Sometimes the Diggity Doc and the Wildcard talk to each other...
Diggity Doc - El Wildcardo, she's been a rough few days huh? One great All Black has lost his life and another great All Black has hung up his boots. It would be extremely rude to consider Jonah Lomu's greatness compared to Richie McCaw's and I'd rather express the purest form of pride/joy that our little nation has produced two humans of the highest ilk...
Wildcard - Yeah, I think that's the way to go with it, Doc. There can't be any comparison in the two situations because, well, there's nothing to compare. A retirement is a kind of death but it's callous to suggest that the two things are related beyond them both being All Blacks. But as people, you're exactly right. Two fantastic men who happened to also be fantastic rugby players (two of the very best in any conversation) and they've always done themselves, their families and, yes, their country, proud. It's funny, coz I always kinda shrink (no pun) when people talk about how small NZ is but I truly felt it when I saw the global response to the loss of Jonah. I honestly think he was underappreciated here. Richie never was, he got all that he earned and so it's great to see him able to retire on his own terms (even if I thought he could hang on another year for transition's sake). I can see this turning into the convo of old sporting icons, haha, but let's start with Jonah and celebrate legend that he was (and still is) and the enormous appeal that he held. Who or what was the unlikeliest source that you've seen pay tribute to him so far?
DD - The Game, of West Coast hip hop fame. Compared to a rugby player he's like .................................... Ali Williams; decent and very successful at what he did. The Game and Jonah together, West Coast x South Auckland. As someone who loves both, it's epic and shows how astronomically lovely Jonah was.
WC - Ha, yes! He was gonna be my pick as well, though I enjoyed the very thoughtful words that David Beckham had to offer. I mean, I cannot say it enough that we kiwis had no idea how far his legend spread. He will have been the only rugby player that 50% of the planet had ever heard of. He had his own video game! (and a great one it was, remind me to try find a borderline-legal copy online somewhere later). We could also talk about the tragedy of his illness and his passing but I think that's unbecoming - at this time we should be remembering what he gave to us and I can't ever remember a player who carried more of an aura than Jonah. In any sport it's hard to think of them (I think Peyton Manning's one has saved his career for a few months too long - but his was more like Richie's aura). Ronaldo and Messi, maybe? Roger Federer circa 2007 or so? There aren't many. Jonah changed the entire face of a match just by playing in it.
DD - Ah and let's not forget the fact that Jonah was one of Adidas' faces, an exclusive club. Who would be the cricketing equivalent? Someone who's presence took the game to new heights...
WC - Well there's only one name as far as I see it. Not a name that maybe had the global appeal (it was more force of population that did it for him) but that's as much to do with the fact that cricket's not a game that travels well worldwide. And this guy deserved the wonderment he inspired anyway. His name: Sachin Tendulkar. Agree?
DD - Ah nice. Cricket in India is somewhat similar to rugby in Aotearoa and they both raised the bar in every aspect ... substantially. The thing for me is that every other country loves him. No one has ever said what a prick Jonah is/was.
WC - Somewhat similar but on a WAY bigger scale, haha. Yeah, for sure, and the size of both rugby and New Zealand in the overall state of things, I reckon, only adds to the incredible things that Jonah achieved, to be as recognised as he was. And let's not forget that his sheer brilliance at the 1995 World Cup almost single-handedly saved the sport by launching it into the age of professionalism. How many superstars can you say that about? Take Messi out of football and nothing really changes. Jonah may also have been the most important rugby player since William Webb Ellis, there's a thought for ya. As they say in Game of Thrones, we shall never see his like again.
But let's talk Richie now. How cool is it that he's just walking away at the click of a finger? Won the World Cup, no more of that. Just helicopters and early morning runs.
DD - 'The most important rugby player since William Webb Ellis" puts it accurately into perspective huh?
With Richie, his transition into everyday life appears like it will be seamless/flawless. That's another mark of the man as he has obviously put a lot of thought into his 'retirement' plans and he has enough external interests that coaching isn't his fallback option. I just think that the best men (not just athletes as Richie's more than a great All Black) are well-rounded and he's got enough to keep him busy that he's actually excited to enter this stage of his life. Excessively mature, very wise and reasonably badass.
WC - Not only is he not falling back on coaching but he's (even better) not falling back on commentary like so many others. Man, could you imagine Richie on the mics? "Yeah and uh, Smith throws it out to, uh, Savea, who, uh, skips around the outside and, yup, there he goes over one poor fella, fends of another and bob's your uncle, 5-0 All Blacks. She'll be right."... actually that might be pretty cool now I think of it. But so is flying helicopters. Like, Richie has earned the right to do whatever he wants (which should be a human right for everyone but he actually has the money for it to be true). He wants to fly planes and stuff, so he'll go and do that. I think that's amazing to see someone so zoned in on what they want and how they wanna live. Plus it just so happens that, yes, it is reasonably badass too, haha. Can you imagine him in the aviator glasses dropping Sylvester Stallone/Rambo into a Hollywood war zone? Coz I can.
DD - I sure can as well. I don't think Richie deserves the right to do as he wishes, like you said everyone deserves that right but Richie has actively pursued these hobbies to the point where they are now a career option post-rugby. That shows a certain level of dedication (amongst dedicating himself to rugby and being an All Blacks captain) and foresight to plan ahead for life after rugby which should alone be celebrated. I think we always forget how easy it is for players to become coaches or commentators, so for someone to do something completely different is awesome.
WC - Absolutely, and we also have this tendency to kick ex-athletes to the curb once they're done. There was this 30 for 30 doco about how many American sportsmen find themselves broke within however long of finishing playing. It's not a regular career and it's one that finishes so young too. Richie's got it all sorted though, good for him. I reckon this also fits something borderline mythical about him that we all have, to see him just stop on a dime and disappear into the lands. Hey but I'll tell ya who hasn't retired and that's Ali Lauitiiti! Back for one last swing, how about that?
DD - It is only right that Richie McCaw retires to fly around the South Island. It's mythical and will only enhance his mystique ... which is odd for such a normal dude. Yes, Mr Lauitiiti, Mr Why-Use-Two-Hands-When-You-Have-One. I love the signing but I just hope people don't expect him to play too many games. Over/Under: How many games does Lauitiiti play this season?
WC - Oooh, umm... honestly I'd say 10. There are a fickle bunch of fans out there that will assume he's coming back (as one of the oldest players in the NRL) to be the dude he was in 2001 but that's mental. He's there because he wanted to come back and would play for basically nothing. I'm taking the under on that, by the way. But it's awesome, having Ali back. Imagine the role model he'll be to that young forward pack. Imagine the influence he can have in that locker room. Have you seen how Kevin Garnett, formerly one of the wildest men in the NBA, is embracing being a nurturer on the Minnesota Timberwolves? That's what Ali needs to do. You wrote a good piece on the signing already, which people should read, so I won't ask you to rehash it all. But how crazy/cool/surreal is it gonna be seeing him play his first game back, being such a name of an era that has otherwise passed by?
DD - I'm going under 10 games as well and the value of Lauitiiti will be felt in the sheds, just like KG. The Warriors lacked another experienced leader and with all due respect to Manu Vatuvei, Lauitiiti will serve as a leader of the poly boys. Lauitiiti has spent 10 years in England where he won five Championships which not only gives him life experience but also winning experience which is great. I'm not too fussed on the crazy/cool/surreal aspect 'cos he could be one of the pieces that the Warriors have been lacking.
WC - I remember cheering for the dude in friggin' Primary School, it's definitely gonna be surreal for me. You're right though, the beauty of the signing is that it's not just some nostalgic fan service deal, he has actual tangible value to the club. I liked your point in the piece about bringing in depth players with experience who know how to fill in when needed, that's a balance that they haven't always had. To switch things up again, you're one of the biggest Kobe Bryant fans I know, and Kobe has shied away from the Lauitiiti/Garnett role in the past (only to kinda have it forced on him now). I've been shocked to find over the last five years or so that I actually really like the dude too. But I'm now almost certain that he's retiring at the end of the season (maybe even sooner). Is there any chance he sticks around, you think?
DD - The only way Kobe sticks around is if he wants to salvage things next season and if the current situation doesn't sit well with him. Like McCaw, Kobe has plenty on his plate after the NBA so he doesn't need to stick around. I think there are athletes who genuinely love their sport and will play for as long as they can. Think Kelly Slater and Steve Menzies for example. Not many people love basketball as much as Kobe and I'd like to see him play a few more seasons. While we are on the topic of reitrees/soon to retire guys, Michael Clarke is clearly an absolute muppet right? He has ripped into former team mates to drum up some drama and publicity, so dumb.
WC - A muppet? Yes and no. Yes in the most obvious way, that's just a dick move on his part, but also no in another way. Like, we're talking about athletes transitioning beyond their playing days and Michael Clarke is out there trying to get a job in the media. I reckon you'll find that's what this is about, he's trying to establish himself as an outspoken personality all of a sudden. As for Kobe, it seems like the physical side of things is finally getting in the way of the mental side. Not as bad as it's happened to Peyton Manning (who for the first time in his career - sans neck surgery - he's finding he can't play through an injury) but Kobe's clearly not the player he wants to be and that's hard for him. Michael Clarke went through the same thing, really. Of course, his new comments are all lifted from his new book and that's another factor - we know how publishers like drama. God forbid someone write an actually good book that can succeed on its own merits...
DD - I'm glad you brought up the book topic because I was told that Dan Carter's book signing in Auckland where he answered questions and hung around to sign plenty of books, was a hoot. No blown up dramas, no dramatic quotes/leaks, just a good guy with plenty to say. On a semi-related note: Kevin Pietersen has a documentary coming out which I expect to be as self-absorbed as Ronaldo's, completely unlike Steven Adams' collabo with the OKC Thunder called 'The Kiwi Way'. Have you caught that trailer? ... Adams' not that attention requiring Pietersen's.
WC - Yeah, I've been keeping an eye on that Steven Adams one since I first heard about it a couple months back. Looks an interesting watch, as much as anything because of the American lens it's coming through, seeing ourselves from a different eye is bound to be educational. Plus Adams is just a cool dude to spend some time with. Ronaldo's doc I've heard some good things about as a window into the life of such a megastar but I've also heard there's more footage of him without a shirt then there is of him playing footy which is... sadly predictable. As for Kevin Pietersen... can't say I'll be watching that one. (Sidenote - I watched that Jonah one 'The Anger Within' on Maori TV the day he died, a very moving doco done right).
DD - Any peptide nominees this week sir?
WC - Ah, yes. The boardroom at the Gold Coast Titans where a guy was able to forge James Roberts' signature, effectively nullifying his contract and making him a free agent. How such madness keeps happening in the NRL is beyond me but at least the Parramatta Eels finally have some solidarity.
DD - How dumb is that!? And as you said, stuff like that keeps happening. I genuinely believe that Australian sport is a weird mix of pushing the boundaries and being stuck in an old school simple Aussie bogan mentality. Just look at their media ... geez you got me fires up, lucky I have sedative peptides.
WC - Sedative peppies, the best kinds of peppies. Yeah well don't even get me started on the JARRYD HAYNE'S COMING BACk TO THE NRL narrative that they're pegging. If the Niners didn't have a plan for him beyond this season then he wouldn't be on the practice squad. So dumb. Anyway, now I'm riled up too, we'd better cool off. 'Til next time Doc, it's been a pleasure.
DD - Ah the epitome of Australian stupidity. Over and out chief