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Stevie TV: Sitting on the Edge of the National Couch

Stevie TV is a monthly column for The Spinoff by Steve Braunias. Here he makes a really convincing argument that it was better to watch the Black Caps game last night on TV than being stuck at Eden Park. //

Did you watch last night’s game? Most New Zealanders who saw the Black Caps incred, sometimes ridic and ultimately LOL semi-final against South Africa on Tuesday night will always remember where they watched that very cheerful piece of history: on TV. You have to feel sorry for the 40,000 at Eden Park. Being there isn’t the same as belonging to the tribe gathered around their flat screens. We fed off each other’s hopes and fears, the whole explosive psychic charge of it all traveling through fibre optics and into each other’s homes – each of us connected, a nationhood forged in Telco.

It’s kind of quaint that television remains mass entertainment. I sometimes meet a new class of bore who doesn’t own a TV because they can get everything they want on PC. Yes, that must be fun. Such happy hours of streaming and that. But even in an age where social media means everyone is their own publisher and their own broadcaster, TV is still a common experience, the opium of choice. We like to watch. We like to watch together. The great events of the 21st century – 9/11, X Factor NZ, sport – demand it.

Clive James made the point although TV provides mass entertainment, a mass doesn’t watch TV. People watch TV, one at a time. “You have to come and watch this!”, I said to Emily as she sauntered into the living room in the last over. “Oh,” she said, “who’s winning?” She sat down on the arm of the couch. I leaned forward. I was on the edge of my seat. Less dramatically, I had my pyjamas on – I like to change at about 7pm, you never know when you might just keel sideways and fall asleep. This wasn’t one of those times. I was wide awake, entirely alert, although my head hurt trying to do the maths for the last couple of hours of run rates and such.

I really wished we had biscuits in the house. Now and then I had a hankering for KFC on account of all the lame ads for KFC. Maths, biscuits, chicken – I was falling apart. I didn’t think New Zealand could do it, but I felt better that Emily was in the room, and I was tempted to tell her that I kind of know Daniel Vettori, who was facing the ball. But I don’t know him at all. We’ve only exchanged a few emails. He has a home in Cambridge and I’ve invited him to the Wintec Press Club free lunch extravaganzas, an event I stage in Hamilton three times a year, and he’s replied, “I would have loved to come but I will be in Bangladesh… Unfortunately I will be in India… Once again our calendars clash. I am actually having a hernia operation this week which will put me out of action for a little while.”

He had such good manners, and he looked like a nice man underneath his helmet. I said, “I kind of know that guy OH MY GOD HE JUST HIT A BOUNDARY NEW ZEALAND COULD WIN THIS OH HOW I WISH THERE WERE BISCUITS IN THE HOUSE.” Six runs were required off three balls, the maths of it was beyond me. It had been a long day. It rained that afternoon in Te Atatu, solidly, heavily, for about 40 minutes – Eden Park is 11.9 kms and 16 minutes away from my house, but it was like Mt Eden was another country, it stayed dry there the whole time of the rainstorm and the sun was bright on the grass.

Transmission failed. A message came on the screen. ATMOSPHERIC CONDITIONS HAVE TEMPORARILY INTERRUPTED YOUR VIEWING, IF NORMAL VIEWING DOES NOT RESUME, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR SERVICE PROVIDER. Sometimes normal viewing resumed but then it would cut out again. ATMOSPHERIC CONDITIONS, etc. The rain eventually traveled over a continent and reached Mt Eden, and stopped play. My daughter and I made the most of it. We watched The Waltons.

Vettori got a single. Five off two were required. One run plus a boundary, a two and a three, a three and a two, a six, a boundary plus a one – the permutations were endless, possibly. South Africa were bowling to Grant Elliot. Emily said, “Who’s he?” I’d never emailed him. I’d never heard of him. But he had a knock of 78 off 72 balls, and he looked like a nice man underneath his helmet.

The 40,000 were stuck in Eden Park. The rest of the watching nation were at home with their loved ones, on the edge of their seats, leaning forward towards their TV – sucked into the vortex of the New Zealand condition, each person connected, from Don Buck Road to St Stephens Ave, from Cape to Bluff, everyone joined together in that moment the ball was bowled at Grant Elliot and he stepped forward with his bat.

Emily said, “I’m really glad I watched that.”

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