Smart, Fearless, Tireless and Resilient: Key Lessons from Sport

Editor’s note: This is another weekly column in the Wanganui Chronicle.


With a few swipes of the thumb, I set the alarm on the “smart phone” for 4:30 and went to bed only slightly less excited than a child on Christmas Eve.

At 5:30 the next morning, my daughter stood in the doorway of the master bedroom saying, “’Scuse me mama and papa.” I opened my eyes, checked the time, and jumped out of bed.

“Come on,” I said scooping her up like a loose ball bouncing on the pitch, “We’re going for an adventure.”

It was halftime by the time we reached Stellar, and we had to park two blocks away. As we walked toward the nightclub turned morning club on this special occasion, I realized with sudden horror that Verti and I were both wearing green tops. Hopefully everyone would be watching the large screen televisions and not notice our hasty wardrobe choices.

For the most part that was true. All eyes were on the game as the Wallabies clawed their way back from an 18-point deficit following the sin binning of Ben Smith. The tension was palpable for a few tense minutes, until…

The bar erupted as Dan Carter’s sublime drop goal turned the tide, followed by his long distance penalty kick and Beauden Barrett’s thrilling chase of fullback Smith’s kick.

By seven o’clock in the morning I had experienced nearly the full range of human emotion. It was wonderful. And that is the point of it all, isn’t it? Being fully human.

The debate about humanity and technology has existed for well over a century. One of my favourite stories as a child was that of John Henry, “a steel-driving man.” The popular American folk tale has been told in song by Johnny Cash, Woodie Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Van Morrison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Harry Belafonte, Bruce Springsteen, and many others. Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 10.51.17 am

As the legend goes, John Henry’s prowess as a hammerer was pitted against a steam driven hammer in a race of man against machine. At the end of the 35-minute race, according to,

“John Henry held up his hammers in triumph! The men shouted and cheered. The noise was so loud, it took a moment for the men to realize that John Henry was tottering. Exhausted, the mighty man crashed to the ground, the hammer’s rolling from his grasp. The crowd went silent as the foreman rushed to his side. But it was too late. A blood vessel had burst in his brain. The greatest driller in the C&O Railroad was dead.

After his race against David Pocock for the try line, Beauden Barrett was anything but dead. On the contrary, in that moment he and his teammates expressed the ultimate feeling of being fully alive. Here were 15 men running and jumping and tackling and kicking and celebrating. Here were 15 men being fully human. Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 10.58.03 am

I have always believed that we are most fully human when we engage our brains and bodies and emotions at the same time. That’s what’s so great about sport.

In my opinion, what makes the All Blacks the best is that they create an unparalleled synergy on the field, and that they can bounce back from adversity and find a way to win.

Ben Smith has been my favourite AB since I first picked a favourite. The World Cup final only confirmed it. Along with being smart, fearless, and tireless, he showed true resilience after receiving a yellow card. Within a second of the infraction his hands were in the air acknowledging the mistake. After the TMO review, he accepted the card with a nod.

Returning to the field, Smith’s performance was brilliant, setting up Barrett’s try with a phenomenal kick after picking up a turnover from the attacking Wallabies. At the end of the game, I was pleased to see that he was the one kicking into touch.

As the crowd inside Stellar erupted again, Verti and I made our way out onto a quiet street that was underwater on another Sunday morning just four months earlier.

Like sport, climate change is less about technology and more about humanity. People, not solar panels, will be what tackles this immense foe. Teamwork will be essential for victory. Resilience is critical.

At the end of the day, it’s about people. And even at the beginning of the day, as my daughter reminded me, we can’t always rely on technology for what’s most important.


Peace, Estwing


Sidebar: Who are the leaders on climate change in our community?

Please send me stories of local people stepping up and making a difference.



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