Day 32: Rugby, What the Hell?

by Eli Hodapp

Today started like any good Saturday should, after staying up too late, sleeping too late, and waking up a little hung over. I made it through episode six of Downton Abbey last night, accompanied by probably too much red wine. Yes, I realize this is the perfect Friday night of a forty-something single cat lady, and I don’t care. Downton Abbey is fantastic.

So, by the time I was finally operational today it was nearly lunch time. I had aspirations to head into Born and find somewhere cool to hang out, but the weather was so fantastic today that everything was exceedingly crowded. I just ended up taking a really long walk, checking out some cool shops, and making my way back towards Barceloneta figuring I’d just pick up something quick like kebab.

Walking along Port Vell I noticed that the local Irish pub, The Fastnet was putting their sign out that said “Kitchen Open.” This seemed worth investigating, as they’ve got all sorts of weird Irish stuff on their menu that I’ve never been able to try since their kitchen never seems to be open when I’m there.

I plopped down at the bar, ordered a pint of Guinness, and some sort of chicken sandwich with all sorts of English bacon on it. As far as I can tell, the main difference between English bacon and American bacon is that English bacon is cut much thicker, and doesn’t seem to be as salty. Either way, it was all great, and I discovered Magners cider, which totally made the entire trip worthwhile. I’ll definitely be picking some of that up when I get back to the USA.

While I had just wandered in their randomly, it turned out that I arrived just before a rugby game started between Bath and Gloucester, two teams from the UK. People started filing in to watch the game shortly after, and I somehow managed to secure prime seating for the game just by coincidentally coming early and choosing what seemed to be a good place to sit at the bar. It only seemed to make sense to stay for the whole game.

Watching rugby as an American is insane. During the first half, I had absolutely no idea what was happening. It’s like if you took American football and removed not only all the pads on the players, but also all the rules. It’s apparently A-OK in rugby to just shove whoever you feel like. Better yet, if someone shoves you or trips you, it’s also seemingly totally allowed to just get in a fist fight on the field right then and there while the referee watches.

There doesn’t seem to be any limitations on contact with other players. Or, if there is, I couldn’t figure it out. This particular game was taking place somewhere in the UK where the players were being pelted by freezing rain. The field was one massive mud pit, and slick enough that when someone would get tackled they’d slide for a good ten feet. Similarly, the condition of the field made dragging other players totally workable. For instance, one dude had the ball, and a guy on the opposing team was just being dragged down the field face first holding on to the shorts of the guy running with the ball.

It’s completely mental. Crazier yet, as I mentioned, no one seems to wear any protective gear save a padded hat of sorts that only a few players bother wearing anyway. Also, the whole “scrum” process is something else. I’m not sure what triggers a scrum, but what happens is all the players on both teams just form up into this massive shoving match while they all fight for the ball between their legs. I don’t even know how to explain it other than the weirdest sport I’ve ever seen televised.

The people at the bar watching were really funny too. Unlike the soccer games I’ve watched while I’m here where people are usually just really excited about everything, the people watching rugby were just really mad about everything. Everyone (on both teams) were apparently doing something wrong. Also, rugby fans really seem to like swearing. Although, that sort of goes for everyone in a typical Irish pub here. Listening to the waitresses and the bartender talk about drink orders would make a truck driver blush.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do tonight just yet, but tomorrow I’ve got tentative plans to take the train down to Sitges for the biggest Carnival celebration in the Barcelona area, which as far as I can tell is the Spanish equivalent of Mardi Gras.

That should be pretty awesome.