As I write, I’m multitasking. I’m sitting watching Ireland take on England in Twickenham in the 2014 Six Nations. The triple crown is at stake. We’ve already put paid to Scotland and Wales. And we’re also the only remaining unbeaten side in this year’s competition between these six rugby-playing nations: Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, France, and Italy and so have a shot of the grand slam.
I’m multitasking in an effort to distract myself. I’m like a hen on a hot griddle. I can’t sit still. . I’ve already cried my way through the brief retrospective of some great rugby moments in Irish history and feel for Brian O’Driscoll as he starts what will be his last game at Twickenham. I so want them to win.
The age-old rivalry between the two countries shows no signs of abating. The history of Irish rugby – from its origins in Trinity College to its famous grand slam win of 1948, to Munster beating the All Blacks in Thomond Park – makes for interesting reading. And today, more than ever, we want our boys to win. I want them to win so that BOD will get his due.
I’m a huge fan of Brian O’Driscoll. Today he joins Australia’s George Gregan as the most capped international player in history as he gets his 139th cap. His records don’t stop at this. He’s also the highest try scorer of all time in Irish Rugby. He is the 8th-highest try scorer in rugby union history, and the highest scoring centre of all time. And he holds the Six Nations record for most tries scored and has scored the most Heineken Cup tries (30) for an Irishman. And he’s only 35. One wonders what’s left for him to do.
My knowledge of the rules of rugby is scant. I’ve only just noticed that they’ve changed the calls again and that scrums are now crouching, binding, and setting. I miss the whole engaging thing. I can’t keep up with the rules but this certainly doesn’t take from my enjoyment of the sport, given that when watching I spend a lot of time with my head in my hands or my eyes squeezed shut. It’s half-time and the Irish lads are no doubt in the dressing room getting a rollicking from captain Paul O’Connell as they face the second half three points down to England. We’re struggling. But as the inimitable George Hook has just said – no match is won at half-time. There is time.
But back to BOD. I wonder at our need for heroes. I wonder at our need for role models, for mentors, for people to inspire is to keep going. Ralph Waldo Emerson reckoned that the youth, intoxicated with his admiration of a hero, fails to see, that it is only a projection of his own soul, which he admires. I quite like this take and wonder what I see in BOD that’s a projection of my own soul. It’s certainly not purity. When England went for their second penalty and I prayed that they’d miss (hardly a Christian thing to do) – and it bounced off the post – prayer answered.
Felix Alder, founder of the Ethical Movement, reckons the hero is one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for men to see by. And BOD’s success has certainly done that for Ireland. He’s not alone. He’s been in good company but he has that certain something that makes him unique. A mulish obstinacy some say – and yes, that I can certainly identify with.
The sage of Potato Hill, American essayist Edgar Watson Howe, said: A boy doesn’t have to go to war to be a hero; he can say he doesn’t like pie when he sees there isn’t enough to go around. I can relate to this – it’s not all about drama and being centre stage. And I reckon that BOD does far more for the country than we see or will ever know. It’s that quiet self-effacement that makes him so appealing.
So no matter the result – and there’s about 10 minutes to go – this week I’m grateful for heroes of the calibre of Brian O’Driscoll. For the pride they engender and the hope they inspire. The world would be a much duller place without them.