Two weeks ago, the Friday before my birthday to be exact, I went to my first Stade Toulousain rugby match. As the southwest of France is considered “Rugby Country” you can imagine that people down here worship their rugby team. You literally cannot drive around Toulouse without seeing tons of ST (Stade Toulousain) stickers all over the cars and I never go a day without seeing someone wearing an ST shirt or hat or some kind of fan gear for their beloved rugby squad. Now this is kind of like New York, where when you walk around the city you’ll see tons of Yankee fitteds and shirts and jackets, except here, it’s not like they have a second team like there are the Mets or the Jets and Giants. It is only Stade Toulousain. Therefore, I had been dying to get to a game for the last few months and was thrilled that I finally had the opportunity and privilege to attend a game.
My teammate Jean-Phi was able to hook myself and my other teammate, Manu, up with a couple awesome seats a few rows from the field behind one of the goalposts.
There are two stadiums that they play in. One for regular games, and a much larger stadium for the really important games where they would expect bigger crowds. This game was against Perpignan, whom I guess isn’t that big of an opponent as the game was played in the regular stadium. Nonetheless, the atmosphere in the stadium was awesome! There were the guys with the huge drums,
there were tons of songs and chants being sung, HUGE Stade Toulousain flags flying, and there were actually a lot of Perpignan supporters as well, flying their Catalonian flags. That is one thing that I think is particularly cool not only about sports in Europe compared to the United States. Naturally we have our pride in our local teams and for example the Jets have the J-E-T-S chant and all that, but I feel like teams in Europe along with their supporters have a stronger sense of pride in their team and where they come from. They literally fly flags during the game. They have their songs and its almost as if every game is like a matter of life and death. I admire that passion for their team.
Now, unfortunately Toulouse lost the match, which allowed for the Perpignan supporters to be extra verbal. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I actually do understand a lot about rugby now after watching the Rugby World Cup, the 6 Nations, and the Heineken Cup last year in Ireland. I’m sure I pissed off a lot of people last year with a million questions, but thanks for the patience guys and preparing me for the southwest of France. What also was funny was that I understood a majority of the what was being said in the crowd. My French is getting better each week, but one of the things that I am pretty well versed in by now are French curses and swear words, which probably made up about 80% of what was being said in the crowd. So suffice it to say, I understood A LOT.
Here’s a couple more photos from the match.
-Ball going through the uprights
-Pretty awesome mascot
-This was pretty awesome and I’m happy I was able to get a photo of it. So #15 (no idea what his name is) walks over towards the endline, gets a quick drink of water and is very loudly heckled by a couple of Perpignan supporters. He doesn’t even look at them. He says nothing. All he does is point to the star on the jersey, which represents the championship that they won last year. I thought that was a pretty badass move. No words necessary.
-And now, the most important photo from the match. I promised to some people here that when I was in New York I would wear rep Toulouse by wearing Stade Toulousain shirt to a Knicks game. I stayed true to my word. Now I’m in France so I have to rep New York. Not only did I have to rep New York, but I also had to rep for American Football, which is why I chose to wear a New York Jets shirt to the game.
So the match was cool. What I need to mention is that the game was on a Friday night. We had a game Saturday. I normally never drink the night before games, but this was a special occasion. My first rugby match in France as well as kind of my birthday weekend. So Manu and I went to one of Toulouse’s fine Irish pubs, Mulligan’s, before for a couple pints. After the game was over we had to do a little post-gaming (as my boy Fitz at home calls it). Therefore, we went to check out another Irish pub after the game called The Dubliner. Both were fine establishments. Now we didn’t go crazy drinking a ton (believe it or not I was actually being the voice of reason here, not Manu!). However, Manu did order two shots for us. Banana explosion I think they were called. He saw someone else get them and was like “Oh man we need to try that!” I tried to talk him out of it but he ordered them anyway because he’s stupid.
Up until this point in my life, I was pretty sure that I had tried the worst shot known to man kind – the Oyster Shooter. It was 2008 and it was my brother Mac’s first time back from Afghanistan. My family and I were down in Savannah, Georgia. We had just finished eating when my brother insisted that we get oyster shooters. And if there’s one thing that I’ve learned in my 26 years in life, it’s that when big brother tells you to do something, you do it. So we had two oyster shooters which consist of the follwing: a fresh oyster scooped out of the shell, horseradish, tobasco sauce, and a healthy shot of vodka. BRUTAL. but we drank them.
-Clearly, I was disgusted afterwards. (and yes I had a chinstrap back then because I was really sweet)
Well, Manu proved me wrong with the banana explosion. THIS was the worst shot I’ve ever had. Some banana liquor or some garbage, tequila, and a healthy shot of tabasco. It was AWFUL. Easily the worst shot I’ve ever had and I can still taste it. So thank you for that Manu. And that completed my first rugby match. For what its worth I played pretty well the next day and we won by 20.