Truly captivating sporting contests contain two key ingredients: the outcome must be uncertain; and it needs to matter.
There can be no ambiguity about where sympathies lie, no quarter given, no sucker given an even break.
Which brings us to the not-quite-so-mighty any more Bledisloe Cup.
Australian rugby might be about as healthy as a London pigsty in the grips of the Black Death, but it would be stretching it to say the result of Saturday night’s opening test match of three is a foregone conclusion.
A wounded Wallaby is a blah blah, and all that. It might be minimal, but there’s a chance of an Aussie victory, and that’s enough to pique a little interest.
Less certain, though, is who we want to win, and how well we want them to win.
Doubtless a good chunk of New Zealand’s populace with be delighted if the mighty All Blacks thrash the Wallabies out of sight, and will be fervently hoping that happens.
But beyond the realms of the hardcore All Blacks fanatics – how are the rest of us feeling? Do we want to see a one-sided beatdown of a once-proud foe which has already been driven to its knees?
And if we don’t want that – what do we want?
If the answer is: ‘Australia to demonstrate it is still a worthy rival’, then what does that look like? A close contest with the All Blacks just prevailing at the end?
What a deeply uninspiring, weird thing to hope for from what was once an epic trans-Tasman contest. Imagine an Argentina soccer fan heading along to match against Brazil hoping Neymar scores a couple of great goals followed by an injury time winner for Argentina? Or a Red Sox fan hoping the Yankees will have a strong enough team to put up a good contest in the playoffs?
And this is where the Bledisloe has lost its lustre. It is passion, fervour and even a mild sprinkle of genuine distaste for an opponent that make sporting contests great – not sympathy. And certainly not sympathy for the devil. And, yet, here we are, trapped between a rock and a large cup of vomit.
The Bledisloe Cup has been so one-sided for so long that even a good show in defeat by the Wallabies will be meaningless. As unpalatable to swallow as it is, the only thing that will restore the Bledisloe’s lustre is an Australian victory.
That’s impossible to cheer for. And if you can’t cheer, you don’t care.
What an awful pickle.
It’s times like this when we need to dig deep for motivation, and help each other out. So here’s a four step programme that should have you reaching for the pitchfork in no time.
Step 1) Get the blood boiling a little: Here’s Greg Chappell refusing to walk when brilliantly caught by Martin Snedden.
Step 2) Get angry by wallowing in a previous defeat. Here’s John Eales kicking the winning penalty in the 2000 Bledisloe Cup – and talking about it with a smile on his face.
3) Cultivate a thirst for revenge by reliving an epic disaster: Here’s George Gregan tackling Jeff Wilson.
Step 4) Fly into a uncontrollable rage: Here’s Gregan saying “four more years”.
That should do it.