Friday, September 07, 2007

Blagging the Rugby World Cup

I’m not a very sporty person these days. I don’t have any flab issues to worry about being the lanky fuck that I am so the gym has no allure. Besides, gyms always seem intensely sadomasochistic places to me, where people go so that they can punish themselves and suffer immense physical pain, all in the name of making themselves somehow feel better. Nuts.

But I was sporty once. No really, I was. At school there was nothing I loved more than donning short shorts and running out onto a muddy pitch so that I could stick my head between my mates’ thighs and generally have the shit kicked out of me every Saturday. 2nd XV rugby was bloody brilliant, no doubt about it. Sadly health issues and lifestyle choices, mainly to do with cigarettes and alcohol, have forced me into early retirement. However given the general health status of the country I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in loving a sport I’m no longer actively involved in.

I don’t want to get into some pointless debate about which is better, football or rugby, but I will say I have no interest in football for two reasons: firstly my foot to ball co-ordination skills leave a lot to be desired. I’d get pwned by Stephen Hawking’s spastic younger brother in a shirts vs. skins one on one football game down the park, no question. And wheelchairs don’t move great on grass. This means that I’ve never understood the finer intricacies of football. To me it just looks like a bunch of twats aimlessly kicking a ball around. Watching a sport is so much more satisfying if you actually know what’s going on. Secondly, England are actually good at rugby. Or were anyway. We won the pissing World Cup in 2003! The only enjoyable thing about watching England play football is just how much we choke all the fucking time and all the hysteria that surrounds the whole sorry charade.

So it makes me happy that four years have swung quickly around and the 2007 Rugby World Cup is now upon us. However, since hanging my studs up three years ago I’ve been pretty rubbish at keeping up with the world of rugby. This is mainly because I’ve lacked that vital commodity that is Sky Sports and reading the papers is just a bit dull so I have no idea what’s happening in the rugby world. I hear whispers, rumours of a powerful New Zealand force crossing the waves to crush all who stand in their path, South Africans thirsty for blood, I think the Frogs are looking good too, but in reality there’s a gaping hole in my rugby knowledge from 22nd November 2003 onwards. Which is why I find myself supporting England and believing they can win with a foolishly blind patriotic sense of pride.

Thankfully my complete abyss of up-to-date rugby knowledge going into the World Cup matters not due to the fact that I’m a male sports fan. I use the word ‘male’ because I’m writing from experience. I can quite easily see how women could do what I’m about to describe, but I’ve yet to converse at length with a woman who really cares about sport so I just don’t know.

The fact is that ignorance is just not an option when it comes to sport. When something like a World Cup or the Olympics or the Ashes comes about it dominates nearly every pub conversation. It just does, it’s inevitable. And no one wants to look like a fucktard; that bullshit notion of remaining silent and being considered a fool rather than opening your mouth and removing all doubt goes straight out of the window. If you aren’t completely in the know about which players to look out for, how mind-meltingly brilliant that 73rd minute play was or how blind the referee was then you’re instantly labelled a facking poofter. Not my words, the words of every sportsfan in the world.

It’s one of the great things about these big sporting events: the chance for everyone, from the ignorant to the experts, to hurl themselves into the fray and follow the events as and when they happen, discussing and debating all the way, enjoying every second of world-class competition. The bullshit haze that accompanies it just makes the whole thing even more enjoyable. It’s a phenomenon I’ve noticed with nearly every man I’ve met, they just have to be experts on things. Even after the most basic and minute amount of research they will speak as if they got a PhD in Correct Sporting Decisions from the University of Knowledge. Watching chain-smoking, bloated alcoholics hurling advice at professional players, coaches and referees without the least sense of irony always makes me chortle milk out of my nose.

An example for those that need it: my brother at school quit rugby in order to spend his time rowing, much to my father’s, a rugby man through and through, immense shock and humiliation. Until it became clear that my brother was actually quite good at rowing and subsequently got an Olympic gold medal. By which time my dad was a consummate oracle in all things rowing. It was incredible. He was just being supportive of his son, but the authority with which he speaks about rowing would make you think it’s something he himself had dedicated his life to.

It’s not something unique to sport either, life is full of those who bullshit convincingly despite their intellect tank being teeteringly close to empty. The great thing about sport though compared to art or politics is its largely objective nature. If someone is just chatting shit about how Scotland are going to fuck New Zealand up then they’ll pretty quickly be proved wrong. And sport pundits in general aren’t the most erudite in the world so hearing their opinions repeated almost verbatim by someone passing it off as their own, the kind of person who hoards pointless facts and figures like a squirrel with swollen cheeks, is always enough to make me smile and seriously contemplate shoving a pint glass through their smug face.

But then I would be guilty of hypocrisy. As I said, my knowledge going into this Rugby World Cup is close to nil. Beyond the basics of the game and the returning faces I really don’t know which teams are on form. But I can’t help myself. By this time next week I will be full of opinions and views on how the World Cup’s shaping up despite my complete lack of qualifications. Such is the beauty of sport. I’ll do my best to keep it to the pubs though.

The one thing I do know for certain is that it’ll be fucking hilarious if the All Blacks balls it up again.


Witchibus said...

You're right about that seemingly expert discussion of male topics thing. The best example I ever saw was in an episode of some Fred Dibnah programme, where he was going round the UK on an old steam engine. Anyway, somewhere in the north of England, this engine breaks down and has to be taken into a local workshop for repairs.

Cut to a scene of around half a dozen men, ranging from around 60 to 75 years of age, all stood around this steam engine, discussing what's wrong with it. They're all in a relaxed pose, almost leaning back slightly. Occasionally they gesticulate with one hand (sometimes whilst holding a pipe)towards the engine. One of them will say something like 'Yer forward prop shaft's gone,' or 'Ye don't get machine's like this nowadays.' The rest will nod sagely.

It's the tone of voice that struck me. Accents aside, it's the tone of voice men *always* use when discussing stuff in that 'expert' mode (expertise is by no means necessary to enagage in 'expert' mode). They can be discussing sport or cars or computers or gardening or woodcarving - it doesn't matter. It's a tone of knowledgeable contentment. Actually, between the tone of voice and the general body language, I think it's about as content as men ever get. Possibly even more than post-coital contentment.

Witchibus said...

Damn my indiscriminate use of apostrophes.

Jackart said...

Have you considered replacing (by force if necessary) fats Barnes, the sky rugby commentator