The Appeal of Sport
But if the diversions that urban life has to offer them are somewhat limited, New Zealanders are fortunate in possessing other sources of recreation of which they take full advantage. Vast areas of forest and mountain range, virtually unpeopled, provide a splendid playground for the tramper and mountaineer. Game is not privately preserved and blood sports, such as are available, are open to all either gratis or on payment of a small licence fee. Horse racing is immensely popular. In New Zealand there are as many race meetings as weekdays in the year, and probably more racing clubs in proportion to the population than anywhere else in the world. Visitors to the country sometimes comment disparagingly upon the high degree to which sport is organised, and point out that, instead of being played for their own sake, games have always to be reduced to the terms of a competition. There may be some value in these objections but it should not be forgotten that efficient organisation enables a very much larger proportion of New Zealanders to take an active part in games and sports than would be possible under less systematic conditions. The national devotion to rugby football is another favourite theme for visiting commentators who are apt to forget, however, the more or less comparable devotion of Englishmen to the association game or of Americans to baseball. Even so, it is open to question whether a disproportionate amount of physical and mental energy is not concentrated on rugby football. Other less virile games are becoming increasingly popular in the Dominion of late years, but there is still a widespread inner conviction that virtue attaches to pastimes which demand physical endurance and in which one is liable to get hurt.