The noble art of Rugby! The Beautifuller Game! For so long it’s been a mighty pillar of New Zealand society, for so long one of our greatest strengths. Who can forget the extraterrestrial invasion of 1879, when the attacking aliens had an extremely odd ceremonial warfare style involving fifteen players and a ball? For some weeks they invaded and occupied half the country, but the occupied populace quickly picked up the rules, and upon facing hordes of determined and highly skilled resistance at every turn, and upon having to face down enemy teams of defiant, fanatical players, the aliens eventually said to each other “screw this for a lark”, and retreated back to their ships in disarray, slumped in defeat.
Rugby’s held a deep and profound fascination for the citizens of this country, and indeed much of the world, for many many years, whether they’re fans or not. What’s it all about, people asked, eager to learn more about the game’s fundamentals. What advantages does it confer? Why do people play it? Why do they enjoy it? How can we make it better? What goals does it fulfil? And, more to the point, are there more direct routes to these goals?
At many points in the 20th Century, much of the country teetered on the brink of bloody civil war in disagreements over these very issues, but finally, in 1996, The New Zealand Rugby Union finally held a national meeting to discuss these profoundly important topics. Debaters debated, speakers spoke, arguers argued. Much pounding on tables, much slinging of mud, much hurling of insults. The members debated far into the night, with soaring rhetoric, fiery debate, heart-searing oratory, and of course, the obligatory booze-fuelled ceremonial bar-room brawl every hour on the hour. Come meeting end, the Union chose three main issues on which to focus, and concentrate the efforts of every rugby club and team in the country on.
One: camaraderie, fitness, skill and team bonding for the players; two: entertainment, reverie and team supporter spirit for the spectators; and three: ads, merchandising and sponsorship deals for sponsors.
The All Blacks in particular were keen as hell to start snapping up the latest technological advances for their players, and soon, the Union saw to it that the team was fitted out in the latest techno-gadgetry, putting the Six Million Dollar Man to absolute shame. All four limbs of each player were now bionic, meaning they could run the length of a rugby field in two seconds, punt the ball through the sound barrier, and hop on each other’s shoulders, form a gigantic mega-player, and smash through the enemy players’ line like a concrete bowling ball through stained glass skittles. A typical rugby game against the All Blacks now looked like a game of Tron, with flashing blingy lighting and hypersonic projectiles, but of course not stupidly fast barrier-constructing motorbikes, although that was on the Union Board’s To Do list.
Concurrently, for many decades prior, the heaving mobs of spectators and rugby fans had been deafeningly baying their support for both the All Blacks and their local team, but had always been limited to simply shouting extremely loudly and getting incredibly drunk. But no more! Soon after the All Blacks upgrade, pub clientele were astonished to discover that row after row of gleaming new exercycles had materialised in their local drinking hole, courtesy of the Union Board. They suspiciously poked and prodded them, as a Roman citizen might prod a computer, but eventually the many Board attendants explained matters, with much arm-waving, and they got the gist.
Every single rugby player in the country, the Board spokespeople said, is now powered by electricity, right? These exercycles are now their power source! More pedaling means more juice and more rugby power. If you want your local team to do well, if you want to demonstrate your team loyalty, just you hop on and start pedaling, and the electricity will be transmitted directly to them. See? If those bastards over in the next valley start bleating about being better fans, and their team being better-supported than yours, well, now you’ve got a way to quantify that, and to prove those dickheads wrong.
For a season or so, NPC games up and down the country became sites of immense sonic booms and wrecked eardrums, plus each stadium and rugby field also became the centres of vast webs of electrical cables fanning in from pubs and stadiums the length of the country, conveying electrical juice from rabid fans. During games, players shot up and down the pitch, sparking off electricity bolts and trailing huge whiplike extension cords. It became common for giant tangled webs of extension cords to form all over the field, with players whipping them like Indiana Jones, or weaving stupidly big webs and enmeshing enemy players.
For several months, ever more rabid and fanatical teams of rugby supporters put more and more hours on the exercycles, getting fitter and fitter. The Union Board started organising cycling expeditions to the Tour de France. Eventually the players just cut out the middle man, started using the electricity supplies being pumped into them directly, and started smuggling huge Tesla coils onto the pitch. Players would take to the field wearing huge billowy cloaks, striding toward their adversaries like wannabe Jedi, under which they’d conceal porcupine-like arrays of Tesla coils. Huge snarling roars of searing electrical firebolts soon blasted the pitch, turning each game into a deadly dangerous battle.
At the same time, there was quite an escalation taking place with sponsorship deals and logo branding. More and more of a player’s uniform was taken up with logos. Using the recent findings of gaze detection science, which discovered that women, when meeting someone for the first time, look at their faces, whereas men look at both faces and groins, rugby players started selling man-specific ad space on their crotches, advertising manly products like shaving gear, construction equipment, and metre-long novelty inflatable dildos.
Soon, the Union Board started making extra attachments for players’ uniforms, specifically for more ads, started using back-mounted medieval Japanese flags with ads on them, and got players to wear them, charging down the pitch. Success! More ad deals!
Eventually, players started playing games with huge five-metre-high billboards on wheels being towed behind them. A single rugby game involved huge phalanxes of billboards charging up and down the pitch at the speed of sound, dodging extension cord nets and searing bolts of electricity.
Finally, to boost team camaraderie, and to amplify team bonding, the various NPC clubs surreptitiously formed their own nation-states, specifically tinpot dictatorships, so that they could conscript the teams as the national army. Hey, what better way to boost team spirit and fight as one unit? Their Tesla coils were quickly upgraded, so they could fight more efficiently. Plus they boosted each team size to 28,000 people and increased the size of a rugby field to a 10km square.
The nationwide exercycle power grid clearly wasn’t good enough for this, so the NZ parliament hurriedly rewrote national immigration laws to allow citizenship for nuclear power plants. It became a common sight to see huge roboticised nuclear power plants on colossal mechanical legs, wearing a kilometre-high trenchcoat and dark glasses, try to sneak through Immigration at national airports. Immigration officials, invariably fiercely pro- or anti- the team the power plant in question had been hired to generate power for, would either happily turn a blind eye to the monstrosity flouncing through, or use the slightest little pretext to whip off the trenchcoat and have the power plant arrested under the nation’s anti-nuclear laws.
Today, the New Zealand Rugby Union has been thrown out of the IRB on the grounds that 28,000-player sides, armed with forests of Tesla coils, towing 5-metre-high billboards, trailing thick snakelike extension cords, and causing ear-destroying sonic booms every ten seconds, doesn’t quite meet the official Rugby Union rules. The youth of most rugby-playing countries, though, have increasingly been thinking that any sport with Tesla coils is pretty damn awesome, and in the future, who knows, rugby played by teams more powerful than most national armies may well take the world by storm.