WHITE MEN CAN’T PLAY RUGBY, TOO AFRAID OF POLYNESIANS: REPORT

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LETTER TO THE EDITOR

WHITE MEN CAN’T PLAY RUGBY, TOO AFRAID OF POLYNESIANS: REPORT

[SEE: http://pidp.eastwestcenter.org/pireport/2001/October/10-31-20.htm

October 31, 2001

The NZ Rugby magazine study that Michael Fields reported on was interesting in its meaningless results. (Not blaming you, Michael.) America went through an ethnic percentage change in high school, college and professional gridiron...but for reasons completely different than indicated by the NZ report. Many African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Polynesian-Americans faced obstacles preventing them from entering high level American gridiron. Many African-Americans were wrongfully barred from playing gridiron for Universities like Mississippi and Alabama in the prejudiced Southern part of the United States (in the 1930's thru early 1960's). Many Hispanic immigrants had language differentials or cultural bias toward baseball and soccer. Many of the early Polynesian immigrant kids to the United States did not have parental support for academics (i.e., how many Samoan parents from that early 1952 Fiti Fiti Guard immigrant group were knowledgeable in trigonometry or calculus?), which barred participation due to academic minimum requirements. As time passed many of the obstacles to immigrants dissolved, grandchildren of the original immigrants are just regular American kids now and have a more level academic "playing field", thus allowing them to be athletically eligible. Many of the early immigrant kids had to work to support their family. Since 1964 the U.S. has instituted many social programs that allow kids just to be kids and students.

The purported Kiwi fear of big healthy Polynesian kids is probably more the conclusion of a bad study than real Kiwi attitudes. Success in any sport is the result of commitment at any age level. If a Caucasian Kiwi kid has more options of playing with computer games and develops a strong interest in developing software, than he has option of being a computer nerd instead focusing on rugby...so naturally there may be a percentage drop-off by affluent Caucasians if they have choices to do what they like, rather than the traditions of what their grandfather did with Marist or the Auckland Blues or All-Blacks. Many Polynesian kids in South Auckland and elsewhere may not have the economic advantage of a computer at home or other resources...so if one of his mates down the block has a rugby ball then he will commit to being the best rugby player he can be. To say that Polynesian kids have better skills or athletic ability is borderline racist. If you have basic rugby interest and basic athletic skills, it is your commitment to practice, to condition yourself, to watch and learn the intellectual aspects of strategy on TV or in rugby camps (some offered to community kids for free) that will make you better and better skilled. Skills are a learned capacity...you are NOT born with skills. The pathetic nature of the study lumps Polynesian kids into one group -- Polynesians. My own son is an athletic Samoan boy by the report’s definition but is also ethnically Ukrainian, Scottish, Chinese, Tongan, English, and Romanian. So when does my son’s Samoan/Tongan blood account for him being big, strong and fast override his Ukrainian and Scottish warrior propensities? Scottish and Ukrainian descendants are huge big boned people who may have been left out of the magazine study. Must be they focused on "wimpy" small boned parents and kids of purely English extraction. Many top Polynesian athletes like Darren Kellet and Michael Jones would not appear to even be Polynesian to many spectators and competitors. I have seen some incredible tough test performances by Michael and Darren...but they don't seem to match the magazine stereotypical Polynesian profile for instilling fear in "whites." Was my wife's cousin, Fred Ah Kuoi, any less of an All Black because he was part Chinese?

The Hawaii State High School Gridiron Champ Kahuku "Red Raiders" are a mix of Caucasians, Polynesians, Melanesians, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese and Puerto Ricans. These kids have been banging heads against each other since they were in Midget Gridiron Football. The report wouldn't fly here in Laie, Hawai‘i because Kahuku Football is still the king of sports by all families of all ethnic origins. Out here the Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, Puerto Rican and Caucasian kids are just as tough as the Polynesians. The bottom line is: If you are tough enough, committed enough, you will be good enough.

My Kiwi relatives are Polynesian and Pakeha. I wouldn't call anyone of them wimps. The NZ Rugby report is bad science and bad journalism.

Barry Markowitz Hawaii & Samoa Email: newsphotohi@hawaii.rr.com  Internet: http://home.hawaii.rr.com/newsphotohawaii/ 

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