Another sleepless night. Sort of. Went to bed at 9:45 and woke up at 2:58. So I packed up my shit and drove to Dublin. I was going to make the drive in the afternoon, after my 1:00 call, but decided to move along and be there when the sun came up and just work remotely from my hotel room. Not a bad drive. It rained the entire way but traffic was light. I left the hotel around 4:00, after once again not being able to get a receipt for my stay, and arrived at my hotel at Hilton Dublin Airport around 6:30am. Took the early check in for 40€ and worked straight through until around 4:00. Amazingly, my budget tracker was pretty accurate against actuals and forecast, so that was a bullet dodged.
Getting to watch a lot of rugby these past couple of weeks has been magic. And it is especially nice to see such great results from European teams for a change. Ireland beat the All Blacks for the first time ever. Wales beat South Africa and England beat Australia. And World Cup coming up next year in Japan. Could finally be a turn for another Northern Hemisphere win. We shall see. I was thinking a lot about rugby on the drive across Ireland. The Portneuf Valley team, my enduring friendships arising out of those years over dozens of games and tournaments. Describing the feeling of playing rugby is like trying to describe the feeling I get when I am in Africa. It is elusive and complicated and difficult to find the right analogies.
Last time I tried was years ago. Sometime in 2003 in Swakopmund Namibia.
After dinner I watched two Super-12 rugby matches at Fagin’s Pub. There is no way to watch Super-12 action and not appreciate that rugby is the pinnacle of sport. The Super-12 League, comprised of the top four professional teams from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, is the most advanced league in the world. The strength and skill of the players are phenomenal. Beyond belief almost. They are a dangerous and uncompromising breed of men. There simply is no competition for measuring the worth of another that can compare at all levels.
There is a strong physical component to rugby, but being mentally alert and focused is also critical. Each man must conquer his opposite number as well as contribute overall to the team in a variety of ways. Mistakes are nearly always severely punished. Physically each team must intimidate the other, but physical dominance is rarely enough to win. Every player, in addition to perfecting his area of specialty, must also be able to execute offensive plays, tackle men bigger and stronger than he, pass accurately with either hand, catch high-kicked balls, make split-second decisions based on dozens of dynamic variables, and do all this while absorbing punishing tackles.
In other team sports, a degree of specialization has evolved which limits most players’ involvement to their immediate roles. But in rugby, all 15 players must do everything exceptionally well to be effective at the highest levels of the game. There are no time-outs and all the rules are implemented with the express design of keeping the game in motion—so superb fitness is paramount. A player must remain composed if a punch or head-butt is delivered because the retaliation, rather than the original offense, generally draws the ire of the referee. He must wait until the opportunity presents itself to even the mark. Keeping a cool head amidst the fiery passion of a fully physical confrontation can be the margin of difference. This was never my strong suit as a player—I was too emotional.
At my peak, I was an average player in a second division league, and while I would have always hit a ceiling in terms of physical skills, I never pushed myself as hard as I should have. I thought if I had been turning 20 on that day instead of 40, I would have dedicated myself fully to rugby to determine what my true potential as a player might have been. If the distressing reality of man’s desire to measure himself against other men comes ultimately in war, then rugby is the closest substitute we have contrived to date.
Herein lies the appeal of the game, which is probably a sad testament to humanity, but how else to explain it? Every match is essentially a battle without the technology. Then both sides go drink beer together—it seems a more civil way to spend an afternoon than shooting each other.
Later I set these words more formally in Silicon Valley to Southern Africa but I’ve yet to improve on the narrative.
Friday now. I woke up at 3:00 again after going to bed at 11:30. So I worked; got my weekly reports all done and a few other things and then headed to airport.
On the plane from DUB to AMS to meet S&O for the weekend. Got upgraded to 1st class and the distinguished gentleman steward is taking very good care of me. Almonds and knocking back a couple of cute little Ketel One’s with Perrier. Because, you know, its FFNM—even though it’s only 2:10 in the afternoon. Amsterdam airspace means Friday night starts when I say it starts. And listening to Van Morrison, so life seems pretty okay as I sit here present in the moment.
Onah is cooking for us tonight so the day just keeps getting better. Afterwards Sjoerd and I will take the train to town to yuk it up at the Royal for a while. Tomorrow a whiskey tasting that Sjoerd signed us up for; probably a cigar at The Grand if the weather is nice and at the cigar shop if it’s too cold.
Long tough week but the weekend is shaping up very nicely. I am aware I live a blessed life.