As I lurch headlong through mid life I find myself forever tut tut tutting at the various unseemly shenaneghins of our sporting stars. Supremely talented they may be however they seem curiously at ease on the red carpets and catwalks and even the lycra, skin tight on field garb is designed to flatter. I guess that is why a story from the UK really piqued my interest this week? The south of Wales was once a pit scarred industrial heartland that spawned true rugby royalty – Gareth Edwards, Barry John, Merv the Swerve and JPR to name but a few. Over time industry changed as did sport. Mines were shut and the teams named previously after gritty towns and villages morphed into glamorous skim milk macchiato sipping enclaves named after mythical beasts, fish and birds. Alas so too did the dressing shed atmosphere – once the nostril assaulting pungency of deep heat so redolent of times past but now more likely to be the metrosexual coconut scent of Ambre Solaire. Rugby union’s Ospreys were not immune indeed they possessed such a phalanx of stars that they were nicknamed the ‘Galacticos’ in deference to their far better renumerated round ball cousins, Real Madrid. That was before coach Sean Holley stepped up and drew the line. He banned fake tans and coloured boots. Sensational! From now on his players will only be allowed to sport real tans (as if they are going to get them during a long, sun starved south Wales winter) with burnished and bronzed limbs from a spray can forbidden. And its back in black for footwear too with players only allowed to lace up garishly hued boots if they’ve played 50 or more games for the Ospreys or chalked up 15 national caps. One hopes he will go still further – no ink on players unless their heritage dictates, no shaving except of facial hair, guernseys (made of cotton/polyester mix with the sleeves hacked off since you ask) tucked in and socks pulled up and of course no moosey, fudgey hair products unless of course, its Brylcreem. Short back and sides anyone?
No hairsprays at the Ospreys…
As many of you know although I am a proud Australian with an Australian wife, kids and dog, the blood pumping through my veins has a slight tinge of blue thanks to an equally proud English upbringing. And as I tap out this piece on Sunday morning awaiting the raucous start of Bathurst, that quintessentially Australian motor race, I am absolutely shattered. Last evening saw my beloved red rose wearing English side beaten by a French team that only a week ago lost to Tonga. My expectations were as high as ever daring to believe that 2003 could be repeated and I could once again puff my chest out and thumb my nose at the same time! I don’t often feel as spent as some of the iconic clashes we see in Australian sport don’t resonate as passionately as seeing my favorite team in my favorite sport. Don’t get me wrong I adore the gladiatorial combat provided by State of Origin, revel in the atmosphere and action of an AFL grand final and shed a tear as a supremely talented athlete is presented with a baggy green. It’s life and death for many but personally I don’t really care that Queensland have six straight titles in their keep or that the Magpies were beaten as Malthouse bowed out. Quite simply there’s not as much ‘skin in the game’ for me as when 15 men and true in white (or occasionally in black) sprint down the race and out into the Coliseum to battle whatever foe. Sporting academics have terms for it-birging and corfing. Basking in reflected glory when as winners we luxuriate in the spoils of victory and cutting off reflected failure where after a loss we slink into our shells and refuse to talk or even think of the match where our heroes were vanquished. I’m in corfing mode of course so you’ll excuse me not replying to the myriad of texts and emails that enquired into my parentage, my health and my general state of mind!! At least I have a second team to support… or do I?