I’m not a sports fan.
I don’t understand the rules of football (or why the majority of fans are violent idiots), formula one is basically glorified scaletrix and while I’ve been known to play the odd game of golf I’d rather clean 10 bathrooms than watch it. I don’t get caught up in the Olympics, tennis seems like a pain in the neck and the only people I know who consider themselves cricket fans seem more concerned by the opportunities for drinking than the subtleties of the game. I just don’t understand why people get so caught up in this world of sports, enjoy it by all means, but the moment it begins to make or break your day? Forget it.
My family do not share my view. Growing up, many a family gathering revolved around the latest sporting event. Everyone would come round for a slap up lunch, before heading to the lounge where mum would begin, quite literally, screaming at the television, in the hopes (I suppose) that Schumacher, Henman or Schmeichel would hear her enthusiasm and jolly well pull their socks up! During these times, I could mostly be found hiding in my room, trying to block out the shame of having such an embarrassingly rowdy family. That is, until I discovered rugby.
I’ve been trying to decide what it was about rugby which finally lured me out of my pit (another familism) and into the lounge with the others. After some consideration, I’ve decided it was the welsh cakes. Unlike other sporting days, rugby meant steaming mugs of tea, and piping hot welsh cakes dripping with butter. Delish!! Once in the lounge I was all too easily drawn into the game, and a love of rugby was born. It always seemed more ‘sporty’ than the other sports. 80 minutes of brute strength vs dogged determination, rugby is full on, bloody and intense. Noone cares about brands, hair styles or tattoos, and at the end of the game everyone (usually) shakes hands and parts as friends. Sport and sportsmanship? Brilliant.
However, being a rugby fan created a few, umm, issues. With a Welsh dad, and English mum, which team would I support in the all important 6 nations? I’d been born in England, but grew up in Wales…red or white? Rose or daffodil? Mum or dad? I lamented over the decision every spring, till eventually I made my choice. I chose both.
‘BOTH??!’ I hear the sporty amongst you cry ‘you can’t choose both! Don’t you know how sport works?? Who do you support when they’re playing against each other??’ My innocent reply, ‘surely then I just win either way?!’. Exasperation, indignation and downright anger are common responses to my choice, ‘it’s not right’ they tell me ‘you have to choose!!’, but…why?! Why, stranger (for friends and family have long since made peace with my decision) does it bother you so much who I support? What is it about my decision which offends you so? Is my loyalty so important that it will affect the outcome of the match (it certainly didn’t help Wales today!), does me cheering for one team at one time, and another slightly later, ruin your experience of either game? Often the pub is filled by people of all nationalities playing that day, so what on earth leads my decision to have such an effect on you?
So in an attempt to placate the haters I altered my decision slightly. Rather than supporting both teams each year, I would alternate. One year Wales and the red shirt, the next England and the white. There, happy now? Of course not, it still counts as fence sitting, a heinous crime in the sporting world. Well, you know what?
I happen to like rugby, for the first time I can say I’m a sports fan, I enjoy the game even when neither England or Wales are playing. During the 6 nations I like the fact that supporting two teams gives me a stake in double the games. I even like that for 1 game in 15, I can’t lose! So what if it doesn’t follow the ‘rules’ of sports? I’m sticking with the land of my fathers, and my mothers, the homes of welsh cakes and cheddar cheese. These days I’ve even been known to scream at the tv (thanks mum!). I’m hanner a half and so’s my rugby. Deal with it.