The Rugby World Cup has just commenced and it is a great cover for the emasculated husband coming home late. Entire weekends will be scheduled around the game and wives and girlfriends had better get used to it.
I have been a rugby fan for the better part of my life but despite years of sleeping, eating, dreaming rugby, I never quite graduated to the category of a super fan. As the years have passed, I have been reduced to a casual fan, never fully invested enough to worry about the outcomes of crucial games during the season however, every World Cup that recessive rugby gene is activated.
There was a time in life, where my social life revolved all around rugby. I had the privilege of wearing the white and blue jersey of the University of Nairobi’s Mean Machine, the Harvard of institutional rugby clubs ( times have changed I learn) and the sport helped me gain a lot of character. Rugby, was more than a game. It was a way of life. The camaraderie that the game evoked was always a good excuse for a party and friendships made on and off the pitches have lasted for years.
Rugby for starters must be disassociated with its lesser cousin footie. Footballers spend 90 minutes pretending to be hurt. Rugby players spend 80 minutes pretending not to be. Rugby carries the dubious distinction of being a sport followed by many and understood by few. Rugby is a bit like the Kenyan constitution. Everyone claims to have read it but few understand the contents. Fortunately, not understanding the rules does not stop one from enjoying the game.
Although locally rugby may be presently main stream, the technical appreciation of the game is left to die-hard fans who will be ruling the roost in bars around the country for the duration of the rugby world cup. Female spectators quite unashamedly admit that the appeal is mostly sweaty muscle men in tight shorts. A typical match has sexual innuendos that only females can decipher.
Rugby has a lot latent lessons for a young man navigating manhood and life in general. Boys who participate in sport have the privilege of benefiting from a contemporary male rite of passage. The games teaches one to stand up for themselves, deal with loss, fight for goals against innumerable odds, earn respect and peer acknowledgement. It is hard to be become a bun when you have been a champion even briefly.
Rugby teaches us how to be men. It is where a boy first learns physical toughness. You learn how to be part of a team, make your contribution count and share in the glory of triumph. There is the bonding experience, the controlled aggression and the important lesson that on the pitch as in life, nice guys finish last. Women continue to be strongly attracted to alpha males on and off the pitch. If you cannot accept losing, you cannot win. Ultimately, to stretch the metaphor, it is not the size of the dog in the fight but the fight in the dog that really matters. Talent is good but hard work is better. The more you sweat in practice, the less you bleed in battle.
Competition is a natural component of a man’s life. In the heat of moment, tempers flare and loose punches are thrown. It is unavoidable and fair play is not always the underlying principle. Refs like election monitors can aggravate matters left to their own devices. Beautiful women on the sidelines can distract you from important life goals. Every winner enjoys his five minutes of fame and life is lonely for the perennial loser. Champions were once contenders who refused to give up. Sports is one of the few arenas where a man can show his tears without a hint of embarrassment. Sometimes, surviving is more important than winning or losing.
In the long run, no one cares as much how you win as long as you win. As in life, people, who do all the hard work, never make the headlines and under the influence of alcohol all men are equal.
Sports is one of the few male bonding experiences that cuts across race, creed, social status or age. Every weekend, men make the weekly pilgrimage to the big screen, to seek entertainment that allows them to escape reality. To relive that feeling of freedom, the one moment of invincibility when the final whistle is blown and the trophy is lifted to the sky.
Sport loyalty and allegiance to teams is something universally shared by most men. If more women understood this, they would feel less of a need to complain about been in a love triangle with a sports fan.
Rugby is a simple game. Two teams will chase an oval ball around for 80 minutes and in the end, the All Blacks will win.
Enjoy the Rugby world Cup.