As the watch ends in the 2015 Rugby World Cup finals, Australian Wallaby desperately need it. Down 10 points to New Zealand. All blacks must win twice. They are forced to start taking risks, and, as often happens in the most heartbreaking moments of sports, they become too reckless. The uploaded pass becomes a turnover bought up by the All Black defender, who, even when three wallabies meet on him, manages to hit the ball far out of bounds.
And then Boden Barrett begins to run, and the whole of New Zealand begins to greet.
For a star sports player who puts a premium for brute force, Barrett is neither large nor very high. But when he finds a gap on the field and begins to knock down his legs, everyone else suddenly begins to play another, much slower game. At the moment when Barrett is released from persecution in the Cup final, the result is a foregone conclusion. Long before he reaches the final zone, the whole nation will have enough time to solemnly rise from their places, and relaxThere will not stop All Blacks now. It seems that even the ball knows this, because at the penultimate moment he receives a strange blow right into Barrett's hands.
Barrett scores, but the celebration has already begun.
At that time, Barrett was not even a newbie, but in the four years since then he won two consecutive awards of the International Player of the Year, set many individual records and took the most important position in the team, which in the past few years won a higher percentage of its games than ever in its history. One example: right now, Boden Barrett is the best player on the best team in rugby history. This is the territory of Michael Jordan.
The crazy thing is that if you are no longer a rugby fan, you probably have never heard of him. This is partly because in the international arena, rugby remains fairly low. The popularity of the game, both in the United States and abroad, as measured by television ratings and the number of players and teams, is growing steadily. But the first world championship in the version of this sport, which is played by all blacks – the rugby union – did not take place until 1987. Compared to more established sports, money is much less and, therefore, much less hype. In 2018, Barrett is estimated to have earned about $ 670,000 playing for All Blacks and his professional club, Wellington Hurricanes. Football Lionel Messi earns about $ 92 million a year.
But Barrett’s lack of ESPN headlines or sports magazine covers is also partly due to the fact that demonstration swimming is anathema in New Zealand rugby, and team self-esteem above team success is considered an extremely poor form. Getting any New Zealand rugby player to talk about “the best player on the best team” is a hopeless task. It’s just not the Kiwi Way. The best I can say to Steve Tew, the CEO of the New Zealand Rugby Union, is that Barrett is “a very skilled rugby player.”
When I ask Barrett how he recalls his performance in the 2015 World Cup finals, the 28-year-old athlete does everything possible to gently sell his achievement. First, he rejects a loan to Ben Smith, a teammate who intercepted Wallaby's pass. He then notes that since he came into the game as a late substitute, he had fresh legs compared to everyone else. And finally, he recalls the wonderful rebound that allowed him to press the ball to his chest while he was in full swing, like a blow of sheer luck. “I don’t know if I have ever had a more perfect bounce,” says Barrett. “It made my job a little easier.”
It made my job a little easier. Listening to Barrett, relentlessly seeking ways to downplay his greatness, is the perfect introduction to the Kiwi paradox introduced by All Blacks. Modesty and decency are everywhere, but you will not win at the speed that all blacks get because of self-abasement on the field. And of the many adjectives that come to mind when you witness the crazy performance of the frightening All Black haka, the Maori dance performed by the team before each match, humble will probably be the last on the list.
With the start of the next World Cup, the six-week tournament in 2019, which kicked off in September in Japan, the Kiwi's national expectation is that All Blacks will not only win an unprecedented third title in a row, but also in an overwhelming style. This time, Barrett will be a starter, striving to strengthen the already historical legacy. The question that fans of other nations may well think about as they tremble before the roar of the hack and the booming thunder of All Blacks attacking the field in unison is this: how the hell are these guys so good when they manage to be so damn fine about it?
JUST A FEW HOURS AFTER LANDING At Wellington Airport, after a 14-hour flight from California, I am in the hotel bar for an informal meeting with Barrett and Dean Hegan, the head of a sports agency that represents Barrett and many others. All blacks. I just returned from an interview with the CEO of Rugby Union Tew, whom Hegan called "one of New Zealand's two most influential rugby players." And I will be interviewing another most influential person, the All Blacks coach. Steve Hansen, the next day.
This is all more than surreal. A few hours after I arrived in the extreme southern Pacific Ocean, I plunged as deep as possible into the heart of frantic rugby. It was as if a writer who had never been in an NBA game unexpectedly conducted an interview with Commissioner Adam Silver, LeBron James and San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.
Belatedly and fearing my ignorance, I sit down next to Barrett and order a beer. Everyone drinks Amstels, so I follow suit. Even sitting, Barrett behaves with the grace of a professional athlete who knows that he can do what most mortals cannot. But he also has a calm, instant calm, which makes him relaxed.
One example: right now, Boden Barrett is the best player on the best team in rugby history.
I break the ice, mentioning that after only five minutes by taxi from the airport, the driver told me that he was “a bit of an expert on the subject of Boden Barrett.” Barrett greets the news with a surprised and shy grin. We discuss concussion in violent sports; I have heard that the absence of helmets and rugby linings makes sports safer than American football, because players are less likely to lead their heads when doing gear.
A second round of beer has been ordered, and I quickly get acquainted with the labyrinth structure of rugby. Like football, the international rugby scene is split between national teams and club teams that hire the best players from around the world. Most rugby nations have their own national leagues, but there are also leagues that include clubs from different countries. The main example is the elite Super Rugby League, a collection of 15 franchises in five countries. The Super Rugby League playoffs are just two weeks away, after which the Rugby Championships, the annual standoff between the national teams representing Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, will immediately begin. And then – the World Cup, a 20-team tournament in which the usual heirs of British imperialism of the Commonwealth participate, a small part of the countries of the South Pacific, including Tonga, Fiji and Samoa, and several random emissions – Japan (host country), France, Argentina and USA
After Barrett drained his second Amstel, he apologized, but the next day I had more time with him. We meet in the bowels of Westpark Stadium, the Wellington Hurricanes home, nestled between bright green rainforest-covered hills and Wellington's magnificent harbor. Barrett is a little more careful with a working tape recorder, but still shows zero anticipation or impatience.
In a way, Barrett is the prototype of the future world celebrity rugby. He maintains agreements with Tudor and Red Bull watches and over 400,000 Instagram followers. His gorgeous model Hannah, whom he married in January last year, is also an influential person on social networks. After this year’s Cup, Barrett is expected to win by winning a year or two while playing in Japan before returning to the Kiwi fold.
This is not the life he expected to lead when he grew up in a harsh dairy farm in Taranaki, south of Auckland, on the northern island of New Zealand. His father, Kevin Smiley Barrett, never made it to All Blacks, but was a legendary "tough opponent" for the local Taranaki club and played with the Hurricanes for several years. According to him, Barrett's first recollections of rugby are about how his father plays. “I remember watching his club workout at night,” he says. "Because you will work on the farm all day, and then train at night."
All four Barrett brothers play rugby – two of them, Scott and Jordy, also play for All Blacks. His mother, Robin, herself an athlete who played netball, a type of basketball popular in the Commonwealth countries, was notorious for meeting her sons at school, but only collecting their bags. Then the boys had to run three and a half kilometers … barefootThe goal was to beat the bus home.
Robin, as I later told a resident of Taranaki, whom I meet at a pub in Wellington, was also responsible for Barrett's relentlessly “good manners”. With almost any other stellar athlete, Barrett’s attempts to reject praise will sound like false modesty. But Barrett has a way to sound well-mannered. When I tell him that, unlike in 2015, he is going to become the starter and leader of the world football team this year, his answer sounds with disarming sincerity. “Oh look, I'm not sure,” he says. “I do not know what our plans are. Whatever role the coaches choose for me and the team, I am pleased with this. ”
But then he pauses, as if he thinks if he is too far too far in the way of the kiwi.
“But I expect to start,” he adds.
The only time I get a real lift from Barrett is when I ask him if the hack is against the principle of "all strangers" "not show on boats." For the first and only time he strains. Haka, Barrett says, is dedicated to "honoring our heritage and those who came before us."
“It’s not necessary to show how strong we are, how strong we are or how terrible we are,” he says. “It's about connecting with each other.”
The merger of the Maori and the English settler community, as well as immigrants from the Pacific Islands, as well as much later history, has historically been a complex affair in New Zealand and is still largely under development. But as soon as you make kiwi rugby fans talk about hacking, this is a pretty short step to understanding that one of the reasons All Blacks is so tough and strong, and yes, scary, is that the team clearly considers itself a symbol multiculturalism. unity and reconciliation. The DNA of Maori warriors, the size and dexterity of Pacific Islanders, the stiffness of an English settler grown on a farm – All Blacks is a model of powerful hybrid fusion, and they know it.
“Haka is about us,” says Barrett. “It's not about the opposition.”
It's early in the evening on a cool, Saturday in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. At D4 at Featherston, a spacious pub a short walk from Westpac Stadium, hurricane fans gather before playing for a beer. Yellow hurricane shirts are everywhere. A huge projection screen shows a Super Rugby match between the Buenos Aires Jaguares and Tokyo Sunwolves, but interest in it seems erratic. (After all, all blacks are not involved)
Then Barrett comes in and orders a Guinness book.
He doesn't play tonight – hurricanes can't improve their playoffs, so most blacks on the team act as a precaution against a disaster due to an injury ending in the season at the World Cup, so why not? No crowd scene takes place, but tangible changes have occurred in the surrounding hype. The conversations get louder and the overall level of fun intensifies. Everything is black in the house, and not only black, but also Boden Barrett. People try to be cool, because this is the way of kiwi, but when Barrett makes rounds, fans take a chance for a selfie. I follow him, hoping that people will be a little more expansive in their explanations of what makes Barrett's play so great that Barrett was ready to do himself. I am not disappointed.
"He makes it look so simple."
"He's always in the mix."
"He is a magician."
"He's the best number 10 in the world."
In rugby, each position has a fixed number. The number 10 always refers to the position of the fly in half. In American football, this is what is called a skill position, such as a receiver, a run back or a quarterback. Unless this corresponds to controlled chaos, which is a rugby game, half a fly is a mixture of all three that are expected to be able to pass and receive, beat and run, direct the overall course of the game, and if possible score.
The goal of rugby, like any other variant of football, is to hit the ball in the final zone. In rugby, touchdowns are called “attempts” and cost five points, after which transitions can be dropped for two points. Penalty kicks bring three points, and the teams also have the opportunity at any time to knock the ball into the goal net in order to get another point in three points. Transmission is prohibited, but there is also an anarchist spirit that gives everything that gives rugby more zest than American football or football. Legend has it that the invention of the game dates back to one day in 1823, when William Webb Ellis, a student of the English rugby school, basically said fuck it in the middle of a football match he caught the ball and ran with it. Perhaps this story is not true, but the winner of the Rugby World Cup is awarded the Webb Ellis trophy, so there is little doubt that the spirit of accidentally ignoring decency by a young man is alive and well. Any player can hit or pass the ball, and when possession is disputed, the game turns into ruins and scum, in which giant people join their bodies in a frantic fight for the ball, which in the distance looks like a flock of wild boars. fighting for the truffle.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen says Barrett has a quality that many great athletes share: “He has a lot of time to do something.”
Half the fly is kept away from the scrum. Barrett, who is less than 6 feet 2 inches and weighs 200 pounds, can handle the best of them, but his game is not violent. His magic is to pluck in intuition at the moment, to feel and act on opportunities that the rest of us simply do not see. Steve Hansen, an All Blacks coach, says Barrett has a quality shared by many great athletes: “He has a lot of time to do something.”
Rugby reaches some of its most exciting moments when a whole line of players runs to the fullest down the field, throwing the ball from side to side, looking for a gap in the defensive alignment of the opponent, who will open the line to the final zone. It was at these moments that Barrett was inclined to demonstrate his space-time advantage with one of his travels, a short, imprudent hinged passage that he likes to hide behind his teammate. as fast as he is. Successfully completed, sleight of hand casts aside the defenses with the pleasure of a three-card Monte Hustler in Times Square. Nobody watches the recipient of the pass, which suddenly breaks into the open territory. This step seems incredibly risky.
It is almost by definition not modest or humble run over.
But what happens on the field should not be reduced to how a person leaves the field. Тренер Хансен говорит, что у него нет проблем с тем, что он называет «играть высокомерно». «Это другое высокомерие», – говорит он. «Это полная вера в свои способности и доверие к парням, с которыми вы играете».
И, возможно, это решает парадокс киви. All Blacks не нужно ходить по полю или искать свои культы личности или знаменитости, потому что то, как они играют на поле, так же высокомерно, как мастер джазового саксофона, устанавливающий возвышенную импровизацию. Это не нуждается ни в вышивке, ни в украшении рококо. All Blacks, как Боден Барретт, пробивающий разрыв и включающий его самолеты, являются их собственной явной судьбой.
«Мы считаем, что мы говорим с нашими действиями», говорит Барретт. «На самом деле, это то, как нам нравится это делать».