Never in a million years would I have dreamed that a stressful week might culminate in a game of rugby and that it would be just the tonic I needed. But life can have some odd twists and turns in it and sometimes those turns include men running around after a ball.
How did I, a dyed-in-the-wool non-lover of sporting events, end up at a huge rugby game on a Saturday night? Simple really. My sister and her family were in town for one night only and what time we had together was limited. They were making the most of the visit to Canberra (which was for visiting our dad in hospital – he’s ok, although we’re still waiting on test results) by including a Brumbies match in their itinerary. In order to spend more time with them it was obvious to me that I had to go with them to the game. I could take my knitting right?
The last time I recall sitting and watching a game involving men running around after a ball is probably the late 70s. It would have been a damp Saturday afternoon in small town Tasmania, perched on the bonnet of my dad’s car watching a local football team running around the oval. I don’t recall anything more than that. I would have been less than eight years old.
I do recall watching on TV the (possibly AFL?) grand final during my exam preparations in Year 12. I would have done that to avoid studying. It was 1990.
So yeah, not a lot of football/rugby/soccer watching in my life. Or cricket. Or baseball. Or golf. Or netball or basketball. Contrary to popular opinion I don’t hate it. It’s not snobbery. I just don’t understand it. I watch any sport and my eyes glaze over. I think I’m missing that gene. Last week, BoB Carr was rightly smacked around the head for declaring that if you love sport you can’t also love literature. Or words to that effect. I have a number of very well educated friends, big readers, who would testify to the contrary.
Last night, rocking up to Bruce Stadium with thousands of eager fans, I got a sense of what I’ve always been told – that being there in person is something else entirely. Like the difference between listening to a CD and seeing the artist performing live. I never really doubted that since I’ve experienced the exhilaration of crowd before – I just didn’t think that I’d feel it around thousands of sports fans.
But I did. I really did. I was excited.
It helped that I was in uniform. I borrowed a Brumbies jersey from Alice’s dad. It was amazing how I felt somehow less like an intruder in the right gear. My sister’s little boy, Willem, was in uniform too, as was his dad. We belonged to the tribe and isn’t that what it’s all about?
As we walked into the stadium, I explained to Willem that I didn’t have a clue what the game was about and he might have to help me understand. With the sharp insight that comes with being nearly seven, he gave me a line I’ll remember always.
“Aunty Bells, there are two things you need to know. You have to shout ‘Go Brumbies!’ really loudly and if you’re really lucky, you get a hot dog.”
Honestly, as someone who couldn’t give a toss about the rules of the game, I think that set me up for the night. I did indeed get a hotdog. And beer. And I took my knitting.
I was completely content.
It’s true that I had to be told when something exciting happened (not that scoring helped; the Brumbies suffered a record breaking loss, so I’m told) and I felt that there was a lot of standing around (that’s called a penalty, apparently) it didn’t matter a bit. All around me were people cheering, eating, drinking and talking. The sky turned from daylight to dramatic cloud cover then darkness and overhead there were enormous lights that allowed me to keep knitting.
I’ll go again. Really I will. And you know, maybe next time I’ll take in a little more of the actual game.
In the morning, Willem got up early with me and helped me with chicken duties. For the first time, he picked up a chicken and was proud of himself for managing to catch one. It warmed my heart.
And with that, the weekend came to a much needed end, quietly and calmly. Just as it should.