In a past life I held a season ticket at Northampton Saints rugby club. I attended every home game. I shouted, I cheered, I despaired (TV coverage of one particularly tight Heineken Cup game had my entire fingernail-biting face fill the screen…) I travelled to distant lands (well, alright, Cardiff) to watch finals, I cried, I laughed, I met new friends, I loved very minute. Then I got pregnant. I felt faint standing in the sun, I transferred my terrace ticket to a seat and then I stopped going.
It has not escaped my notice that the first season I got a ticket we got relegated and that two seasons after I stopped going they won the Premiership. I refuse to call myself a bad omen.
Anyway, I decided it was high time E had a taste of the rugby life. And so we took her down to Northampton on Saturday. I wanted to see how she’d react to a match, especially the noise and the crowds. My main concerns were:
the noise of the crowd would scare her
- the large numbers of people would scare her
- the size of the mascot, Bernie, who she has as a cuddly toy would freak her out
- she’d be bored
- she’d not eat anything while we were out
So I decided to test her at a pre-season friendly. We were playing Leinster.
For a small person who has just discovered vehicles and lampposts, the motorway trip was very exciting. The hour-long journey was punctuated by cries of “tall lights” “red lorry!” “Bus!” “tall light!” “So many tall lights!” all the way down. So far so good. We parked and walked to the ground. Sadly, the pre-season fixture meant there was no face painting available but there were plenty of food stalls. I’d given E baked beans for breakfast thinking they might fill her up if she decided she didn’t want to eat. We bought pie and chips and went to our seats, after saying hello to old friends.
I needn’t have worried at all. E was enchanted by everyone clapping and cheering and immediately joined in. Then she tucked into the pie and chips. I’ve never been prouder of my girl. We kept her occupied through the game with a bit of walking around, a new sticker book, an ice cream and some crayon work. Bernie walked round the pitch and she waved to him and laughed.
The first half action took place at the other end as we scored three tries with no reply. Couldn’t expect her to pay attention really. But then the game moved to our end and she watched as the men did “running” and threw the ball. When we scored again I held her up in the air to cheer which she loved. We sang the song “When the Saints go marching in” and she loved that, and then she watched as we took the conversion and the ball flew over her head. She cheered and clapped and general had a good time. A convert to the oval ball.
We took her home and got back just in time for the Sainsbury’s delivery – the delivery man was not impressed at our outing, being a football fan. He dismissed our good time with the typical sneer characteristic of football fans, assuming theirs is the better game. (Never understood this – if you go to a footie game you can expect to pay between 1 1/2-4 times as much for a ticket, through barriers similar to those used in prisons to a stadium with few bar facilities and poor catering, to a game with no guarantee of goals or entertainment, with a bunch of people, some of whom are racist, sexist and homophobic. And if you decide to stay at home to watch the highlights on TV instead, you have to put up with Robbie Savage. Seriously, what’s so good about that?)
We were lucky in that there weren’t any other seats filled on our row so she had a bit of room to move about – who knows how she’d do at a full game. But this was a good start. I am encouraged.