No fat lady has sung; to my knowledge.

Read something really quite interesting the other day. On the subject of fickleness, I suppose, or at least regarding the alleged facts of fandom – whether or not this notion of the part-time or unreal fan is a fair kop. (That worth a ha ha?) Or whether it’s always been statistically the case that most fans either have more than one true love in their football ether, or actually go to watch more than one club; god forbid. Anthropologists studying that commonly identified sub-group The Bloke will be unsurprised I think that within this revealingly sharp and often vitriolic debate about Prawn Sarnie Munchers being Scum-a-the-earth or the Financial Lifeblood of the Premier League, there is a historical narrative for infidelity. Apparently, for yonks, it has been gently gently secretly the case that supporters have been de-tribalising themselves in order to watch better teams outside the immediate thrall of The Manor, or shouting Ev’ton one week and Liv’pool the next (for example.) Thereby dancing silently upon the grave of their own authenticity in the eyes of all right-minded people – like themselves.

God it’s a twisted world.

In life I make a point of a) being a huge optimist but b) never really believing anybodies facts and figures, so I won’t mention that the above research on home supporters is liberated from an article in Spiel magazine, lest you go accepting/reading it. Besides, I’m dealing in the woozily general again here, and do not intend (even) to write an article about football. I merely throw in this psycho-geographically resonating lifebuoy to provide comfort to those unable to persist with a post that turns out… against the early expectations… to be, in a roundabout way, about rugbystuff.

So what are we like, eh? One minute we’re crowing or guffawing at either George North or the Irish Pack; the next we’ve drifted. Back to the Real Sporting Giants – Drogba/Suarez/Torres and soon enough Rooney. As though they can or rightfully do satiate our needs both for sporting drama and mighty role-models. Providing us with everything a fan – fickle or sanctimoniously beyond those apparently spurious judgements – could ever ask for.

The Six Nations comes to an unseemly deadstop, like some campaign in the Daily Mail undermined because it suddenly seemed Leftie; quietly and terminally, mirroring something of the muffled bitterness articulated by those dubiously rugby-converted purple rinses with their suddenly cultivated obsession for Our Stuart Getting That England Job, ahead of that Mallett man, with his unsettlingly dark features. The natural order of things succeeding, in The Mail and the proper world; properly.

The sudden smotheration of not just The Six Nations but of the existence of rugby in the British(?) consciousness so soon after that final toot at Twickenham last weekend must surely be a metaphor for something. As well as being another one of those alleged facts. Perhaps it means that – shock horror probe – folks are not died-in-the-wool, touch-pause-engaged fans in the real head-to-the-left-now-hit-like-fuck sense. They – like most of the referees at international level – have no genuine feeling for, or understanding of the dark arts or finer points of frontrowdom. They admire something of that knightish physicality; wonder how that game can go on like that with that bloke reeling around under the trainer’s insensitive touch, four foot six away from the ongoing action. Why don’t they stop, like in proper games? And how does that counter-rucking thing work anyway? And how can that thing there be right, when thingumee just pawed oosit with his studs? Like that!?! Deliberately. What ARE the rules exactly, about that?

In Wales and quite possibly Ireland there is some general understanding. The Vinnygeez has waxed lyrical often enough about this. (In Wales) red cloudbursts of communal expression; joy through clumping; tries against the English as symbols of nothing more than reasons to exist as a nation. Proper engagement on a national, visceral and poetic level. Max Boyce as the Pope/Tom Jones as The Singing Pope – or something. Something like a very much friendlier triptych than might be produced (on a post Grand Slam bender?) by Francis Bacon, let’s say, who despite his fringe-celtic toff-centric out-there-ism I suspect didn’t know much about the game of rugby. Like many residents of Soho. Apart from Brian Moore. Who really does know plenty.

But I fear I digress. (Like for a living, almost.) The point I wish to make is that there is some sudden flopping off the continental shelf going on here, as the Fact Of Rugby slips like some unappreciated gloop into the all-consuming depths. And I am interested in the reasons for that. I have a hope that because the general level of sportsmanship, commitment, fitness and honourability amongst top rugby players is so absurdly high that therefore its profile and relevance and capacity to touch the hearts of (ideally) nine year-old boys and girls will deservedly soar. Leading to – amongst other things but as a suggested minimum – a manifest improvement in respect for the planet and all who inhabit it/the necessary election of a series of humanitarian socialist governments. Because rugby really is pretty wonderful, containing as it does a uniquely focused and encapsulated form of selflessness, teamwork and bravery that entitles it fully to snort derisively at (for example) Drogba’s ham-and-pineapple quattro-staggione-in-one-day blousy affectations. Rugby I know not being perfect but rarely being that embarrassing. But I fear I digress.

Look the rugby season for our friendly Six didn’t finish just because those games did. In fact right now the club season approaches its critical phase; Heineken Cup; Premiership Trophy; equivalents and more to the massively more exposed football carnivals. So let there be space for both in your own personal calendar.

And on the international scene this enthralling but actually parochial knockabout recently enjoyed may well feel disappointingly clubby compared to summer tours or autumn internationals against the acknowledged kingly beasts and champions of the game – the Tri-Nations posse. Either way, don’t look away so prematurely, so part-time-supportedly, so uninformedly now. Because quite frankly if you invest a touch more of your time into appreciating what these backs and forwards are up to, you may well find it’s shockingly expressive of the greater sporting instincts. Those that touch pause engage upon support; heart; camaraderie. Remember them?

Enter the dragons?

So, this weekend lots of sporty stuff gets going; England/Wales at Twickers; The Championship; The Charity Shield. Already the distant gleam of silverware. Papers are foaming with the Fabregas thing, the Mancini thing(s), the Road to Glory thing. The usual wunnerful daft disproportionate bollocks many of us lap up – no, too unfortunate an analogy – many of us get caught up in every pre-season.

But is it a sign of something meaningful I wonder that the footie stuff in particular finds me less compelled towards engagement? For although I speak as one proud of family connections to the pro game, with a decent pedigree in turning defenders inside out, I am currently experiencing difficulties of association with the typical Top Footie Player. And I drift more towards the relative sporting class – dignity even – of the rugby boys.

Spells coaching rugby at junior level recently renewed my familiarity with the utter contempt in which footballers generally are held by the rugby community. This goes beyond the guffawing at laughably poncy reactions to the kind of ‘injuries’ we as skinny 9 year-olds would have wiped away in a moment. It goes beyond the envy at decent but not extraordinary athletes being paid obscene amounts of moolah. What offends more deeply, I suspect, is the pervasive arrogance and disrespect for the sport itself. Players diving or faking to get fellow players booked or sent off; players endlessly whining at officials; players frankly pissing on notions of fairness and honest competition between respected adversaries. The thin, arguably cowardly cynicism.

I know there are examples of cheating/faking etc etc. in rugby. However I am clear that the general level of sporting integrity displayed by elite rugby players – under massively more physically demanding circumstances than footballing equivalents – is still a treasure. Rugby players get battered; taking punishment that would reduce the likes of Nani/Drogba/you name your own pussy to a tearfully exasperated heap. Given the testosterone-worship inevitably present, rugby folks like being tough; but this tendency is expressed typically alongside a more sophisticated appreciation for… say it again… sporting behaviour. From junior level upwards, players are discouraged from celebrating in a fashion that insults the opposition; contrast this with Balotelli/Adebayor. There is a healthy understanding of commandments within the game.

Fortunately, there are certain sparkly-things in the footie firmament, Barcelona being the obvious one. Let us hope the magnificent generosity of their carousel persists, post their revered manager’s (likely) desertion to Chelsea. Their elevation of the purist, short-passing practise to a position of such command is heart-warmingly important, surely? But even here, though we absolutely revel in the unlikely domination of sublime skill over all-coming cloggers, we have to note the Barca boys propensity for an Oscar-nominated fall. Likewise the near-saintly Mr Ryan Giggs has certain ahem… imperfections. As do individual stars from premier class rugby, of course.

So I confess to again regurgitating dangerously general feelings on issues which may only absurdly be compared. Feelings that may not withstand laser-like or anorak-backed counter-theory. May I – should I? – then withdraw with the following, meekly? That though footie is absolutely in my (English-in-Wales) blood, ’tis to the giants of the oval ball game that I shall most eagerly be turning. For confirmation of the red-blooded, fire-breathing but relatively untainted truths.