AN OPEN LETTER TO RUGBY LEAGUEDear Rugby League,
Welcome back. I missed you.
I didn’t know I had missed you until I read about Kyle Lovett being caught with cocaine in his underpants about a month ago. There was something so wonderfully ‘you’ about it all. It served to put all that annoying stuff about Ben Barba out of my mind. But he’s France’s problem now, isn’t he?
You might ask: How were these scandals any different? I don’t know, they just were. Lovett admitting to having the coke in his undies, yet his outright dismissal of the MDMA cap found near him – “I don’t touch that stuff” – only served to remind me of the wonderful inconsistencies of your game. I even tend to believe the cap wasn’t his.
But now, finally, we once again get to enjoy the reason these young, reckless men are in our newspapers in the first place. We get to enjoy you again.
Receiving updates about the lives of rugby league players, without any actual rugby league to watch, is a bit like going to a beer festival and not drinking. It’s ugly, soul-crushing stuff. You start to question everything around you and realise how pointless it all is.
But your pointlessness is the point. I won’t pretend there is anything profoundly philosophical about watching a group of men fight over a ball and beat the hell out of each other for 80 minutes. There isn’t. But when Anthony Milford ghosts through a gap that wasn’t there, or Sam Burgess sends 500 kilograms of flesh reeling away from him in one charge, I truly feel closer to nirvana (the transcendent state, not the band). Nothing else matters in those few fleeting moments.
For this reason I’m going to embrace you this year like I never have before. You might have noticed there is a lot of bad stuff going on in the world right now, so you can’t begrudge me looking for solace wherever I can. And I find immense pleasure in you, Rugby League.
You’re like a loyal old dog that has forever remained by my side. No matter how many times I scream at you and lock you outside. Occasionally you get cranky and bite me. Sometimes you shit all over the carpet, on the outdoor furniture and even in the occasional shoe. Yet, inexplicably, I still love you and you me – even if a small, dark voice, deep within, secretly looks forward to that final drive down the green mile to the vet.
I could never kill you, though, don’t worry. I’m not even sure you can be killed. Your resilience over time has been quite impressive. You’re like the John McClane of sports: brash, ugly, impervious to Russians, inherently flawed, yet still capable of pulling in a reasonable take at the box office.
So good luck this year, Rugby League. I look forward to taking this ride with you. And please have it in your heart to go a little easier on the Newcastle Knights.