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Thursday, May 12, 2005

[Sport] Mascots: More than a big foam head?

Outrage and anger. That is what some Bay of Plenty fans will be feeling after the announcement today that the BOP Rugby Union is pursuing a trademark of the name Hori Bop. I can feel that I have lost a few of you already.

Hori Bop is the name of (rugby team) the BOP Steamers’ mascot. But unlike, I assume, many teams, the Steamers (as they have been called for only the past few years) didn’t create their mascot: the fans did. That is to say one fan: Hapi Winiata. The now deceased Winiata created the mascot back in 1953. In recent years the role has been played by Terry Leaming.

Hori is a strange kind of mascot. He is not an animal or bigheaded cartoon character. He is a big fat guy with a beard and “Don King” hair who is painted blue and yellow. He yells a lot and, on occasion, waves a stick. Recently the current incarnation ran for mayor of Tauranga (on a platform of free pies for rugby fans and topless beach volleyball).

Last season Mr Leaming was told he could no longer be on the sidelines. Who knows why? Also last year the BOPRU began the process of trademarking the name Hori Bop. BOPRU CE Paul Abbot said that it was a similar to when Waikato trademarked Mooloo (Waikato’s cow mascot). Mr Leaming is, understandably, upset by this new development, which he sees as another attempt to keep him from being the teams’ mascot.

This is how the issue plays out in my mind. The BOPRU is attempting to keep the name under control. Mr Leaming has, apparently, done things in the past which the BOPRU has frowned upon or disagreed with. However, as Mr Leaming is a private citizen the club cannot stop him from doing whatever he wants (i.e. run for mayor). And if Mr Leaming wanted go out on the town and get absolutely smashed and curl up in a puddle of his own vomit, he should be allowed to, except that he now represents the union and they wouldn’t like that (disclaimer: I have no idea what Mr Leaming does in his spare time). The union wants to control their mascot in the same manner that they control their players; i.e. under strict rules governing off-field conduct. I believe this is probably why they made him sit in the stands and why they have pursued the trademark (disclaimer: I do not know the exact reason for either of these actions).

Chances are that the BOPRU will get the trademark. If this is what happens, Mr Leaming (or Don Hori) needs to immediately negotiate a contract with the union. Hori Bop IS the Steamers mascot. The last thing I would want, or any other BOP supporter (or member of the BOP Mafia) for that matter, is the union getting a PR firm to come up with an “eccentric” character to run up and down the sideline. Good luck to you Hori.

Having done a Google search to find the links inserted above I came across this list of world rugby mascots (Argentina just isn’t trying hard enough). New Zealand’s there, just scroll down, still the less said about Canterbury’s weird half-human/half sheep hybrid Larry the Lamb, the better.

In other sports news: New Zealand is bidding for the hosting rights to the 2011 Rugby World Cup. The government has promised $20 million to the bid if it is successful. It would be cool to get the cup. I remember thinking of going to some of the “smaller” clashes like Ireland vs Tonga or Namibia vs Romania (an age old rivalry). But the Aussies sold us out. And we won’t get it again in 2011.

Why’s that Hadyn? I’m glad you asked, because the RWC will go to Japan. And fair enough, in some ways. Japan got the Soccer World Cup (finals) and did extremely well. Japan will make more money (the biggest factor) for the IRB. Japan needs to grow it’s rugby potential so as to become more competitive in the future (and SANZAR won’t let them into the Super(duper) 12).

If it goes to Japan I won’t mind at all, it just better not go to the bloody South Africans!

Perennial National Bank Cup wooden spooners, the Eastern Flyers, are happy that the NBC is going to an extended two-round format. They are also saying that they will not merge with the Capital Shakers (the other struggling team). They do say that they might have problems with money though and that they currently only practice once a week (due to the problems with coordinating the team over the lower North Island.

I recently said that Netball was being run quite well at the moment and didn’t need salary caps etc to keep it competitive and interesting (especially this season, GO MAGIC!). But perhaps Netball NZ might look at profit sharing. This would ensure that teams don’t drop too far behind the others.

Finally some non-sports news: Stevie Wonder is going to release a video for the blind.

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