By now, those interested in Team USA playing the Basketball World Cup have seen the Haka dance preformed by the New Zealand Tall Blacks, and the hilarious reaction from James Harden, who seems quite shocked. The question is – what’s so shocking about the Haka?
The answer is the exposure to Rugby in the United States is minimal, especially when compared to a lot of other sports. Sure, it might be improving, but the awareness to Rugby is minuscule. Not a lot of people know about the USA Eagles, who will actually be playing the New Zealand All Blacks in Chicago. Not that there’s been a lot worth mentioning about their Rugby team aside from forgettable appearances in the World Cup.
Rugby Union is the most popular sport in New Zealand, the most popular sport in the Pacific islands like Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, huge in South Africa and Wales, big enough in Australia, England, France, Ireland and Scotland and growing pretty well around the world. Anyone with even the smallest and remote knowledge of the sport, which means more than just the name of the sport, has seen at least one Haka.
There are plenty of versions. Each high school team have their own edition. There’s a more “villainous one” and softer ones. There are other nations that perform the war dance before matches. There’s nothing new about the Haka being a sensation.
But it turns out NBA fans and NBA players don’t know a lot about the sport, and so it seemed weird to them. I’m not sure it intimidated them. I don’t think it intimidates anyone anymore, but it’s a great part of sport, especially when teams stand up to it.