July 28, 2003


Is New Zealand’s pre-match rugby union war cry the greatest ritual in sports?

Well, it sure is terrifying -- I’ve seen it a few times, and always feel like fleeing -- but the greatest?

Some other contenders:

”Gentlemen, start your engines!” The annual call at the Indianapolis 500, an event which has seen a competitor, spectator, or crew member killed for almost every year it’s been run. Chilling.

”Play”. A simple instruction issued by a Test cricket umpire to signal the beginning of an Ashes series. Or any Test match.

”Racing!” Invariably the first word shrieked by the trackside caller of the Melbourne Cup.

”Bink”. An approximation of the sound made as the red lights are extinguished at the commencement of a Formula One Grand Prix. Not that anybody can hear it.

”???????” The train-like siren blast that begins an AFL Grand Final. Come up with your own approximation.

Posted by Tim Blair at July 28, 2003 05:09 AM

Don't forget:

"Play Ball!" The start of every baseball game in the United States, from little league up through the majors.

Posted by: Sophorist at July 28, 2003 at 06:01 AM

I'd always considered the semi-official Formula 1 start ritual to be Murray Walker's line (from back in the day):

"And it!...is!...(pause)...GOGOGOGOGO!!!!"

That line, followed promptly by the roar of twenty-some-odd F1 engines at full throttle, would make my blood flow a little faster.

Posted by: Peter the Not-so-Great at July 28, 2003 at 06:29 AM

"Now kicking off, the Arizona Cardinals"

Okay, it's terrifying if you're a Cardinal fan. A team so bad, they were pretty much kicked out of two cities.

Posted by: Jeremy at July 28, 2003 at 06:41 AM

Funny how quickly "Let's get ready to rumble!" has faded from the public consciousness.

Posted by: denise at July 28, 2003 at 07:45 AM

Good grief. The haka is increasingly a source of embarrasment for many NZ rugby followers (although the pressure is off a bit now that we're winning again).

Combine it with the maori language version of the national anthem, lovely in its own right, and all we present to the the world is a tribal, provincial and pacific island nation.

Which is probably correct, our economy is starting to look more like a Pacific Island one rather than a first world one.

Posted by: Gordon King at July 28, 2003 at 07:54 AM

'Let's get ready to rumble!' was the first one that came to my mind. I'm glad I'm not the only one.

Posted by: Rob at July 28, 2003 at 08:11 AM

"Let's get ready to rumble" was the first thing that popped into my mind too, but that's because I use a .wav of it to kick off Unreal Tournament LAN deathmatches around here. I don't even know its origin.

Posted by: LabRat at July 28, 2003 at 08:43 AM

Here in North America, I would have to say it's the
ceremonial handshake at the end of the ice hockey
Stanley Cup, followed by the skating of the Cup
around the rink.

Posted by: Eric Jablow at July 28, 2003 at 09:14 AM

"now that we're winning again"

Winning? More an old-fasioned slaughter. Sadly, I must agree that the Haka does look more in place now.

Posted by: The at July 28, 2003 at 09:26 AM

What about the steady 'DRIP DRIP DRIP' of crazed rabid right celebrity bloggers as their drool hits the keyboard.


Posted by: Rex at July 28, 2003 at 10:21 AM

No, for me, it's the sound of Kasparov taking off his Rolex after another exciting and strategically complex game of chess. Really!

Posted by: TimT at July 28, 2003 at 10:36 AM


You should know that drool doesn't drip. Of all people.

Posted by: ilibcc at July 28, 2003 at 11:20 AM

To me it's the moronic beeps and bizarre elctronic rattles that wheeze out of my clapped out modem, as I prepare to take on all comers in on-line bridge on Yahoo; the prospect of once again encountering Doris from idaho sends a shiver up my osteo-arthritic spine.

Posted by: Habib Bickford at July 28, 2003 at 11:39 AM

For me it's the wine of the fuel-pump, right before I thumb the starter on Betty. When that V4 kicks in I'm in heaven. Not a sport exactly, except on weekends through the Reefton and Black Spurs!

Posted by: Jake D (motorhead extraordinaire) at July 28, 2003 at 12:13 PM

The greatest opening to sport?

"....by Robert Fisk"

Posted by: Andrew at July 28, 2003 at 12:14 PM

"Are you Ready to Fisk"???????!!!!!!

Nice one Andrew!

Posted by: Jake D at July 28, 2003 at 12:22 PM

I've always liked "Let's Get It On!!!"

From the Ultimate Fighting Championships.

Posted by: The Meatriarchy at July 28, 2003 at 12:22 PM

Yep, the haka is something special - but it's always a joy to watch the Australian war-dance being performed in response.

You know - a line of mad Kiwis roaring, chanting, waving their arms and pulling faces, versus a line of stony faced Australians arms folded, legs braced, head cocked, slight smirk, and our battle cry of "What are you lookin' at, c**t?"

Posted by: Brendan at July 28, 2003 at 12:25 PM

The crack of the pistol signalling the start of the controversial 100 metres final at the Olympic Games, 1988.

The bell opening the first round of the Ali-Frazier Heavyweight Championship of the World in Manila, 1974.

The cry of 'Heads down!' at bingo at the parish hall, Friday night.

Posted by: pooh at July 28, 2003 at 12:44 PM

I must admit I quite enjoyed one pre-test "haka", where the All Blacks were doing their usual lolling tongues and jumping around as if they had fire-ants in their undies, and in response psychotic Australian second rower Sam Scott Young stood on the half-way line blowing them kisses. A bit hard to take their antics seriously after that.

Posted by: Habib Bickford at July 28, 2003 at 01:25 PM

Yeah Sam Scott Young was a funny one. I just hope they don't take all this talk of a Wallaby War Cry seriously. The Haka is awesome, cheap imitations aren't.

Posted by: Gabor at July 28, 2003 at 02:07 PM

I vote the siren blast that starts the AFL Grand Final. Remember 1989 when Mark Yeates took out Dermott Brereton in a bone-crushing shirtfront at the opening centre bounce? Brereton was urinating blood for the rest of the afternoon.

That is the best start to a sporting event I can remember.

As for the rest of the 1989 final...Steven Hocking played much of it with a split testicle. Garry Hocking had his face rearranged by Dipper. John Platten was forced from the field early in the match with a serious concussion (courtesy of G Hocking). And Dipper himself played much of the last half with a broken rib and punctured lung.

...good memories.

Posted by: Alex Hidell at July 28, 2003 at 02:15 PM


"Stand back, there's a Hurricane coming through".

best entrance ever.

Posted by: T. Surprised at July 28, 2003 at 02:35 PM

And some northern snobs have the hide to call AFL aerial ballet! I remember more recently how James Hird was outed for a few weeks after one of his own team-mates (Hille I think?) kneed him in the face and broke several bones requiring facial surgery and a steel plate. Tough game that.

Posted by: Jake D at July 28, 2003 at 02:40 PM

...also, I always liked "Iron" Mike Tyson entering the ring with "Welcome to the Terrordome" blasting out over the PA.

It got my blood flowing back home on the couch. God knows how it made his opponents feel.

Posted by: Alex Hidell at July 28, 2003 at 03:20 PM

War cry? The most ominous sound in history:

The mournful rumbling of the church bells of Europe, tolling their last to signal the outbreak of war - before being taken down and turned into Junkers, Focke-Wulfs, Heinkels, Dorniers, Fokkers, Maschinegewehrs, Spandaus and Bergmanns.

Posted by: ilibcc at July 28, 2003 at 03:21 PM

Pete Smith's, "Saaaaaaale of the Century" intro.

Roy and HJ inserting Lionel Rose's song, "I Thank You" in place of the Australian national anthem before one of their Grand Final simulcasts.

The bloke with overalls (but no undershirt) who lugs the giant novelty anchor onto the field before Fremantle Dockers games.

But I'm being silly now. The Haka rules.

Posted by: Big Ramifications at July 28, 2003 at 03:24 PM

"Let's get ready to rumble!" is the signature line of boxing ring announcer Michael Buffer. Actually, it really is his trademark line-- he's got a trademark on it. He doesn't like anyone else to say it publicly.

Posted by: John Thacker at July 28, 2003 at 03:46 PM

"Stand back, there's a Hurricane coming through".

Oh, I dunno. Much as it galls me to say it, SCSA's shattering glass, and the cacophony of audience cheering that used to accompany it in the late '90s, LIVE, never failed to raise a huge lump in my throat from the raw emotion (as opposed to the RAW emotion) of it all.

But the best entrance HAD to be ECW's Sandman, drinkin' a beer, smoking a cigarette, and swinging his "singapore cane," whilst Metallica's "Enter Sandman" roared thru the soundsystem.

What? Oh. The greatest ritual in sports! How about the snorting, rumbling, grunting and stomping of Sumo?

Posted by: Wonderduck at July 28, 2003 at 03:59 PM

Almost forgot: "Wait 'til Next Year!"
-any Chicago Cubs fan (myself included)

Posted by: Wonderduck at July 28, 2003 at 03:59 PM

Richard Hadlee's naff little two-step before he began his runup to bowl.

(I’m talking cricket - for all you visitors from non-Commonwealth member nations, with the exception of possibly Canada.)

Posted by: Big Ramifications at July 28, 2003 at 04:01 PM

Babe Ruth pointing to the bleachers.

...or is this an urban myth?

Posted by: Big Ramifications at July 28, 2003 at 04:11 PM

OK. Being serious now.

With regards to "greatest ritual in sports", I think I’ve found a rival to the Haka that doesn't involve commentators or announcers or other assorted hangers-on:

The "running of the bulls" in Pamplona.

From here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/onthefuture/A769764

"The whole purpose of the bull run is to get the bulls in to the plaza de toros (bullring) where they will be used in a corrida - the central celebration of the festival."

ps… Let me get in first: Yada yada but is bullfighting a sport? Yada yada.

Posted by: Big Ramifications at July 28, 2003 at 04:26 PM


Drool dripping from the mouth of Ted Rall, salivating with overstimulated glee as he sets to work on a new cartoon.

Posted by: Hans Blip at July 28, 2003 at 04:28 PM

"rrrrrrrrrrrrRRRROOOCCCCAAAAA!" - any number of AFL commentators over the past few years...

followed by a "thudddd" as the Sherrin almost turns inside out and sails between (and above) the posts from 60 out.

Posted by: LD at July 28, 2003 at 05:12 PM

A ritual at the other end of the game.

High-pitched faux soprano:

"Iiiiiiitttttt'ssssssssss ooooooooooooooooo-vvvvvvvvvvvveeeEeEeEeEeEeEeEeEeEeeerrrrrrrrrrr!"

(Fat lady singing. Capitals being poor attempt at vibrato.)

Posted by: pooh at July 28, 2003 at 05:24 PM

As fall as I'm concerned AFL games have always begun with a hearty 'MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRP'.

Posted by: Fidens at July 28, 2003 at 06:13 PM

Anything uttered by Martin Tyler.

And of course [insert generic South American commentator here ] yelling goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalllllllllllllll

And finally, "There are some people on the pitch, they think it's all over... it is now!".

PS. The Rock's (old) entrance shits all over SCSA I have to say.

Posted by: T. Surprised at July 28, 2003 at 06:59 PM


- shouted from The Hill at Sydney Cricket Ground, at anyone in the crowd who leaves before stumps.

I heard it during the 1984 Australia v. West Indies Test.

Posted by: David Morgan at July 28, 2003 at 08:22 PM

Let's not forget the chorus of "Your goin'home in the back of a Divy Van!!!!" every time a pisshead attracted some unwanted police attention in Bay 13.

Posted by: Jake D at July 28, 2003 at 08:50 PM

Speaking of Enter Sandman, any fans of the Yankees in recent times will automatically associate that song with the entrance of the gentleman who throughout the Yanks championship run was the best closer in baseball, Mariano Rivera. It was always a great moment: the closer's job, for the non-baseball fans, is to hang on to a lead in the last inning (give or take an out) of a close game, so excitement is always high. The crowd reacts to the opening bars of the song, and after a few seconds the tiny bullpen gate opens in deep left center field, and out comes Mariano to jog in to the mound.

I think some other closers may have appropriated the song in recent years, too - Billy Wagner of the Astros, maybe.

Big R - The Babe calling his shot is probably a true story. There are eyewitness accounts both ways, but there is also one piece of film (that I seem to recall only turned up a few years ago) that clearly shows him waving his bat in the general direction of the center field bleachers. It's not conclusive as to why he's waving his bat, but at least it shows that the whole thing wasn't just made up.

Posted by: Mork at July 28, 2003 at 08:57 PM

Murray Walker (i think)

"Spin, spin, spin!"

Posted by: Tom at July 28, 2003 at 09:44 PM

Feh. The best ceremonies are in American college football.

Ohio State - The 400-member Buckeye marching band spells out a 100-yard long script 'Ohio', then a lone tuba-ist highsteps out to dot the i.

Texas A&M - The certifiably insane Aggie student body remains standing throughout the entire season, until the last game, against the despised Texas Longhorns. When the 'Horns take the field, they sit down en masse.

Colorado - 2000-pound Ralphie the Buffalo leads the charge as the team takes the field.

Tennessee - 110,000 Vol fans singing "Rocky Top."

Florida vs. Georgia - The biggest Saturday morning binge drinking bacchanal on the planet.

Stanford - The anything-for-laughs Stanford band loves tweaking opponents. Once, against Oregon, in a "tribute to unemployed loggers" they formed a spotted owl, re-formed as a giant chainsaw and cut down an old-growth redwood tree.

Florida State - Chief Seminole dismounts his steed and buries a flaming spear at the 50 yard line.

University of Miami - Sebastian the Ibis runs on the field and douses the flaming spear with a fire extinguisher.

Posted by: iowahawk at July 29, 2003 at 01:45 AM

Speaking of the Stanford band, ain't nothing better than what happened when they took the field prematurely in 1982.

The Bears Have Won, The Bears Have Won!

Posted by: Andrew at July 29, 2003 at 02:09 AM

Stanford-Cal 1982: Best. Game. Ever.

Nothing beats American college football for intense rivalries: UCLA-USC, Alabama-Auburn, Ohio State-Michigan, Oklahoma-Texas, Georgia-Florida, Alabama-Tennessee, Texas-Texas A&M, Florida State-Miami, Notre Dame-USC; not to mention the "trophy" games -

Stanford-Cal: The Axe
Wisconsin-Minnesota: Paul Bunyan's Axe
Wyoming-Colorado State: The Boot
Indiana-Purdue: The Old Oaken Bucket
Minnesota-Michigan: The Little Brown Jug

and the best -- Iowa-Minnesota: Floyd of Rosedale, a 200 pound bronze pig.

Posted by: iowahawk at July 29, 2003 at 02:30 AM

Because of the Super Bowl, most non-Americans are aware of the NFL, but have no idea how huge college football is in the States. The biggest drawing NFL teams - NY Giants or Kansas City Chiefs - average about 80,000 a game, which wouldn't even put them in the top 25 of college football. Four American college teams (Michigan, Tennessee, Ohio State, Penn State) average over 100,000 per game home attendance.

Posted by: iowahawk at July 29, 2003 at 02:42 AM

"Shake hands and come out fightin'"

Posted by: Theodopoulos Pherecydes at July 29, 2003 at 02:54 AM

It used to be:

"Gentlemen, mount your AMF Roadmaster bicycles!"

Dunno what it is these days. I hear it's something like "mount your Little 500 Mongoose bicycles", which seems to be a little less exciting.

I've been there for a few of those. I even remember odd bits.

Posted by: David Perron at July 29, 2003 at 03:12 AM

Heard at the beginning of every sporting event involvong Auburn University: "WAAAAAR EAGLE, HEY!"

There is no substitute.

This season's football opener vs. Southern Cal will include Marine SSgt Ian Hogg, who flew an Auburn flag from his Humvee all over Iraq during the recent unpleasantness, plus an F/A-18 flyover...

Posted by: Will Collier at July 29, 2003 at 03:41 AM

Chief Illiniwek at halftime of University of Illinois football and basketball home games. He has been deemed so politically incorrect that for awhile TV wouldn't show him doing his routine. Unlike Florida St., there is no longer an Illini tribe- wiped out buy other Indian tribes - to payoff inorder to get a local tribal sanction for the halftime act. That is how FSU has avoided the hassles U of I has endured.

Posted by: JEM at July 29, 2003 at 05:37 AM

Well, here's a phrase that brings joy to the hearts of every other team in the American League: "And now, here are your Detroit Tigers!"

Posted by: Alex Bensky at July 29, 2003 at 07:12 AM

Alex B.,
Yeah, I've heard a rumor that pretty soon Detroit is going to be getting a professional baseball team. Good luck with that.

Posted by: David Crawford at July 29, 2003 at 10:49 AM

At University Games, non-official events:

The nude quarter.
The four-can 1500.

Posted by: undergrad at July 29, 2003 at 11:20 AM

17,000 Philadelphia Flyers fans screaming "asshole" in unison when Don Koharski would blow a call. In the old Spectrum, we'd keep it up for 15 minutes straight. The yuppie fans in the new Spectrum are effete wusses. Other teams aren't afraid to play us any more.

Posted by: Pete at July 29, 2003 at 12:58 PM

Just a little trivia on the Haka -

During the 1st half of WW2, Hitler's armies advanced through the Balkans & Greece to the Mediterranean. The island of Crete held out, garrisoned by a mixed-bag of Brits, Aussies and New-Zealanders (including a regiment comprised of Maoris).

When the Brits decided to leg it in the wake of a mass German paratroop attack, a group of about a thousand Aussies and Kiwi's were cut off and surrounded. To join the other forces in the evacuation, they needed to break out of the pocket, against numerically superior, elite German forces.

Their weapons readied, the ANZAC soldiers in unison shouted the Haka (Yes, all 1,000 of them) and charged the Germans, who promptly broke and fled.

Stirring stuff.

Posted by: Mike M at July 29, 2003 at 10:09 PM