In 2007 I was in England on holiday during the Rugby World Cup. The tickets are stupid expensive, but it is the Rugby World Cup. I was half tempted to spend the stupid stupid expensive R10,000ish for a ticket IF I could find friends who were willing to commit to risking South Africa not making the final. I allow myself to lean completely into my deepest, darkest, irrational places in sport support mostly because of the friendships, banter and connection that allows. Yesterdays match against Wales wasn't fun. But I knew my buddies around the world were in an equally dark place. Screaming at the TV. Inappropriately carnal, guttural, war cries as that backhanded pass was collected by the General before he dived into the corner to stem the pain with hope. I would have spent that R10,000 I didn't really have if I had found friends to share it with. Unfortunately, once it was safe South Africa and England were in the final, tickets were golden and unattainable.
Watching the victory in 2007 with my brother
I decided this would not happen again and started rallying the troops for 2011. At the spiritual home of Rugby in a land where the sport is not a sport. It is life. It wins and loses elections. Unlike my distant Scottish roots in my surname Black (my ancestors were stripped of their clan name for being sheep thieves), I have no blood links to New Zealand. But then again, Scotland and New Zealand have close ties... and they are the All Blacks? Anyway, come hell or high water I was going. My campaigning didn't go very well. Silly things like rational financial decisions and burgeoning families getting in the way. Besides a friend who seems to pop up at every major sporting event from Beijing to Brazil, I couldn't be certain anyone else would be there. I ended up resorting to sneakiness and splashing out on tickets for the Finals as a wedding gift for a great buddy. His wife was a little confused. How are rugby tickets for the groom a wedding gift? Let's not let tradition get in the way of a cunning strategy I say.
The risky plan didn't quite work out the way I wanted and I had to go through the turmoil of the Boks' exit at the quarter finals in Wellington (With Mr Beijing Brazil). The Groom arrived to us facing picking a new team and trying to salvage this long planned trip. I bought myself an All Black top and we got on board with the home team. The scarf and beanie showing the colours of my heart. It was a bit crazy that it had been 24 years since probably the most successful sports team in the world had won the World Cup. To be honest, I was a little scared we might not make it out completely safely if they hadn't won.
Rob and I gearing up for the 2011 France v All Blacks Final
On the surface getting so wound up about sport seems silly. I will admit that I hate losing much more than I enjoy winning. The angst and emotional rollercoaster of a test match often don't seem worth it. But it feels like that is the price. Caring about something so ridiculously much when it is 'just a game' is a glue. I know that if South Africa somehow manage to beat the magicians next week, and we go on to win the World Cup, it will be burnt into the memories of so many people who matter to me.
And we can do it. Something deep inside tells me so.