Reporting From Allianz Park!

(yup, I’m now claiming to be a reporter as well as a writer; based on this logic my A at GCSE French should qualify me to be a ‘UN Translator’, no?)

It filled up quite nicely for the men's game
It filled up quite nicely for the men’s game

With my illness being ignored through the magic of own-brand Paracetamol, my blood sugars bodged into tolerability with some randomly-adjusted basal rates, and my schedule cleared by looking up the Sparknotes summary of the text I’ll be studying in tomorrow’s lecture instead of reading it, I will now write about my trip to Saracens’ Allianz Park, to report on the conclusion of the London Varsity Series.

For reference’s sake, the London Varsity Series is an annual week-long sporting event between my uni, University College London (UCL) and the nearby King’s College London (KCL), in a historic series of games literally two years old; but considering that annual UCL-KCL rugby games are closer to fifty years old, the rugby games form the final, and most relentlessly built-up, events of the series (despite the fact that UCL had won the series before the first rugby game kicked off). I won’t talk about the games any more, because my reports on them will be up here (NB: the link will be updated as soon as my reports actually go up) on UCL’s Pi Media, a newspaper that’s shite 99% of the time but is the only UCL publication with a sports section (which is actually quite good), so my options for publishing were a bit limited; feel free to check them out if you’re interested in rugby, or just things I’ve written.

The most striking part of the day was the scale of the thing, though: there may have been literally fifty people watching the women’s game, and my ‘reporting’ consisted of making notes on a single piece of A4 paper referring to players by number instead of name, but this was a sporting event at a professional ground, where I got to run up and down the sidelines, get a special wristband that let me enter through the VIP entrance, and stick a sneaky toe onto the Saracens’ turf when the touch judge wasn’t looking. I’ve played sports for UCL before, but they’d be held in an empty sports hall by some Godforsaken station in East London you can only get to via two tube lines, the DLR, and crossing a coach driver’s palm with gold to secure safe passage through the wooded, bandit-infested wilderness that makes up London outside of zone one. This was an event that felt like a sporting event, rather than a university sporting event; this isn’t to say that the former is inherently better, but it was a wholly different experience. By the second half of the men’s game, for instance, when the scores were separated by a single penalty and all the fans had gotten tipsy / outright smashed enough to get into it, the night had the atmosphere of a spiky, personal grudge match, creating that air of unnecessary life-or-death importance that turns professional sporting events from a dozen men chasing a ball around a field to a contest roughly equivalent in scale and significance to the Trojan War.

I also quite liked my position within this mini-Trojan war – I could appreciate and comment on the awesome vibe of the evening, without any of the regret and anguish that comes from losing such a competition; don’t get me wrong, I’m hardly afraid of losing a game when I put in my contacts for a handball or dodgeball game, but the chaotic, energetic mess of exaggerated sporting rivalries has always been more fun for me than the aftermath, where one side has, by definition, all that energy converted into defeatism and anger. And being on the sidelines, I could engage with those chaotic feelings for longer than if I were playing; I went home straight after the games to write up my reports, putting that energy into words, bits of analysis and crap jokes, rather than have it funnelled into simplistic victorious air-punching, or gut-wrenching feelings of defeat.

I found writing a match report for something of this scale to be as weirdly simultaneously public and personal, therefore, much like this blog is: you’ll be able to read my reports once they go up online, but I imagine that most people involved in the game won’t, either not caring enough to read them, or being more intelligent or more informed than I am, and so able to form their own conclusions without my input. Because ultimately, I didn’t influence these games; I was a bloke in a hoodie scrawling notes and running along sidelines, not making tackles, kicking for touch or even taking the photos of the trophy presentation that’ll be plastered across UCL and KCL student media for the next week.

But that’s life – a series of irrelevant and unnecessary actions, that we trick ourselves into considering important to stave off the despair and fear that comes from realising the utter hopeless meaninglessness of life; and it’s quite cool when we can trick ourselves using a 10,000-seater stadium, and seeing your fellow students break tackles on a jumbotron.

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