It was under the floodlights of The Place when it hit me. I stood at pitchside amidst the Coventry support, infiltrating their ranks in the hope of some insight, some key to unlocking the much wondered mysteries of our puzzling foe. Think of me as Daniel Radcliffe in Imperium (minus all that white supremacist stuff) – to understand them, I had to become one of them.
A bold move I’m sure you’ll agree. Rarely has a budding sports journalist risked so much for so very little. But what worth, you ask, can this small, ostensibly frivolous, doubtless hurried account have, when buried amongst so dense an array of match reports that at once appear more interesting and certainly better written? Difficult one that.
Suspend your disbelief for a moment and suppose that a tinpot article this is not, but instead, amongst that rubble of interest and better writing you have unearthed a gem. Suppose that, as I stood amongst those noisy neighbours who grunted with contempt, I underwent a Matt Smith to Peter Capaldi-like metamorphosis and moved next door. I was the neighbour. I too grunted.
Think of me as Daniel Radcliffe in Imperium (minus all that white supremacist stuff) – to understand them, I had to become one of them.
We were 5-2 down in the men’s hockey and all was not well. The umpires had been corrupted, turned by Ted Crowson’s insufferable geniality and the promise of complimentary chicken and bacon sandwiches. How I now despised those sandwiches; what once had cared for me in my apogee of hunger were now but idolatrous relics the POP!-sinners kneeled before. I had seen the evil in that crispy bacon. I had seen the light.
Warwick, those guardians of snobbery, those bookish knobs, were battering us and it was time to act. Without thinking I let out a guttural cry: “Fuck off Warwick”. I recoiled, startled by the venom in my voice as I teetered upon the edge of no return. Yet something had felt right in that grunt of ill will, as if all of my life had been building to this moment and now, finally, I was at one with the poly.
That I knew none of #TeamWarwick’s mums was irrelevant. To us, they really had been in Coventry last night.
A chorus of profanities ensued, some in praise of the virtue of our cause, others just shouts of ‘wankers’ on repeat. Chuffed with our creativity and the deafening volume of expletives, we grew in boldness, seeking out the boundaries of acceptability at a uni match only to trample all over them. That I knew none of #TeamWarwick’s mums was irrelevant. To us, they really had been in Coventry last night. I was free.
Since that night I’ve been hungover with loathing, my memory of what followed a murky haze, tinged with the dread that Teddy the bear and a hockey stick were involved. Yet here lies the scroll of Varsity unravelled. Twenty seven years of winning has numbed #TeamWarwick. Not yet apathetic, we’re slipping down the slide of indifference, our Cov-drubbing fuelled not by genuine antipathy but because it’s the done thing to do. Yet Coventry really do hate us. For good or for ill, to them, Varsity is everything.