Monday, November 14, 2011

The Perfect Result

As a way of helping you to understand where I'm coming from and why the Heineken Cup rugby tournament matters to me in the least I'll lay out a few facts for you.

Fact #1 We lived outside Dublin, Ireland for five years and I got a super crush on Leinster rugby player Brian O'Driscoll. He epitomizes all that is handsome in a pasty-white-legged Irish way.

Fact #2 Rugby is the only sport I can actually bring myself to watch, sauf tennis which isn't really in the same genre. It's that it's so much faster than American football and so much more rugged and manly than football.

Fact #3 Ma Fille's class plays rugby every Thursday as a complement to their regular PE/Sports Day and she loves it.

Fact #4 Montpellier has an American/Fijiian player on their rugby team, he came to visit Ma Fille's class and she got his autograph, they being the only English speakers in the group.

Fact #5 This is the first time Montpellier has been in the Heineken Cup.

All of the above combined to create the perfect rugby storm when Leinster and Montpellier turned out to be in the same grouping for a round of play and were scheduled to play last weekend here in Montpellier.
Of course we had to go. And we took the big kids with us.

Big Kids, Coke & Me (avid fan just behind)
Building up to the big match or as it was marketed here, the 'Tres Gros Match' which of course I choose to think of as the 'Very Fat Match', we were torn....would we cheer for the Irish boys of Leinster, our home for so long, the place that made such a lifelong impression and changed us as a family? Or would we root for the home team?
Both teams wear blue so we couldn't declare any allegiance through fashion choices which only allowed for more indecision.
On the walk up to the stadium we spotted the Irish fans from yards away....blonde, red, sandy brown, fair skin, light eyes and a certain je ne sais quoi that proclaimed their ancestry even before the peal of inflected English could reach out and stir feelings of  longing. I know I often say that I was on the verge of tears about something and you probably think I'm completely starkers. But. I am not ashamed to say that I puffed up a little bit then too. When I saw and heard the familiarity, in this, a place made so different by the huge force of language, it made me wistful. And I wanted to put my arms around every one of those barrel chested Irish and chant, 'Leinnnnn-ster, Leinnnnn-ster!'. My decision had been made for me.

Funny thing was, our seats were smack dab in the middle of a sea of French. Next to me was an avid Montpellier fan, banging and clacking his accordion folded program and joining in the 'Ici, ici, Montpellier!' as loud as his voice would allow. Then there was the balding man with his French scarf tied jauntily who looked back at us with surprise when we cheered for Leinster as they took the field. 'Bonjour!', I said happily and he replied in kind, unable to wipe the look of confusion from his face.

Matters were made more perplexing when Montpellier scored a try right in front of us and we all four jumped up, cheering and clapping for our adopted home's team triumph. Back and forth it went. A good natured afternoon of confusion and excitement. The avid fan to my left asked why we were cheering for both and I explained, 'J'habite ici mais je suis d'Irlande.' A tiny omission of my true Americanness for simpliclity's sake. He laughed and said he understood and continued to shout 'Putain!!' at the top of his lungs to the immeasurable delight of the big kids.

They'd never been to a live sporting event before so were blown away by the experience; the noise, frisson and crackle of tension in the air, the chance to have a Coca-Cola and bag of chips. They smiled all the way through and took it in turns cheering for each team as they spoke a mish mash of English and French. I shouted 'Allez Leinster!' a few times before I realized how weird that really was.

Up Close & Personal
In the end it was a draw: 16-16. Thanks to Johnny Sexton who Mon Mari swears heard him shout 'Atta boy Johnny!!' therefore giving him the courage to kick it through the posts for the tie despite all the noise.
The Very Fat Match was a Very Fat Success.
As we walked back to our car, flushed and full of warmth for our fellow man, Irish and French alike, we held hands and talked it all over, happy that we didn't have to choose. For us it was the perfect result.


  1. I can understand the excitement, what a coincidence!

  2. I loooove this story! Love it!!! And also, you look ridiculously adorable in your glasses -- like a super spicy librarian!! :)

  3. What an experience! and a great result too.

  4. I was thinking about you while we watched the match, and wondered if you had all gotten tickets.
    It was such a good match! Although Leinster did seem like they were fluffing about a bit. I'm sure we'll do the post-match commentary next week! x

  5. Well what can I say other than


  6. A very enjoyable reading, with the right amount of passion and humour, thank you!


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