THE NEW ZEALAND All Blacks — if you’re from New Zealand, you probably need no encouragement whatsoever to stand behind them. But as for everyone else, well, you might think about whose side of the fence you’re standing on the next time you find yourself in a discussion of sporting excellence.
For over 130 years, this has been the club to measure athletic success against — and here’s some evidence why.
1. They’re arguably the most successful professional sports team in history. They’ve won an astonishing 85% of every match they’ve ever played, and hold a 75% win rate in tested matches (officially sanctioned matches). By comparison, the New York Yankees have a winning percentage of just 53%.
2. They’re one of the oldest professional teams still in existence. The New Zealand national rugby team was founded in 1884. So…make sure you wish them a happy 130th birthday next year. (Oh, they also went undefeated in their first year.)
3. They’ve won the Tri Nations / Rugby Championship 12 times. This is an elite tournament in which New Zealand competes against Argentina, Australia, and South Africa. The championship has only existed for 18 years.
4. The population of New Zealand is 4.4 million. The All Blacks Facebook fan page has 2.1 million followers. You do the math. (Or don’t, and just realize that All Blacks fans pretty much make up their own nation.)
5. They’ve had 17 sets of father-son player combinations, and 34 sets of brothers. Needless to say…rugby’s kind of in their blood.
6. They competed in what’s considered the greatest game of rugby ever played, a ridiculous come-from-behind victory against Australia. And they won.
7. Rugby has been argued as the “surrogate religion” of New Zealand. Multiple professors have written theses on rugby’s prominent place in Kiwi life — and the conflicts that can arise out of what happens when a rugby fixture is played on a Sunday. Which, thinking about it, kind of makes the All Blacks the country’s unofficial spiritual leader.
8. And, of course, the haka. Probably the most badass pre-game warmup ritual in the history of competitive sports, it’s the same ancient war cry that Maori have done for hundreds and hundreds of years. And exactly the kind of thing that makes opponents think, “I’ve just made a huge mistake…”