The Pen: ‘Rugby is more than 80 minutes of escapism’

A view of the stand at Scotstoun Stadium where Glasgow Warriors play their rugby

With rugby on hold for the time being, The Pen recounts his own unique tales of trips to Scotstoun, a journey hopefully to be made again as soon as it’s safe to do so.

Lockdown has been hard. Not seeing loved ones, life as we know it turned upside down and inside out, and don’t even start me on
the virus itself.

Now we’re on the road back to some kind of normality, or the “new norm” as I keep hearing it referred to, and we can start to meet with our families, some friends, we’re looking at shops being opened again but the question of when we get back to our home ground is going to be one that probably won’t be answered for a while yet.

It’s the little things that I miss. The walk to the ground, getting a programme, seeing the team come out for the warm up, the chat in the clubhouse and the build up to the game. 

Sometimes the game is total garbage and yet, you still have a good time because you’re surrounded by what feels like family.
It’s more than just 80 minutes of escapism – it’s about forgetting your worries and troubles for a few hours and being part of
something bigger.

I’m very lucky. I have a great circle of friends that help to make the build-up that bit better. They lift you up when you’ve had a rotten week, they crack jokes, tell stories and they have a knowledge and love for the game. And when needed, they’re cracking babysitters! 

Considering you’re essentially standing in the middle of a badminton court, the surroundings don’t matter.

For the hour before the game, it’s your favourite pub and meeting place. It’s slagging off the Munster supporting English girl with a Glasgow season ticket, chewing the fat with a friend and his daughter and saying your goodbyes and the inevitable “Hope your team wins…”

And then when I get to my seat, there’s all the familiar faces around me. I talk to the three guys at the end of the row, the couple who sit behind me with their grandson and then there’s the chap beside me and the extended family beside him. 

I honestly could ask for better folk. And over the years since the move to Scotstoun, they’ve become good friends outside of the game as well.

There’s the age old question of “who’s the referee?” quickly followed by “it’s the guy in the yellow shirt”, stories from the past and the question of whether someone will go down with “Italian cramp”, a reference to a game from several seasons ago when a players from Treviso had to stretchered off with cramp and spent the next 10 minutes on the sideline trying to rid himself of the pain. 

Daft stuff really, but like I said, it’s the little things. 

When the game ends, we chat, we say our goodbyes and it’s up the road, usually discussing the game or the state of Scottish Rugby with my good mate until I drop him off. Then its home, onto Twitter and catch up with all the goings on and thoughts ahead of writing in SCRUM the next week.

Why the hell am I going over all this?

My story isn’t unique. I’m sure it happens for many of the Scotstoun faithful. You’ll all have your own rituals and little things that you do prior to and during the games. And those will have to wait for some time to

COVID-19 will no doubt rob us of a good portion of the season, therefore we need to hold those rugby memories and routines close to our rugby-loving hearts. 

Games will have to be behind closed doors to begin with you’d think and then after that, who knows? With the current social distancing gap at two metres, it’s clear that a stadium like Scotstoun would have its capacity
drastically cut.

A significant portion of the crowd, and a huge number of season ticket holders would miss out on watching the action. As the Bundesliga return has shown, sport is just not the same without the fans. It just has a training ground feel even though players are obviously giving it everything.

I think we’ve got to assume that there will be no return to viewing live action until the New Year at least.

And you have to wonder what impact that will have on Glasgow in the future. They have a strong, loyal fan base but from a recent poll I ran on twitter, 40% said they’d favour cancelling season ticket payments and 30% said they’d favour a reduction at least.

It’s fair to assume the team will suffer a significant loss in revenues for the
foreseeable. This will have a big impact of players coming in, re-developments, re-signings, etc. 

We’ll have to see what the future has in store in this respect.

It reminds you of the forgotten plays or the moments that happened in the build up to a score or incident but it can’t replace the feeling of being there and witnessing the drama unfold first hand.

My hope is that soon enough this will pass and we’ll all be able to return to the Friday night lights once more at full capacity.

To hug those we haven’t seen for ages and be reunited in our favourite surrounding. To chat, to laugh and to once again feel that special feeling of being around a great bunch of people.

It might take a while, but we’ll get there someday…

Image caption: Fans in the main stand at Scotstoun. Image credit: Fotosport/David Gibson

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