Today is the climax to the Six Nations Rugby Championship of course and I find myself a rugby widow for the day. To be fair, this is a rare event. It takes quite some important rugby event to persuade my husband to change his football habits. [The lure of beer all day definitely helped his decision, I believe.]
However, when he does switch, he always supports Ireland. He was born in the UK but, as whittered about in previous posts, he has Irish parents. He will support England ahead of the others in a championship though if Ireland are not in the running. There is a table of precedence, you understand...
And as I listened to the coverage on Chris Evans' Radio 2 show yesterday on the various points combinations needed to establish a winner today, I did wonder how these competitions work in other families. In my family alone, I have an Anglo-Indian father who supports England with every fibre, a Scottish stepfather and a Scottish sister in law who are both highly patriotic but also mad keen Celtic fans for the football which links to their Catholic heritage. This is a loyalty shared by my Irish Catholic husband. He supports Middlesbrough as well, for his sins. Are you keeping up with this?
My nephew was born in England but, at three, for the sake of diplomacy, has to be dressed alternately in Scottish and England outfits in order to keep all grandparents happy. His Scottish grandfather, my brother's father in law, is as Scottish as they make them for sporting loyalties. Yet he voted against Scottish independence. My brother continually treads a fine line of popularity with his in-laws due to his Englishness. My step sister of course has a Scottish father but has an English mother. I really must ask her where her loyalties lie on these occasions!
And the thing is, I don't think we are that unusual these days. A good friend has set off for Murrayfield today with her seven year old. She is Scottish through and through but her son remembers only England. And her husband is Northern Irish... I could give many other examples.
The first rugby international took place in 1871 between Scotland (see picture above) and England. And presumably, in ordinary families, this was an event only mentioned in the newspapers. Not something to be thinking about and cheering or arguing about.
It took around a hundred years, with the advent of the 1970s television coverage, for the Six Nations to gain huge popularity, although as far as I can work out, some matches were televised from as early as 1948 - whether rugby league or union. As a child of the 1970s with a rugby mad father, I have vivid memories of him settling himself down for a good old shout at the TV, be it for the Six Nations or England v New Zealand All Blacks or whatever.
As our families have fractured with the increase in geographical and social mobility over the last 150 years, maybe the improvement in communications has allowed us to reinforce our sense of belonging to something wider via sporting loyalty. (For rugby at least, it seems quite good natured. I may be wrong.) We can feel part of a wider picture, wherever we are in the world. As for me, I do support England - it is what I was brought up on. However, for the sake of Anglo Irish peace in our house, I will refrain from any match analysis, whatever the result today!