The last couple of weeks I’ve been attending rugby games at Harlequins Rugby Club. Some of you who know me might wonder ‘why would you even set foot there?’ Well, I’ve discovered an openly gay rugby team. I know this is an oxymoron to its purest form but these guys are actually really good. They bust their balls (first of many puns to feature in this blog post) every week playing touch rugby, which is not as violent as the usual barbaric game. The funny thing is that I have actually grown a fondness for this game. Big gasp! The game I have been running away from, cursing, faking illness for and ignoring most of my adolescent life is actually quite intriguing. I’ve even found myself cheering and cursing next to the field (very uncommon behavior). And to think, it only took a couple of gay men in shorts for me to realize that rugby can be most exciting.
Now before you judge and fling accusations of superficiality my way, I want to stop you right there. Despite the cute legs and copious amounts of hair product there is much more to this team. They are accepting and don’t judge no matter who you are, were you come from, what you do or how much or little you know about handling a ball (pun), they are more than happy if you join or support the team. And when you slip up and you are not able to catch or pass a ball, it’s only that, a mistake, they don’t criticize your masculinity to the level of humiliation. They would rather help.
So I have officially made plans to join the Versatile team. This choice might send shocks of panic (or laughter) to those who know me. It might even cause an imbalance somewhere in the universe with catastrophic consequences. But I’m not bothered. I will face my fears, join the team and accomplish my goal of scoring my first tri. Then I will brag about it until I’m blue in the face, call my father to make him proud and maybe even include it on my CV. But before all this, I will firstly need to get over my fear of rugby balls. Let me explain…
During my years as a young lad (who had no interest in sports what-so-ever) I had to live in the shadow of my all star sports playing brother. I know what you’re thinking, ‘O great, here comes another Dr. Phil inspired confession of adolescent insecurities.’ But no, I will spare you. What I will share with you is an experience that caused me to have an unnatural fear of a moving rugby ball. My brother’s specialty was rugby. He was very talented (pun meant for his wife) which caused him to play for the first team and get the gorgeous girl in the end… Many envied him. But for me this meant that many hours of my youth was spent sitting next to a rugby field playing while my parents were screaming at some unfortunate referee. One day in particular I was minding my own business next to the field studying an ant colony while pouring Coke over them (thrilling stuff) when suddenly I felt a massive THUMP! Pain rushed through my head and everything went dark. When I finally opened my eyes I discovered masses of people gathered around me. These included my parents and most of the team players. I then realized that the rugby ball had hit me in the face while the opposing team was mere seconds away from scoring. My parents soothed me with candy, secretly hoping I had not sustained any brain damage while the team thanked me for their victory. I was dubbed the ‘lucky charm’ for the day. A feeling of satisfaction came over me. I had finally contributed to the sporting world even if it was to my own expense. But despite the good turnout of events I had been left with this panic caused by egg-shaped forms. I would cringe when I see a rugby ball flying my way. A feeling of fright would rush over me when someone would kick a rugby ball (even if it was on TV). And I found myself weeping while cracking open an egg to make French toast. Thus I have avoided and ignored the game of rugby ever since. But soon things will change. It is time to face my fears.
A very good friend of mine has bravely offered to teach me to play. He, who has had his nose broken six times and had to resort to plastic surgery for a now flawless nose, has played rugby most of his life. So at least I am in good hands (pun). Pretty soon I will kick my fear of the moving rugby ball and be jogging on the field while tossing (pun) and catching the ball (pun, this is too easy) like a pro. So expect invites to my first game pretty soon. And who knows, maybe next I will be diving the Great Barrier Reef and conquering my fear of the ocean (and everything inside of it). Life is too short to be scared!