Dublin is a sports town. And so is my hometown of Buffalo, New York. During (american) football season, things comes to a bit of a standstill for four to five hours every Sunday as just about everyone watches the Buffalo Bills play (and usually lose). And when there is a big match involving Ireland, pretty much the same thing happens over here.
The most popular game in Ireland, in terms of attendance, is something called Gaelic Football. I don’t really know what this is but I can attest to its popularity. When Dublin’s team won a match last year, it took my taxi over an hour to get home from the airport because of all the fans celebrating, and drinking, in the streets. I’m not even sure if this was big match or just a regular game – in Dublin it doesn’t really matter. If they win, it’s a big deal and drinking and carousing must commence thusly.
The sport du jour more recently has been something called the 6 Nations, which is a rugby tournament between, not surprisingly, six nations – England, Scotland, Wales, France, Italy and, of course, Ireland. Ireland beat France yesterday and, through calculations I don’t understand in the least, won the 6 Nations Championship.
One of my fellow expat friends invited me to watch the match at our favorite pub in the neighborhood and, though I don’t know much about rugby, I thought it sounded like fun. Now, you couldn’t pay me to watch a big Buffalo Bills game at a sports bar in America but, here in Dublin, I am making a conscious effort to do things that fall outside my comfort zone. So, we went to the pub and I watched my first rugby match:
Now, I normally hate crowds but I actually really, really enjoyed watching the match with what felt like all of Dublin. There was yelling, there was cheering and when they won the championship, there was even singing. It felt really great to be a part of that – perhaps it would have been different if they lost, but everyone was having so much fun and was just so happy. And I was happy to be a part of things. I didn’t feel like an outsider. I was in my favorite pub in the neighborhood I love with friends who mean the world to me. My accent may still be American, but yesterday afternoon, I felt Irish.
NB: I would like to apologize in advance to all Irish Rugby fans. Now that I am a fan as well, things are bound to take a turn as I have horrible “fan kharma”. I am fairly certain I’m the reason that the Buffalo Bills lost four Super Bowls in a row, that the University of Michigan lost the Rose Bowl AND the Final Four when I was a grad student there and that Michelle Kwan never won Olympic Gold. This could be the last Irish victory for quite some time. Again, I apologize.