30 pm:

    Why then do the clubs decide to play the big games in Milton? (Saints), Wembley (Saracens), St. Sebastian (Biarritz), Millennium Stadium in Cardiff in 80K stadiums!? They fill the big stadiums for the HC boet! This is not NZ!! :twisted: :soek:

  24. avatar Kevin_rack says:
    March 16th, 2012 at 4:38 am

    What made rugby great is gees. Team gees, supporter gees. Where the brand is the people and the club. Where a player would be a life long club player, where you could have a braai after he game with the team. Where on a Saturday evening the club house is full with players, supporters and families sharing life.

    Now its money. A player will move for the highest pay cheque forgetting the club and those that got him there. Teams have lost those things that made them different.

    Short termism. Me me now now. Somethings are greater than the individual.

    In the end the players salaries will kill the game as agents profit on the higher wages.

    I often wonder if TV is not killing the game. A world where we become isolated from the community, staying at home to watch the game instead of heading to the club?

  25. avatar bryce_in_oz says:
    March 16th, 2012 at 5:35 am

    Reply to Kevin_rack @ 4:38 am:

    It’s quite simple really… the amateur rugby (or any sport for that matter) scene in Australia is alive a well… you just have to go and sign up or watch…

    However if you want to see the best of the best… you, the players and their employers have to pay for it…

    The level of rugby we are witnessing these days at Super or test level (or top level any sport) is only a reality because the athletes are full-time… and that don’t come cheap nor does it promote loyalty when someone’s career/future is so short-lived in the grand scheme of things…

    When it comes to careers… money talks bullshit walks…

  26. avatar DavidS says:
    March 16th, 2012 at 8:22 am

    Soccer has been pro for over 100 years Morne…

    And I have yet to see beach soccer or indoor have its reach and pull.

    On test cricket I would propose reading cricinfo and especially their opinion pieces. T20 is still regarded as pyjama play and the true test is the five dayer. It is only in South Africa where you have less and less people watching (and this is due to being given a kak product to support… nobody interested in the Chokteas) in T20, ODI and tests, whilst if you look at test matches in the West Indies, India, the UK, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka you will see the true value people place on the five day game. You make the critical error of using South Africa as a yardstick by which to measure the strength of cricket. Due to a weak side and amateur theatrics at board level and constant choking and political wrangling nobody’s interested… ODI and T20 are just as poorly attended as multi day matches.

    At the moment all the growth and money is being directed at the 15 man game and Sevens is a side dish.

    And even at grass roots level, 15 man tournaments at school level attracts far more spectators than a Sevens Tournament.

    I do agree that rugby is going through a professional growth spurt at the moment and this is painful for the sport… it’s like a caterpillar shedding skin for a butterfly to emerge and that is the changing of the Syd Millar, Jock Hobbs, Bernard Laporte and friends Lord Haw Haw nudge nudge wink wink club. A new breed to administrators is starting to enter professional rugby to match the professional players.

    It’s already happened at the Bulls and Lions and the present political friction at WPRU is more evidence.

    Rugby will emerge stronger from this… and the 15 man game will be intact…

    Just on that – at grass roots level you had cricketers playing Limited Overs stuff because of time constraints.

    Thus kids were raised on a diet of LOI. However in rugby, like in soccer, the junior game and the senior game are the same. Sevens is a poor relative. And will remain so. I know some people believe rugby will follow the T20 tournament way but given that Sevens has to run outside the 15 man season it shows you that Sevens does not match the 15 man game for spectator value.. and I’m not just talking about my generation of traditionalists, but even the young kids watching at the moment.

  27. avatar Morné says:
    March 16th, 2012 at 8:52 am

    Reply to DavidS @ 8:22 am:

    Dude there is no way in hell you can compare soccer.

    Just have a quick look at English leagues from the top through to the bottom and how one feeds the other starting at 100% amateur leagues through to semi and semi pro and then pro.

    Yes it might be a blueprint rugby needs to consider but it cannot be a copy and paste job.

    Believe it or not I follow cricket very closely. Those writers you mention and articles are written by the traditionalists like me and you and I repeat – we see test cricket as the ultimate test, reality is it brings in no money.

    Numbers in Australia is even dropping, go read an article Haysman wrote not too long ago (when Aus toured here) on what is happening to test cricket. I think it was on SuperSport.com

    Rugby, like cricket will depend on quick fix revenue streams to sustain the test (15-man) code.

    Sevens is growing in numbers, the Olympics will assist that growth exponentially.

    Festival tournaments like Sevens and Cape Town Tens (which attracted tens of thousands this year) are only going to become more popular – the 15-man code had better wake up and wake up soon.

    There will be a point of no-return for them and hopefully they will make the necessary changes before they get there.

  28. avatar Timeo says:
    March 17th, 2012 at 1:23 am

    Reply to JT_BOKBEFOK! @ 8:24 pm:

    The Americans have been very clever with managing football. The NFL, by forcing all players to go through the college system has enabled both amateur and professional football to be commercially successful on a tremendous scale.

    Fans are more passionate about the college game but they watch the NFL none the less. Something like 24 of the 26 most watched events on TV last year were NFL games. The networks are paying through their noses and making losses on their NFL contracts but the simply cannot afford to left out of it.

  29. avatar Timeo says:
    March 17th, 2012 at 1:28 am

    Reply to Timeo @ 1:23 am:

    Who’s ever heard of a sports team with a +100K stadium that can boast sell out home games since……..

    The 1970′s ?

  30. avatar Timeo says:
    March 17th, 2012 at 1:32 am

    Reply to Morné @ 8:52 am:

    Ho hum for sevens.
    SR attracts tens of thousands every weekend.

    And I agree, it is not in good shape.

    too many games. too long, too crappo refereeing.

    Too much fragmentation of the audience. Time zones are not a sport’s best friend.

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