Many people absolute love the beginning of the holiday season. When I grew up, the holiday season started after Thanksgiving, and we definitely weren't allowed to sing Christmas carols until December. Now the Holiday Season starts at Labor Day and Dillard's is already starting to prep the tree and have started delivery on AR-15 Carrying Jesus dolls for the nativity scenes that will be festooned on millions of Texas lawns. In the Fisher household, the holiday season started on June 8th this year. And no, it isn't the wife's birthday that starts it. It's something far more important. It is the beginning of the All Blacks international test season. When my wife and I got married, the deal was that the wedding could be on any day except for one that the All Blacks were playing. Because if that were the case, there would be a missing groom during the ceremony. The nice thing about my wife is that instead of becoming a rugby widow, she decided to become just as big of a fan of the game and the All Blacks. Now you might understand why I would have been dumb not to marry that woman!
For those of you living under a rock or so ethnocentrically narrow minded that you don't pay any attention to global activities, the All Blacks are the national rugby team of New Zealand. They are called the All Blacks because the majority of their uniform is....get this.....all black in colour with the exception of a silver fern on the chest. Unless they play an away game, in which case sometimes the jersey is white in colour. Or in practice, when their jersey is orange, blue, or grey. You know what, shut the fuck up, accuracy police. The primary jersey is all black in colour and that is probably how they got their name. The other theory involves a typo in a newspaper, so it was part of the very first "fake news" issue back in 188dgeryasg. It's interesting having an All Blacks bumper sticker on a car down here in Texas. When I first moved here, there were a lot of frowns on peoples' faces when they saw it. Which is quite an odd reaction if you ask me. It didn't say "All Blacks are awesome" or "All Blacks are terrible." I know this is really hard for many Americans to understand, but New Zealand in the 19th century didn't consider racial relations in the United States in the 20th and 21st Centuries when coming up with their name. Strange, I know! How bloody inconsiderate of them! I got a complaint from HR about the All Blacks flag I had hanging in my office, so I had to take it down. Somehow the crosses and deer heads in everyone else's office are acceptable. Remember, these are the same fucking assholes who call liberals "snowflakes." They can't even handle a flag that has a fern on it and the name of a rugby team. I guess that is why they need to be so heavily armed at all times. If a flag is going to cause you to lose your mind, you need all the firepower you can get your hands on to deal with anything that confuses you or makes you uncomfortable.
New Zealand is a country of a little over 4 million people. It's located about as remotely as you can get on this planet. Most people know New Zealand as the location for the Lord of the Rings movies and that's about it. If you like lamb, then New Zealand is a really important country for you. That's about the extent most people are familiar with this incredible country. People ask me all the time why I am so passionate about New Zealand rugby. The answer is because I love the fact that a tiny nation can dominate the global stage in such a comprehensive manner. Hell, on most of the other national teams you'll find some native kiwis that weren't good enough to make the All Blacks squad but are good enough to earn a starting spot in Ireland, Wales, Australia, England, Scotland, etc. The All Blacks are like the New York Yankees, Chicago Bulls, Real Madrid, and New England Patriots all rolled into one team. Now imagine this super team being based in...Albuqurque. That is how remarkable the All Blacks are.
There are so many things to admire about the team. They have incorporated the indigenous Maori traditions, people, and ethos in their approach to the game. After a match, the senior players are responsible for sweeping and cleaning the locker room. The All Blacks believe they have never really lost a game -- they just ran out of time. They believe their time wearing the jersey is a brief one, but their responsibility is to pass it on to the next player in better shape than it was when they received it. They are ruthless on attack and ferocious in defense. They rarely panic. And they have practiced plays so many times that it has become muscle memory.
Rugby helped change my life in many ways, the vast majority of them being positive. Asian Americans aren't known for their athletic prowess. Outside of the figure skating world (Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan), you can count on four fingers famous athletes. Michael Chang, Jeremy Lin, Chloe Kim, and Apollo Anton Ohno. There's an uncomfortable truth to the stereotype that Asian Americans aren't that athletic. I was determined to break that perception. There was only one problem -- I wasn't very good at anything. I was ok to higher than average at a lot of things, but not great. Rugby allowed me the time to become great. The coaches and players were very patient and they celebrated huge achievements in my playing career, like finally being able to run at full speed and catch the ball. That only took a full year of constant practicing to achieve, by the way. I put thirteen years into the sport, and have played at the highest levels here in the US and internationally. I'm not gonna lie, it is a very satisfying feeling seeing the surprise on people's faces when they find out about my athletic pedigree or see it in action when I'm demonstrating a pass, kick, tackle, etc.
The All Blacks, by the numbers, shouldn't be the best team in world rugby. Yet they are. I should not have been a top level rugby player, and yet I was. I see in the All Blacks what I could have been if I had started in the game earlier and committed myself fully to the pursuit of being the best. In the game of "what ifs," I often wonder what could have been if I had done so. Rugby is a great analogy of living a successful life. It's the consummate team sport -- it doesn't stop, and you have to be good at many different aspects. The All Blacks have written the manual on how to become great at life, it's just up to us to listen and follow that example. It's served me well throughout my adult life and I cannot give enough credit to the All Blacks for helping me realize what it takes to be successful on more stages than just rugby. Whakawhetai koe, Aotearoa.