Auckland Stories: The great debate Down Under - sportsmen's lack of bladder control

Click to follow
The Independent Online

An election is expected in New Zealand later this year, but for the moment it is silly season. That can be the only explanation for the attention given to a question exercising Kiwi minds: why do sportsmen urinate in bars?

An election is expected in New Zealand later this year, but for the moment it is silly season. That can be the only explanation for the attention given to a question exercising Kiwi minds: why do sportsmen urinate in bars?

The debate was ignited by the antics of an Auckland cricketer, Tama Canning, who was spotted relieving himself on the carpet in a city nightclub, Boogie Wonderland. Canning, who was fined by the sport's governing body, claimed to have no recollection of the event. He joins a roll call of New Zealand sportsmen who were suspended for brief periods after disgracing themselves in similar circumstances. As one commentator, Catherine Masters, noted in the New Zealand Herald, it is not only local sportsmen who behave in this fashion. "Our Australian neighbours are prone to it, as are soccer players in Britain," she said.

One psychologist consulted by the newspaper, Professor Gary Hermansson, dismissed the theory that men apparently caught short in bars are marking out their territory, like dogs. "I think it's more likely to be just the pressure of, you know, bladder pressure," he said. "A lot to drink then going past the point of control."

Stu Wilson, a former All Blacks rugby player, blamed the trend of designating male and female lavatories by means of jokey pictures. Men whose mental faculties were impaired by drink might be unable to ascertain which door to select, he explained. And why are sportsmen particularly afflicted? "It might be our IQ level, eh?"

While urinating in public places may be viewed with a degree of amused indulgence here, the same cannot be said of smoking. As of last December, New Zealand has one of the world's most stringent anti-smoking regimes. It is now illegal to puff in most enclosed spaces, including pubs, bars and restaurants.

Publicans are incensed by the new restrictions, and some are refusing to take them lying down. John van Buren, former licensee of the Wheatsheaf Tavern in Christchurch, hopes to gather enough signatures on a petition to force a national referendum on the issue. Mr Van Buren (a smoker) was one of the first people prosecuted under the new legislation. He has now relinquished his lease in order to campaign for freedom of choice.

Mr Van Buren, who plans to launch a new political party, believes that bar owners should be free to determine their own smoking policies. He says he is fighting for "the rights of the average Kiwi", explaining: "Bloody government's gone mad, so we're going mad back."

There are already signs, meanwhile, of nostalgia for the good old days. The butt of a cigarette smoked in an Auckland bar moments before the new legislation came into force fetched NZ$7,475 (£2,871) after frenetic bidding in an internet auction. The butt, salvaged from an ashtray in a popular Auckland bar, was described on the website as a "priceless Kiwiana collector's item".

Paul Holmes, one of New Zealand's foremost broadcasters, is in hot water again. Last year he described the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, as a "cheeky darkie" on his morning radio show. He later apologised profusely, saying: "I'm sick in my guts about it. It was wrong. It was stupid."

Now Mr Holmes has turned his guns on the new Pope, criticising Benedict XVI as an "imposter" and "wowser" (kill-joy). "He doesn't look like the Pope," he told his listeners. "He looks like someone going around in the Pope's clothes." The Bishop of Auckland, Patrick Dunn, said: "Paul's not qualified to comment. He's a radio host."

Comments