To Newcastle today for the Amlin Cup quarter final, and a reminder of the good spirit that pervades Rugby supports despite the brutality on the field! I had originally intended to watch this one on the box, but discovered Friday it was not being broadcast so after checking options used up some miles for the flight (American Airlines were as ever very helpful given the short notice request). From Newcastle Airport it was a three minute metro ride to an excellent pub for a few pints along with (very fresh) fish & chips with mushy peas and a good book. A couple of hours there then a three minute walk to the ground to see the Blues run in seven tries in what became an exhibition game in the spring sunshine. Newcastle Falcons are struggling at the bottom of the English League at the moment so they are used to seeing second string sides, but for the Blues this was important so the whole squad more or less were full internationals and the difference really showed in the biggest home defeat for the Falcons in this season if not for longer.
I was sat just in front of the commentator for Newcastle Radio who got confused when our choir struck up with Calon Lan in the build up. He was first puzzled as to why the club should broadcast welsh hymns, before he realised it was a live choir; my joining in raucously with what is my favorite welsh hymn may have alerted him. The response was “Oh my God not just a full set of internationals, but a choir as well, we’re doomed”. The Geordies I was sitting with had a great sense of humour. We were immersed in a technical conversation about territory and offside when one of they chirped up with “Look we only ever play in one half of the pitch, we can’t afford the rent on the other side”. Despite their loss they were thanking all Blues supporters (we were about a third of the crowd) for coming, and for bringing the stars so they could enjoy a festival of running Rugby.
So we mixed in the pub, we mixed in the ground, we mixed on the walk home. No violence, good humored bantering and intelligent conversation. Soccer has a long way to go before it can achieve that, and its boring in comparison anyway! If that had been a soccer quarter final the police would have separated the fans in the ground and also on entry and exist. The audience would have been mainly male. Today we had male, female and critically lots of children. Its what sport should be about.