Thought for the weekend: Medals remind us of our heroes
So the 2015 Rugby Union World Cup is over. In what has almost unanimously been called the best tournament of its kind, the best team (of all time?) won and retained the Webb Ellis Trophy.
As the first nation to win the World Cup three times and also defend it successfully, the New Zealand All Blacks have pretty much re-written the rugby record books.
Great teams engender much fascination, and speculation as to the reasons for their success is rife. Is it that rugby union is near enough the national 'religion' in New Zealand? Is it the culture of excellence inherent in and expected of their players? Is it superior coaching, aimed at honing natural ball-handling skills among youngsters learning the game? Is it the aura of their pre-game 'haka' or those iconic black kits coming at their opponents like an unstoppable force?
Is it their calm decision-making under pressure, or the fact that they nearly always seem to make a creative play really count by turning it into points on the board? All of the above seem part of their winning formula.
And, as if to cap the lot, they also won the admiration of many by their off-field manner too. Sonny Bill Williams, their gifted impact centre, has outrageous talents in rugby union, rugby league and heavyweight boxing.
But perhaps his most memorable deed was when a young fan jumped from the crowd after last Saturday's final and was rescued by Williams from the clutches of a security guard. Not only did Williams smooth the situation out, but he gave his medal to the 14-year-old Charlie Lines in a gesture of spontaneous generosity.
Some on social media have questioned or criticised what Williams did, which only goes to show that cynicism can grow up like weeds almost anywhere. Tomorrow is Remembrance Sunday, an occasion of solemn reflection on past sacrifices, enormous suffering and selfless service.
Medals remind us of this, and, while those who fought didn't do it primarily for the glory of a medal, they surely merit more than the cool indifference or cheap shots of self-indulgent cynics.