The pains and joys of consuming rugby

Post date: Mar 21, 2011 11:52:22 AM

This time a little from a supporter perspective - although, come on, a lot of us got something out of this year's RBS 6 nations championship. England for winning; France, for coming second, even after a defeat to Italy; Wales, for their win against Ireland (grrrr); and of course Ireland, for their inspiring game against England. If I'm upset for any of them, it is Scotland who deserved so much more than what they got.

Since Saturday, there has been no end to the euphoria for Ireland's win against England - I'm sorry to be displaying my bias here, but I'm delighted. However, as always, I'd like to present rugby and sports from a slightly different angle. Taking a closer look at the 'consumption of rugby' from a players' perspective, I'm learning a thing or two about the use of social media from the likes of Jamie Heaslip and the various Irish rugby players on twitter. No shame from them to be self-reflective and self-focussed - and, I have to admit, entertainingly so. In relation to their entrepreneurial selves, it is interesting to recognise their ability to draw us in with their celebrity-esque perspectives, allowing Tommy Bowe for example to create his own shoe range. It's also interesting to hear about their lifestyle, parties and overt interest for the ladies - who are no doubt answering Ireland's call in their masses. I guess the novelty lies in their ability to provide us with an insider view into their (at times not too) glamorous lives and the human side of rugby life... and the surprise that they are 'just normal blokes'. They are also sad, upset, anxious and emotional. This shouldn't be all too surprising as I went to university with some of them, I still bump into some in pubs, and see the Munster team rushing through airports at the weirdest times - mainly when I don't want to leave the Ryanair queue (and why would I? they're just the rugby dudes, right?). This tells me something about celebrity consumption too... mainly in relation to this wonderful sport that is rugby - and maybe from a certain cultural perspective too.

For me, their blogs and tweets produce great insights into the psyche of these players, including their cars, eating habits, and their desire for freebies... and what a clever way to just 'put it out there'. Freebies I hear you say? Why would they need to call for a 'give-away'? (By the way, if there's anything going for free, feel free to send some my way! I'm happy to test out any STUFF in relation to how it may do with the lads. And if you don't know it by now, I have a fair idea what's happening with 'marketing masculinities' these days - and, if we're honest, that's a core element of these branding phenomena). Back to our rugby players, they show us this lovely double-edge of being a consumer and being consumed at the same time. We can certainly perceive their flavour for aspirations and status, but less in the ways of delusional grandeur and being 'too good' for the crowd. Rather, they present us with great examples of 'cheekiness' that is so celebrated in contemporary (young) masculinities - making them perfect ambassadors for the ambivalent and contradictory 'normal blokes' discourse that we all love and cherish. And of course, for the entrepreneurs amongst us, this can be a great lesson for developing a maven strategy and making the most of 'show time', without being patronising.

With this win, Ireland are jumping into fourth place on the IRB ranking as we speak, ahead of England and France as the highest ranked country in the Northern hemisphere. Of course, this may not only present them with a great sense of achievement, but once again with pressure to perform in the upcoming Rugby World Cup (feel free to send tickets my way - you see, I'm learning). And, as experience shows, Ireland has not dealt too well with pressure at times.... maybe 'being a normal bloke' also has its downsides when it comes to crunch time. Then again, something tells me that we wouldn't want it any other way! After all, cheekiness is difficult to reconcile with being a comfortable winner who is arrogant and superior - just another one of those contradictory attributes to the guys out there. We love the underdog, don't we. You win some, you lose some - and this humble pie may also keep supporters sweet, male and female. I certainly can't wait to see how this one continues!