The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

Rugby

It’s difficult to put into words just how much I despise the game of Rugby.

I spent a large part of my childhood in Wales where everyone is expected to be feverishly devoted to this national sport. Rugby is a real man’s game: a full-on contact sport for the strong, virile and powerful. Rugby heroes are gods. Soccer, by comparison, is for poofs.

For me it is the embodiment of everything I loathed about school sports – standing in a waterlogged field in the cold, wind and rain in a thin shirt and shorts, where my worth as a human being was decided on how well I could kick, catch or throw a ball while 15 of the most battle-hardened, brutal and merciless bullies in my year were put together in the opposing team, hell bent on breaking every bone in my body and drowning me face down in 6 inches of mud.

And when it was over, it was back to the changing rooms where, as an adolescent, self-conscious, pubescent lad, I was expected to take showers with other boys whose sole purpose was to try and humiliate and intimidate those who didn’t fit in when they were naked and at their most vulnerable.

When I watch films about army boot camps with sadistic sergeant majors, where the recruits are expected to follow the most inane orders and carry out despicable acts on weaker members in the name of discipline and even patriotism, it reminds me of sports at school. The first time I saw Full Metal Jacket, for example, I realised that had we been learning to use guns instead of a rugby ball for combat training at school, then Private Pyle would have been my role model.

So why this little nostalgic trip down memory lane?

My son’s friend goes to Rugby practice on Sundays and invited Rogan to go with him at the weekend. I kept the rush of fear, loathing, disgust and panic that instantly surged through my veins under control and calmly let Rogan know that it was perfectly acceptable for him to turn his friend down. But no, he insisted on going to see what it was like.

He thoroughly enjoyed himself and can’t wait to go back next week.

Just when you begin to think you have an idea of how the world works, it slips from your grasp and demonstrates you haven’t a clue really.

24 comments

Anonymous said...

You did well to hide the loathing. I gave out to Linzi the other day for panicking in front of Erin when she saw a spider. I have an irrational fear of butterflies simply because my mother's terrified of them.

Conan Drumm said...

I didn't enjoy rugby either, or the culture that went/goes with it, but I like watching it. I swam at school... thousands of metres daily...
Good on you for holding back on your feelings and letting the young fella get stuck in.

Kav, sorry about the butterfly thing. An amazing thing happened me recently... late in the year for them... I was walking towards someone I'd just been introduced to, with my hand reaching out and a Red Admiral landed on the back of my hand just before my hand met hers. I took it as auspicious!

BStrong said...

Well you can throw out the saying "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree".

I'm sure Rogan will come around. All it takes is for someone to role over him with their cleats.

Rugby not being very popular in the U.S., I never understood the sport. It looks like American Football without pads. I’m certainly not built for Rugby. It seems that every player has legs as thick as the great oak and a complete disregard for their body. Broken arms, legs, and jaw topped off with a ruptured spleen are viewed as badges of honor…………Anyone for a game of golf?

Anonymous said...

True. I know. You're right.

But on the other hand, it was nice to go over to Cardiff earlier this year and bring the European Cup back to Limerick.

I travelled with my son, who's 14 and although we had to spend four days in various parts of England and Wales to make it happen, it was an experience for both of us that no money could ever buy.

So there you go. The positive side of it.

Binty McShae said...

Be careful that your son doesn't enjoy it too much and become one of the bully-boys who mock those who are more like you once were...

As for me, Hockey was my game. I always got beaten the crap out of in every other sport but the fact that: a) I could run at a decent pace, having had to flee thugs so often; and b) I had a big wooden stick in my hands too (so just try it, you r soles!) meant that I was a prety reasonable player!

Dr Maroon said...

Don't worry Kim, if he takes it on, think of all the freezing Saturday/Sunday mornings standing on the sidelines watching as bigger boys go in hard, those cheating bastards, and then turning a blind eye as your boy starts dishing it out when he thinks no one's watching. You better get a pail as well to soak the kit before it goes in the washing machine, the mud knackers the pump.

Conan, I wonder if you noticed the result last weekend at Croke Park?
Just asking, no need to take that tone.

Dr Maroon said...

I meant to say Conan and Bock

Conan Drumm said...

Maroon, you glorified doctoral flare, what are you on about? Not the rugger drubbing of Sth Africa? The bit of Oz GBH the previous weekend in Croker?

Anonymous said...

oh, you've made me remember the dreaded cross country running in winter. Snot freezing round your nostrils, purple, numb knees and earache from the cold. I just hated it.

Kim Ayres said...

Kav - I caught a phobia of spiders when I was a teenager when my friend's girlfriend kept letting out blood-curdling shrieks every time she saw one. It kept freaking me out so much, I eventually became terrified of them myself. It took me years to overcome it

Conan Drum - Hope the butterfly is auspicious for you. I had one land on my forehead last year. Nothing came of it except the hysterical laughter of my children

BStrong - Broken arms, legs, and jaw topped off with a ruptured spleen are viewed as badges of honor - you understand the game extremely well my friend!

Bock - welcome to my ramblings! It's always good to have a road trip with your son and it sounds like you had a great time. I think I'd rather take him to a music festival or something though

Binty - I don't think there's much likelihood of Rogan turning into a bully - he has too much empathy for a kid his age. I didn't do hockey at school - where I was it was for girls only.

Dr M - I'm trying desperately not to think of all the freezing Saturday/Sunday mornings standing on the sidelines

Conan - you're speaking an alien language and I have no idea what you just wrote.

Kats - cross country wasn't so bad as we'd usually get back in before the rugby players so could just wet our hair and pretend we'd been in the showers

Dr Maroon said...

Mr Conan Drumm, I am of course refering to the recent utter thrashing that Ireland received at the hands of young Scots amatuers in the weird sport of shinty hurling.

It's like Man U being beaten at Old Trafford by Auchtermuchty Celtic.

Anonymous said...

Its not been the same since they started replacing baths with namby pamby showers. There was nothing better than immersing yourself in scalding filthy brown water and being stood on by the very same front row that had spent eighty minutes trying to seperate your neck from the rest of your body.Then buying them a beer afterwards and saying how much you enjoyed it! (The game not the bath!)

Andraste said...

The problem with sports and the culture surrounding them is that it assumes everyone wants to participate and succeed in them. They're great for kids to learn teamwork, discipline, taking direction, and building up a sense of accomplishment ONLY IF approached the right way. At their worst they're how you describe your experience as a kid, a means of exclusion, bullying, etc. Offering your son a choice is HUGE. And who knows, he may become good at it and learn a few things. I wish I'd played more organized sports as a child, I may be better at them now, and I may even be in better shape. It's tough having a competitive nature and no real athletic skills - so I feel as though I missed something.

The important thing is that he doesn't feel forced either way.

Kim Ayres said...

Dr Maroon - you seem to be speaking the asme foreign language as Conan. Ich Nicht parlez le lingo

Birdwatcher - I wasn't buying anyone beer when I was 13. My pocket money didn't stretch beyond my own pint.

Andraste - my compeitive nature comes out in games that you sit down at a table to play - chess, drafts, cards, hnefatafl etc. Although as regards that last one, I appear to be the only blogger in existence who has it listed in my interests

Conan Drumm said...

Ah Maroon, that event entirely escaped my attention. Shinty vs Hurling was it? Young Scots amateurs, you say. (I trust you're not guilty of an oxymoron there.) Wait'll we take them on at curling!

ps whatever happened to Scottish rugby?

Attila The Mom said...

You're a good dad, Kim. I'm not sure I'd be able to contain myself. LOL

Anonymous said...

Hey, Kim. Listen, sorry for the delay getting back to you.

Believe me, the kid gets exposed to a whole pile of stuff, including musical influences, but in the end he's his own guy and not a creation made by me.

I just enjoy his company while it's possible. When he grows up completely, I hope he remains my friend as he is now.

Last night we sat down and watched A Fistful of Dollars. Last week we watched Blade Runner. Recently I introduced him to Led Zeppelin, when he thought it had all started with the White Stripes. I thought it started with Robert Johnson, but I was wrong too.

Hey, come on. We do the rugby thing, but that's only because we come from Munster where everybody lives it. We're not the worst really, when you get to know us.

Pendullum said...

They become their own people don't they?
My daughter loves things that I used to despise as a girl...

Your kid may have a totally different take on it...
But I trul feelfor you ifhe decides to take it up as a sport... Doesn;t sound too appealing to me... But will feel for if if you must cross that particular bridge...

Kim Ayres said...

After today's excursion (see latest post)I think my biggest worry is if he gets his teeth knocked out.

Kate said...

Gah, rugby! I hate it. I grew up in a family that watched avidly, and it didn't help that one of my Mum's cousins was a professional. My youngest son plays. I encourage and support him, but I don't get it.

Oh, and yes, hockey is a game for girls, it's far too tough for boys who should stick to gentler sports LOL

Mark Williams said...

Thanks, Kim, for your blast at rugby. I too hated it at school for similar reasons not to mention a games teacher who liked to exert his authority by punching his victims in the stomach. Those were the days. Good old fashioned discipline. What added to my loathing of rugby was that being Welsh myself, people would automatically assume that I was avidly interested in the moronic game. So now I live in Scotland and usually keep quiet about being Welsh.

Anonymous said...

Ah now, come on Mark. If rugby is a moronic game, then I'm moronic, and so are all the people here in Limerick who love the game. Come on. A little bit of give and take would go a long way. We're not really morons, you know. We just enjoy the game.

Surely there must be room in your world for all kinds of people - even rugby supporters?

Kim Ayres said...

It's Sunday morning and my son has just been whisked away by his pal to another rugby practice somewhere.

*Shudder*

Don't worry Bock, no-one's accusing you of being a moron. The real text here is about the damage done by PE teachers and schools on the self esteem of those who didn't enjoy sports.

Anonymous said...

That's ok, Kim: I wouldn't mind being called a moron. A lot of the time I am pretty thick, so it would only be a statement of fact.

The track record speaks for itself.

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