Posts Tagged ‘six nations’

Super Six Nations Bowl

The Fulbright Programme is all about cultural exchange; it’s about sharing stories and experiences across borders; it’s about learning new things; it’s about immersing yourself in a different country. Now, we tend to think about things like politics, movies, music, lifestyle, food and so on as being some of the main ‘culture’ things that can be shared and talked about. For example, in the US, I still don’t understand why cheese comes in such small packets, and in the UK, I’d love it if more bars had a US-style ‘tab’ culture as a matter of course, and my life is more enriched knowing about these kinds of things.

But one thing which kind of flew under my radar as a ‘cultural exchange moment’ was… sport. Now, I enjoy American sports, particularly football and baseball. With lots of breaks in the games, you don’t have to concentrate too hard for the whole game, there’s lots of opportunities for chat and banter, and when something does happen, it’s normally pretty exciting. But I also enjoy British sports, primarily rugby, my ultimate game of choice, a game I have been in love with for about seven years ago now (but oh how I wish I had got into it earlier in life!).

It just so happened that last weekend was the start of the Six Nations, that special (delusional?) time of the year where Scottish rugby fans get all optimistic that *this year* will be the year our team’s fortune turns around and we’ll become a world-beating rugby force. And what better way to share British sporting culture with America than inviting some friends down to the pub to watch the opening game of Scotland vs. England? Alas, although another abject 80 minutes of rugby action on Saturday afternoon put paid to any thoughts of Scotland winning this year’s Six Nations Championship, it was great to show what makes the Six Nations such an enduring spectacle, with the anthems and the flags and singing and the passion displayed both on and off the pitch (field).

But my weekend of sporting exchange wasn’t all one-way, and Saturday’s rugby game was followed on Sunday by an excellent night’s entertainment at a Super Bowl XXII party, and for the first time, I really got to see why football holds such a sway over the American public. The size of the show, the entertainment, the drama, the social aspect, the rivalries, the sub-plots; all of it combined to produce a brilliant game, and one which although totally different to the Six Nations, was just as compelling and entertaining.
Now, if only we could get Beyonce, Bruce Springsteen or Tom Petty to do a half-time show during the Six Nations games….- The Social Linguist

It’s hard being a Scottish rugby fan…

It all started off so promisingly as well. Scotland had come off the back of a not great Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, and it was felt that the bad couldn’t get any worse. Eventually, the try drought had to stop; silly mistakes had to be cut out; a better attacking platform had to be developed. All Scottish rugby fans had been crying out for a new dawn since the inaugural Six Nations back in 2000, and hope has sprung eternal since the days of Matt Williams, Frank Hadden, and more recently Andy Robinson, that things could be turned around and we could once again become a force in world rugby.

Every year since I’ve been following the Six Nations, I’ve always gone into the tournament with fresh vigor and determination that this would be our year. This would be the time where we would blow teams away with our daring attack and phenomenal defense, carving up the pitch with devastating runs and pinpoint accuracy kicks. Alas, I’ve always been disappointed that we’ve come up so short. In. Every. Single. Tournament. Since I’ve been watching (2007), we have finished second last, with Italy the only team preventing us from the ignominy of finishing dead last.

This year, again, I had hoped it would be different. But as soon as Robinson announced the line up for the game against England, we knew we were doomed because it contained Dan Parks. Now, Dan Parks has been an admirable servant of Scotland for over a decade, and he has single-handedly saved many games for Scotland through his impeccable place kicking and touch finders, but his form of late has been dipping rather dramatically. This came to a head during the game against England when he botched a clearance kick which was charged down and led to an England try. Game over. What was even worse about this was that almost straight after the game, he retired from international rugby with immediate effect. Pretty awful news and I felt sorry for the guy who had put his body on the line for Scotland on so many occasions.

But this had the potential to herald our new dawn, with a new 10 coming in to replace Parks in the form of Greig Laidlaw (the current Edinburgh number 10), and instantly, our backline was transformed, making line breaks almost at will. But what seemed to constantly plague us were silly mistakes in the opposition 22, and against Wales, this manifest itself in two entirely avoidable yellow cards which effectively ended the contest. But we bounced back against the French and scored some well worked tries, playing probably the most attractive rugby I’ve ever seen Scotland play. Alas, we still lost, and then against Ireland, we appeared to throw away any semblance of a coherent game plan, and lost the game quite comprehensively.

So we are now zero for the last six games, and go into the last weekend of the Six Nations with our usual attempt to avoid finishing last by beating Italy. At home. Where we lost in 2008. And 2010. If we don’t beat them, we’re also ‘awarded’ both the Wooden Spoon (last place) and a tournament whitewash (no wins).  So a lot is at stake here, and I seriously wonder if Andy Robinson’s position will be at all tenable if Scotland lose. I can’t even countenance what the reaction will be in the Scottish media, since this will represent our worst run of results in about a decade.

Whatever happens though, I have to applaud the Scotland team. It can’t be easy going out on to the pitch, investing so much emotional, physical and mental effort for no reward, and then having to repeat it the next week. But I’m hopeful that today, Scotland can go out and throw down a marker that doesn’t completely devalue all the efforts they’ve made this season.

And maybe next year will be our year.


– The Social Linguist

Categories: Home life, Random Tags: , ,

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

February is, without a doubt, my most favourite time of the year, no contest. Why? Well, it’s certainly nothing to do with the weather, nor is it because my teaching load is noticeably heavier in semester 2, nor is it because January is over and Spring is looming over the horizon. It’s because February rings the start of the Six Nations Championship and a glorious six weeks of international rugby action. Woohoo!

Although the World Cup is a wonderful spectacle and advert for the sport (England’s antics during and after the tournament a notable exception), the Six Nations distills this into an almighty battle between the Home Nations and Italy and France. No sport tournament comes close (in my mind at least) to embodying the passion, adrenaline, commitment, joy and heartbreak of the Six Nations. It is without par in the sporting world and I look forward to it every single year (well, every single year for the past six years or so).

In some respects, I’m disappointed I got into rugby so late on in my life. I was never into sports as a teenager, and during P.E. at high school, I would ask if I could go for a cross-country run instead of embarrassing myself with my two left feet and always being picked last. Rugby was (and still is) a peripheral sport in Scotland, despite the fact that it’s got a lot more going for it than football. It’s a game for all sorts of people, from small and quick to big and slow and everything in between. There’s very little animosity between club supporters, the players are respectful of the referee and his decisions (even if the decisions are wrong), and every game finishes with a handshake and a pat on the back, regardless of what happens on the pitch. In many ways, it’s a much more family friendly game than many football games, yet rugby hasn’t really capitalised on this distinction, and certainly not in Glasgow where football-related violence has always been an intrinsic part of being a fan (not for all fans of course, but for a vocal minority).

Anyway, now to head off and get ready for a day of screaming, shouting and cursing at the television. Can’t. Wait.

Oh, and here’s a wee ditty for you…

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
When the rugby is showing,
And Guinness is flowing, it’s Six Nations time!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
It’s the hap-happiest season of all.
With those try scorers running and scrums a-collapsing
You’ll roar when they score!
It’s the hap- happiest season of all.”

The Social Linguist

Categories: Home life, Random Tags: , ,