Ice, Ice, Baby

Scotland is big into their sport, even though they may not be particularly good at it. Much like South Africans, they are a passionate bunch and this can often be the difference in sports a few fixtures. But the results do not always go their way.

Obviously, football is massive here. The Scottish league seems to be an excuse for Rangers and Celtic fans to fuck each other up. But in their defence, isn’t that the excuse for sport everywhere? I was not, however, raised on football and could not give less of a shit who’s traded whom for how much. But taking the piss out of men rolling around on the floor in the name of kickball is the topic for another post altogether.

This time of the year means one thing: Super Rugby. For those who don’t know, it’s sort of a Champions League of southern hemisphere rugby teams, without going through the painful process of actually earning your spot. Even though most of the nations have pretty well-established local leagues, the participating teams are decided long before they start with little attention paid to these results, and even fewer chances for relegation. It seems if you don’t know what to do in Super Rugby, the quick fix is to just add a new team. Think development is lacking? Add a team. Not sure which of two shit teams to leave out? Add a team. Think the roster is already too complicated and season too long? Add a team.

The tournament has gone from 10 to 18 and shows no sign of slowing down. It seemed all that you needed to do is be a rugby side in a vaguely popular southern hemisphere country and you’re in. Shit, in the newest update they’ve even taken out the southern hemisphere requirement and included Japan. I know what you’re thinking, “Surely China, as the new owners of Africa, would be the new oriental addition if there had to be one”. And you’d usually be correct, but let’s just say that if they were not looking for the same kind of turn-overs that we are. But for us occidentals, that means fly to fucking Asia every few weeks. It’s quite a taxing competition, as the first round goes for like 17 weeks with just two weeks off, three if you count the week you play the Kings.

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And may I add, on the issue of spectatorship, that the Olympics is not at all entertaining. People try to make a big deal about it because it only comes every four years, but so does your girlfriend and nobody thinks anything good of her either. If you really believed that athletics and track and the like were interesting, you’d follow that shit outside of the Olympic years. Yes, that’s right, you can watch swimming all year long. But you don’t because it’s shit. So next time you see these repulsive women and drugged up men doing activities that are shitty on both side of the spectrum (from ugly people lifting weights to ugly people dancing with a ribbon) and you claim to enjoy it, keep in mind that it goes on outside of leap years and you didn’t give the soggiest of shits. But I digress.

Besides all that, South Africans love sport in Super Rugby season. And as a welcome bonus this year, there’s the T20 Cricket World Cup. So as a South African, you’d be salivating. As a Briton apparently, you would not. I wrote most of that before the Proteas’ loss to the West Indies, and as a result I am not longer so keen to watch the world cup. I must respect T20 for always having tight results no matter who is playing, but when your team exits so early you lose a bit of gees. The Proteas gave it a good knock. If anything, they showed us how well you can field when you haven’t done anything as energy-consuming as scoring runs. But I remain positive as a patriot.

Outside of football and Six Nations, it seems  the showing of sport is dependent very much whatever happens to be on at the time. I’ve been at a sports bar that played Sharks v Jaguars but not the T20 world cup, while some days I can’t find Shark v Crusaders, another Bulls v Sharks is on the big screen while staff clean up after Saint Patrick’s. Little consistency. I’m trying to get that shit down before the Irish tour of South Africa starts and I can finally pull out the Springbok jersey. Seeing that the Glasgow 7s had been given to the fucking frogs this year.

The locals are actually quite nice about the outside sport if it doesn’t impede on theirs.
Random Older guy, “What football team do you support?”
Me, trying to get out of it quickly, “Wasn’t raised on soc- football, more of a rugby supporter.”
Guy, “Who are you watching?”
Me, “Sharks.”
Guy, “Where are they from?”
Me, “South Africa.”
Guy looks at TV screen, “And the Jaguars, are they from South Africa?”
Me, “No Argentina.”
Guy, “Oh. Fuck them. Come on the Sharks!”

But when it comes to support, it’s really live sport that takes the cake. I was lucky enough to see the Scots win at home, and although it may seem like it was over-powered by other events that evening, it was still a fantastic thing to behold. Little did I know that I was to return to Murrayfield to watch my next live sport match: ice hockey.

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Like most people who aren’t Canadian, I know very little about ice hockey. Not the rules, not the teams, not even the point. I’ve seen a bit on American TV and all I know is guys on ice punch each other. There’s a puck which makes for a plethora of poor homophonic jokes. And okes don’t puck around.

I wouldn’t describe myself as a particularly manly guy. I’m not built for most sports, don’t like fixing things, and generally not too stoked about violence. But there’s something about the simple act of keeping score that turns all men into club-swinging neanderthals. Want to throw that paper ball in the bin? Good on you, hope you get it. Want to throw more paper balls in the bin than me? Eat shit. I will do everything in my power to beat you for the pure reason of beating you. We will tell others the story, and they won’t care. But we will both know that one of us has won, and one lost. It’s a glitch.

This inherent dickheadism can extend to the crowd through the simple act of adding colours. This gives everyone a sense of unity for anyone in the same colours, and hatred for those choosing to even dare wearing other colours. So we were off to watch the Edinburgh Capitals (how clever) and the Braehead Clan (haha, bra).

The game had many similarities to most live sport all over the world. The dancing poppies were horrendous, the food was over-priced, and the breaks in play were not long enough to go for a piss. We were in the middle of Clan territory. This meant Glaswegians, clad in purple, keen for some violence. I was reminded of watching rugby at high school as the whole crowd was constantly singing war cries that had been around for ages. These include the classic “Here we go Clan”, “We love you Clan”, and a scarily well-timed clap after the stadium played the theme song from Friends.

Ice hockey is difficult to describe. It seems to involve quite a lot of skill and has its athletes very at home on the ice. If I had to liken it to any sport, I’d actually say water polo. It shifts from attack to defence in an instant, has a lot of off-the-ball incidents, and goals get slotted from seemingly impossible angles. It is unlike normal hockey in that you can use any part of your body on the puck and also in that people actually watch it. To spot a foul is the really hard part. Unlike other contact sport, you don’t appear to even need to pretend to be playing the game. Realising that he’d lose possession, I saw a player dive over the puck until another player came to his aid.

At the start, the violence really doesn’t seem to be as bad as it’s shown in the media. Yes, when the puck goes against the wall and two guys go for it, there’s some scuffle but nothing too dangerous. But then the inevitable happens and guys get tired and thus pissed off. The scuffles increase and get a bit more personal. These are not against the rules. There is a pause for it to sort itself out, and then a restart. The only thing that seems to be illegal is attacking the head with a stick after an opponent’s helmet comes off. The rest is fair game.

Our crowd got really involved and were not big fans of the ref. Any attack on their player was sacrilegious, and attack on the opponent valiant. The crowd screamed in unison when a goal was scored and joined together in a deafening silence when one was conceded. The only time the crowds agreed is when the refs stopped the fights, and children as young as 10 joined in on screaming “get into them” encouraging a gladiator-like behaviour. They had to employ the services of Clangus, the woolly cow (or coo), to calm them down.

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The crowd was getting rallied up and to be honest, after the first two time periods, it got a little boring. I guess it helps knowing the rules. Being Scotland, the drummers from the bands were getting pissed and people were eyeing out Clangus, wondering what he’s taste like deep-fried. Goals were scored, okes were happy, some weren’t. Woo. Having had our fix of violence and needing to leave early to get on a gastronomic adventure, we set off, but that’s the story for another time.

Rabbit out.

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