Sport, Nationalism, and the Narration of Cultural Scripts: The Death of Colin Meads and the New Zealand Imagination

in Sociology of Sport Journal
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  • 1 University of Otago
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This paper explores the narrativization of sports icons within the context of nationalist discourse. The authors explore New Zealand media coverage surrounding the death of Colin Meads in August 2017. Meads, a former all Black rugby captain, coach and administrator, media pundit, and corporate spokesman, was a high-profile public icon. His death was met with saturation national media coverage. The authors’ cultural studies informed analysis of Meads’ narrativization is twofold. First, the authors contextualize the cultural scripts surrounding him prior to his death. Second, they critically read media narrativization following his death within the context of narratives of nation. They explore this mediation in the context of intersecting themes of rurality, Whiteness, masculinity, and rugby. Print media coverage widely articulated Meads to the nation as the archetypical “kiwi,” liturgized his contribution to rugby during and after his playing career, and his “no-nonsense” character. In doing so, it reinforced a selective national narrative, premised on a combination of both remembering and forgetting. This narrative reaffirms White-settler, male heroism, and rugby as central to New Zealand nationhood and assuages contemporary national anxieties and the cultural hierarchies they entangle.

The authors are with the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Falcous (mark.falcous@otago.ac.nz) is corresponding author.
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