Friday, August 21, 2015

I Hereby Challenge the Dallas Cowboys: Why Professional Athletes are Cooler in the Southern Hemisphere

Last weekend, all across the country, my country that is, Australia, everyone gathered around their televisions to watch the Bledisloe Cup.  The Bledisloe Cup is played annually by the Australian and New Zealand national rugby teams, the Wallabies and the All Blacks.  Australia lost.

If you’ve never seen a rugby match in which the All Blacks (New Zealand’s team) play, I highly recommend you make the effort.  And if you don’t want to watch the whole thing, at least watch the 10 minutes before the game to see the Haka.
The Haka is the war cry (and dance) of the Maori people of New Zealand.  When my dad visited me in Africa a couple years ago, the South African Springboks had just played the All Blacks.  For several nights afterward, the game was aired and my dad watched it repeatedly in part due to his fascination with the Haka.  When the All Blacks play in international competition, they always take the field before the game begins to perform the Haka and “challenge” their opponents.  The Haka is second nature to us down under because we see it so frequently.

If you have never seen the Haka, here it is:
Well, the All Blacks are now taking their singing and dancing skills to the next level.  The All Blacks recently “starred” in Air New Zealand’s newest safety briefing video.  But they didn’t give the typical “in the event of an emergency an oxygen mask will fall…” instructions.  They didn’t even go the Southwest Airlines route by being funny.  No, no, that would have been too pedantic for them.  Instead, they took the Men in Black theme song, reconfigured the lyrics, sang, danced, and included cameos from some of rugby’s biggest names (from Australia and New Zealand).  Here’s the video:

So, I hereby challenge the Dallas Cowboys to do it better.  Of course, the Houston Texans could also step up to the challenge and offer to record Southwest Airline’s new safety video.

I’m quite sure no U.S. professional sports team would ever consider lowering themselves to such a menial (and non-paid) task.  That’s the difference between the professional athletes here and in the U.S. The highest paid pro rugby player in Australia earns $1.5 million a year.  One and a half million is the salary cap and there are only FIVE players which get $1 million or more.  And there are limitations regarding endorsements as well.  You can’t exceed total compensation (your rugby salary + endorsements) of more than $1 million.  So those FIVE million dollar men?  Nope, they will never be in a Nike ad or on the side of a Wheaties box.

However, due to the salary caps and the limitations to endorsement deals, teams (they are called clubs here) lend their famous faces to pro-bono type advertising- as in the case of the All Blacks safety video.

In case you are curious, the average salary for a National Rugby League player is $200,000 and the minimum is $80,000.  This is a significant contrast from the National Football League (American football) where the average salary is $2 million, but ranges between a low of $420,000 and a high of $35.25 million!  And there are no limitations to money earned from endorsements in the U.S.

This is actually an interesting social experiment because here in Australia the average NRL player makes about 1.3 times my salary, but obviously, I make considerably more than the minimum-wage guys.  In the U.S., the average NFL player makes 20 times my (U.S.) salary.  I take this to mean that educators are more appreciated and therefore better compensated here in Australia.  That, and we just don’t believe in paying pro athletes ungodly amounts of money.

Until next time, watch an All Blacks game, check out the Haka, and next time you fly suggest to your flight attendant that their airline consider something like Air New Zealand’s epic new safety video.

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