Friday, March 14, 2014

Six Nations Rugby

Just in Time for March Madness

The Six Nations rugby tournament comes to an end this weekend.  Ireland stands at three wins, one loss going into a Round 5 matchup with France this weekend.  We have had fun following Ireland's trek through this yearly ritual uniting these rugby-loving Western European countries.  With all the other efforts to unite previously disagreeing countries with economic and trade regulations, unification of currency, and central European government, sports may just be the real cultural connecter these countries need.

When Ireland played England, our neighborhood pub was full of sports fans, mostly supporting Ireland.  None of them (that we could tell) had any real ill will towards the English fans or players.  They did want to see Ireland, the former captured colony and political little brother smack the pants off those American-Negro-Spiritual-singing English, but only on the field of play- not the field of battle.

VAT House Welcomes Scotland in Temple Bar, Dublin
VAT House Welcomes Scotland

"...But They Will Never Take... OUR IN-GOAL AREA!"

-William Wallace, Scottish Rugby Captain, 1296-1305

The event also gives the UK's current member nations a chance to represent themselves independently on an international stage.  Scotland has an important referendum approaching to officially leave the UK, but for now, they are competing as their own national team and their own national identity.  Many people outside of Europe assume Scotland is its own independent entity, not politically joined with England.  European readers, especially those in the British Isles might not believe it, but the UK/England/Great Britain situation is quite confusing to those on the American side of the Atlantic.  We can make neither heads nor tails of it.
"Wait, you mean Scotland is its own country, but it's part of the UK, but isn't the UK a country?  Aren't they all just England, anyway?  And what is Great Britain?  That's also England, right?  So is Scotland like a state of the UK?  No?  Hmm..."
At least in the Six Nations tourney, we get to see each of these countries representing their national heritage and pride distinct from the rest of the UK.

And speaking of often forgotten UK members, look at Wales getting into the mix.  If so many Americans think Scotland is its own political entity, at least as many would have never heard of Wales or assumed it to be a region of England... like Cornwall... or Stonehenge... or London.  Who knew that Wales has its own distinct cultural history and language, dating back much farther than the modern United Kingdom?  Until recently, I had only a vague idea of Welsh history, and still have much to learn.

VAT House Welcomes Wales Temple Bar, Dublin
VAT House Welcomes Wales

 For more facetious, sarcastic, and mostly well-meaning ranting about England, see every other page of this blog.

VAT House Welcomes England Temple Bar, Dublin, Ireland
VAT House Welcomes England

De Continent, Ain't Just a River in Egypt!

How about The Continent?  Ireland took on and handily defeated Italy last weekend, and will hope to kick off St. Patrick's Day with a win over France this weekend.  The inclusion of these two Continental European countries gives this great event even more linguistic and cultural diversity.  Who has had more historical Western European squabbles and disparaging jokes at each other's expense than England and France?  Heck, some of our favorite jabs are Anglo/Franco or Franco/Anglo jokes.  Particular favorites are the French calling the English Les Rosbifs for the English love of bland meat and potatoes, and the English calling condoms French Letters for the loose morals of the French insulting the puritanical sensibilities of the English.

Wouldn't it be great if the English brought roast beef to throw onto the field if they defeated the French?  Maybe the French could bring armfuls of... never mind.

VAT House Welcomes Italy Temple Bar, Dublin
VAT House Welcomes Italy

Way to Go, All Six Nations

Whatever the outcome of Ireland's matchup this weekend, a serious "well done" to all six nations for showing real unity and partnership on a continent that needs it.  When all the political blathering is over, we get to enjoy some of the most entertaining, friendly, and fair athletic competition there is to be found.

...And when I use matchup, that would be short for match, which is what an individual sporting event is called here.  A game is the name of the sport, a match is one playing of the sport.  Got all that?

I know it sounds a bit like...

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