Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Fever in the Aveever - Rugby Exposed

The throaty and subdued lustre of the Charlemont fans and the nasal heehaw of the Leinster masses breaks the freezing night as a light mist rises from their hot bodies to rest lazily in the yellow glare of lamplight. I am caught in this slow river, making small and awkward steps toward the looming and luminescent egg of Lansdowne Road Stadium.

I don’t really know the people I am with. My boss is out of the country and offered me the ticket. I had meant to decline the offer but the words came out wrong so now here I am, staring up into a wide and square-jawed head that booms questions at me like the great and elusive wizard of oz.

“Ore you Boggo’s friend?” the gigantic head moos at me in polished Blackrock English

“Boggo?... Oh, Mr Bogroviditch – yes, yes. He said you’d have a ticket for me.”

In hindsight I should have taken the ticket and left them to it but Mr Bogroviditch had said that these men were friends of his and would be happy to have me join them for the game and a few drinks. It seemed at first that this was the case but as we troop under the Dartline and into the stadium’s concrete bowels my total lack of material input to the constant stream of rugby banter and homophobic horseshit has effectively excluded me from the group already. We pass up an echoing stairwell and join some short and fast moving lines for heavy looking black turnstiles. I’m so taken with marvelling at the efficiency of everything that I’ve forgotten to have my ticket ready and can feel the acid glares of everyone in the tube-lit tunnel as I frantically unzip the half dozen or so pockets on my jacket in a bid to find it. A steward tugs me gently by the elbow to allow the queue to continue past me as I search. It’s in my jeans and I apologetically slip back in near the front of the queue and head for the turnstile. It’s an almost floor to ceiling affair and it’s thick iron loops look unwieldy and forbidding. I feel a little nervous of it and, not wanting to get stuck half way through a turn, I add a bit of extra forward momentum to my step to ensure I get by. I rebound from the structure with a falsetto squeal, leading the nearest steward to take my ticket with a shake of his head and wave it under a laser barcode scanner that I can’t believe I missed. I take the ticket with what I hope is an air of stern, masculine gravitas and push the turnstile but the bastard thing stops halfway around and I find myself trapped, lobster-like, in a tight and immoveable steel cage. A well dressed, middle aged man with a face like a kicked testicle who is next in the queue behind me, swipes his ticket in the scanner and with a single hand pushes both turnstile and I through a complete revolution, giving me a look of ugly contempt as I stagger out of his way. Peering about for my companions, I realise that they have gone on without me. Good riddance I think as I climb some stairs and enter a smaller tunnel. There are doors out to the stands here and I check my seat number to see which one I am to take. It’s not far along and passing through it I find my seat quickly enough as the stands have yet to fill up. I don’t see any of Mister Bogroviditch’s friends though and find myself double and triple checking my seat number to be sure I’m in the right place as he said that they always get seats together. I look around me but can see no sign of them but find plenty to admire in this floodlit pantheon. I let my eyes rove over the high tiers of the terraces where tiny figures wend their way, in interrupted streams, through the miniature, colour-cordoned seating. I imagine that I am a giant and begin to squish these distant people between my outstretched thumb and forefinger. “Squish...splat...kapow...splotch...” I only realise how carried away I have become with this when I notice two grown men in the row of seats ahead of me scowling in my direction. Slowly I lower my hand and look away. I hear one of them mutter “Fockin’ queer!” as I do so. The cold is beginning to bite so I zip my jacket up tight and sit on my hands for warmth. The seats behind me and to my left fill up and then also, to my surprise, the seats to my right and no still no sign of Mister Bogroviditch’s friends. I silently hope that I am in the right place as I would not wish to have to try and find another seat now that masses are in. As I look around, taking in the backs of heads and general jostling throng of Leinster fans now surrounding me it strikes me that, though not of insignificant stature myself, I appear to be positively petite in proportion to the bear-like men who have filled the stadium. It is then that I turn to fully take in the hulking presence that casts a shadow of physicality at my left shoulder. I look up and up again and am greeted by two beetle-black eyes that nestle snug between doughy cheeks, pinked by the cold and a great, glistening forehead that curves gently up and away beneath a baby-like, strawberry-blonde fuzz. This towering curiosity honks at me good naturedly in a tongue that seems at once both familiar and alien and even as he turns away I am held transfixed. I observe with growing fascination his movements which appear focused but poorly co-ordinated as if not yet fully learned or perfected. For a moment he stoops, fumbling at something upon the ground and I am about to offer assistance when he comes up clutching a flag in the navy and yellow of Leinster. Furiously he begins to wave it, a great gaping grin cracking his ruddy countenance and indeed his high-spirited thrashings are so violent that I am almost knocked from my feet and have to press a little to my right to avoid injury. He looks so happy this oversized man-child clutching his little flag in a fist of fat sausages.

A roar goes up and my eyes scan the pitch and see the teams emerging from the dressing rooms. The man-baby is clearly delighted as he begins to honk his untelligible jibber-jabber in a voice so deep I fear for a moment that it may loosen my bowels.

“Moooaaahhh! Hoozahhhh!” he bawls and I find myself scrutinising the sounds for some familiar term.
“BlawkAwk Boyzzzz....Ruggerrrr!” it’s no use, I mark him down as a hopeless imbecile and hope that he does not try to befriend me at half time.

The entire stadium is on their feet cheering and stomping as the Leinster boys do some stretching and hugging and, feeling a little carried away by the general excitement, I lend my support with a little round of applause. As I watch the bristling crowds and the bright nova of camera flashes firing around the stands I begin to sense some of the euphoria that electrifies this colosseum. In no time at all the match is underway and the crowd buck and rear in breaking waves that mirror the flow of play before them. Leinster pile the pressure on, ducking and weaving and dodging and running and lying on the ground and jumping up, getting in a muddle and rolling clear until suddenly, to  tumultuous celebration, a try. The stadium erupts as one voice into animal roars of satisfaction.

As I settle back into my seat after the successfully kicked conversion I hear a voice drawl knowingly behind me.
“The noxt fofteen monutes now ore crotical! Absolutely crotical!”
It is then that the chanting starts.
“Leeeennnnnnssstur.... Leeennnnnnssstur....” I wince in pain at the decibel level.
“Leeeennnnnnnssstur...” It is the idiot man-baby, his contorted voice so deeply-rooted in a low-bass register that it falls upon me like a mountain.
“Leeeennnnnnnnssstur...” I can actually feel my left eardrum compressing so deeply that it appears to be poking me in the brain.
“Leeeeennnnsssstur....” Realise that I must act or go deaf I pull a glove off with my teeth and screw its index finger deep into my lughole. This seems to attenuate his mindless braying to the level of mere irritation so I pull up my hood to hide the fact that I have a fleece lined glove protruding from the side of my head and try to concentrate on the game as play is resumed.

The frantically paced play upon the pitch draws continued howls of approval from the home crowd and it is easy to feel buoyed upon the fervour, like a cork on the ocean, as one’s temperament tunes itself to the prevailing vibrations. I wonder if this growing sense of reckless abandon that swells within me is what causes women to synchronise their menstrual cycles when living communally – they must love the ecstatic charge of it! I am caught on the wave now, howling my delight, roaring for more, lending my own cry of “Heave” as the scrums engage with a crunch.

But something is wrong, the vibrations are changing. I don’t know if I feel it first as a tremor through the souls of my feet or simply register a change in the pitch of the mob but my hair begins to tingle and my breath catch even before I see the leviathan form that has appeared between the vaulted heavens and us below. The entire stadium shudders and groans as the monster braces its weight against the steel canopy overhead before swinging its colossal legs into the centre of the playing field. I am transfixed but even as my instinct to fly asserts itself a new horror steals over me, holding me back, a chant has been taken up and is steadily building throughout the arena.
“Wonga-Wonga, Wonga-Wonga, Wonga-Wonga, Wonga-Wonga...”
It is dawning on me now, the full and awesome gravity of what is taking place. It is Wonga-Wonga, the gargantuan, testosterone beast from whose gut spring the driving winds of all that is wicked and wrong in the world. Have the fates conspired in order that I bear witness to this most heinous incarnation of man’s baseness, the sentient totem of egotistical pride and self-indulgence?
“Wonga-Wonga, Wonga-Wonga, Wonga-Wonga...” all around me now, the chanting continues as out upon the pitch, with terrible footfalls that shake the very earth, Wonga-Wonga positions himself in an awkward, squatting-crouch and I wonder for a moment  if he is about to leap skyward, then suddenly the chanting stops. I am holding my breath and cannot take my eyes from the monster, whose unfathomably immense, curving posterior is suspended in the air a mere 30 metres above and ahead of me. The very air quivers with silent expectation as something both terrible and amazing is surely about to unfold. My eyes rove over the dimpled, greyish-pink surface of the behemoth’s hide, taking in the powerful majesty of its perfect musculature, straining against the strength of its flesh but even as I marvel a great surge of energy seems to course through the creature’s enormous frame and, Oh Jesus No! Around me the crowd are upon their feet, their cacophonous screaming positively ear-rending in volume as from the monster’s shaking hind-quarters tumbles great, bus-sized dollops of deep-chocolate-brown faecal matter. This office-block sized animal is taking the biggest crap I have ever seen right in the middle of Aviva Stadium and the people thronging the stadium are going insane with delight. Suddenly and as one the rush begins. To my horror the crowd on all sides is pouring forward, actually running headlong over the plastic bucket seats toward the still falling tree-trunks of steaming hot shite. In a trance of utter amazement it is a second or two before I realise the danger and my panic rises as I realise that I too am being swept toward the great pile of poopoo and it is most surely poopoo for even as they charge, recklessly focused upon the smoking brown hillock, the longing cries of “Poopoo” issue forth from every mouth. I am fighting now, like a noble and terrified salmon, against the buffeting flow of bodies but I am borne up again and cast backward into the vaporous fug and stench that is rolling outward from the filthy pile. Closer – I am striking out with all my force in a bid to escape the crush. Closer – glancing over my shoulder I can see those who have reached the dung heap casting themselves gleefully into its hot and viscous folds. Closer – I can see bodies plunging from the higher reaches of the terraces, a maddened cascade of zealotry. Closer – I am gouging, and clawing and screaming for mercy but I see the eyes of those who drive me before them widen with delighted anticipation and then, with a soft, liquid ‘Plop’ I am engulfed.

The womb-like warmth envelopes me in a soft caress and I am forced deeper inside by the tide of people behind me. My panic seems to have evaporated as the claustrophobic, roaring crush of the outside is replaced by a heady weightlessness and a calming depletion of the senses. I am aware now of only one need. I must feast. A ravenous and driving hunger is building in me and the initial euphoria is giving way to a primeval urge to take and to consume. I begin to gorge myself on the matter about me, forcing great fistfuls down my gullet. Another body bumps against me and snarling I cast them aside and continue to eat. It is animal, this feeling, this instinctive need to possess all I can lay hands upon. I guzzle more intensely, fighting hard now with any whom encroach on my perceived territory. Light begins to pierce the great, fetid mound as its great mass is consumed. Beneath the towering floodlights we must appear as maggots writhing in this filth but still we feast. We devour and lick and gnaw until nothing - quite literally, nothing - remains of the huge mound of poopoo. Not even the stiff blades of grass carry a trace of it as tongues have cleaned them in their entirety. Standing tall now beneath the harsh glare of electric light I realise that Wonga-Wonga has departed and no earthly sign of him remains. Inside however I feel a new force in my heartbeat, a new and unknown power within me. I join those around me in issuing a guttural and triumphant howl of confidence, of arrogance, of strength. I know now what it means to become a captain of industry, a leader of men groomed for wealth and success. It courses through me now, the knowledge and the poopoo.