After a hard half-day’s travelling (leaving our hotel in Lyon at an eye-watering 0445 hours) I reached home yesterday and ‘flopped’ – pulling up the drawbridge, watching a bit of the Barcelona Formula One Grand Prix before retiring to my pit for a two-hour snooze.
Some that sports fans believe, like rock stars, they ought to give up touring before they embarrass or make a spectacle of themselves. However, Nigel and I proved to our own satisfaction over the weekend – provided, of course, that you prepare properly (i.e. devise appropriate plans, take suitable precautions and specifically make allowances in advance for any wear and tear already exacted upon your body by the passage of time) – that those of us in our dotage can still do it.
It’s like any of Life. The only limitations in achievement to which individual members of the human race are subject are those that, either proactively or passively, they choose to place upon themselves.
Having said that the intriguing thing about being ‘on tour’ – as opposed to physically going to home game and/or those away ones within easy travelling distance – is that, whereas in both the bald truth is that actually ‘witnessing the action in the flesh’ is inferior to staying at home and watching it on the television (in terms of true appreciation of the course of a match), somehow the touring experience makes up for that by providing opportunities for broadening ones’ horizons; enjoying a foreign country’s culture, infrastructure and people; and just generally being taken away from normal life and socialising with whomever (great, small or weird) one comes across.
This in a context where the ‘group’ experience – whether your number be, as in our case last weekend, two … or indeed twenty – affords a safety net (or is it a sense of ‘us against the world’?) that offers a security blanket to which to retreat should external things begin to bore or grate.
To dispose of the basics of our trip to Lyon first and succinctly.
On Friday night the Harlequins played well enough to have ‘nicked’ the European Challenge Cup against both Montpelier and the odds but, having given themselves the opportunity – probably the story of our season for the second year running – then continually failed to execute when it mattered. Overall it was a poor, lacklustre match.
On Saturday late afternoon Saracens outlasted Racing 92 in a tough uncompromising heavyweight contest to win the ultimately club European prize – the Champions Cup. Owen Farrell who, though not my favourite player, has gone up a notch in the last eighteen months and is now one of the mentally toughest international rugby players in the Northern Hemisphere, scored seven penalties. In rugby these days whenever flair meets brute force the latter normally prevails – but when played at the intensity that this game was it can still provide a compelling, if unrefined, spectacle.
Inevitably, we had a lot of fun upon our trip and (thankfully for my readers) I’m conscious that when it comes to entertainment in this context, the watchword ‘you really had to be there to appreciate it’ is advice that participants would do well to remind themselves of when contemplating the retelling of what seemed funny at the time.
[I’ve just composed vignettes of three of the most hilarious incidents that occurred on our tour as best I can and I have proved myself correct – on the written page they just don’t do justice to the humour of the moment. Which is why I’m not going to bother to feature them here.]