I own all of Bruce Springsteen’s albums, with one exception.
‘We Shall Overcome’ was released in 2006 to great fanfare.
Bruce had ditched his normal band and teamed up with a group of ragamuffin folk musicians. This group achieved the unenviable feat of recording songs with 24 musicians playing 24 different tunes simultaneously. It was the Bruce Springsteen album for people who don’t like Bruce Springsteen.
I, of course, do like The Boss, so I was left cold by an album that dispensed with all his admirable qualities for the sake of embracing something bigger.
And that’s how I feel about the British and Irish Lions. I love the Irish rugby team, and one of my greatest pleasures in life was hearing “The Fields of Athenry” being belted out in American accents in Chicago last November. If you can find perfection in sport like that, why would you settle for the ragamuffin group of players? The same players who are currently touring.
Great songs of the north
Few songs are sung with more gusto than rugby fans supporting their country. Hearing “Bread of Heaven” in Cardiff makes the hairs on your neck stand up. Even on days when the Welsh are ruining another Irish tilt at the Grand Slam. “Flower of Scotland” shows Ireland and New Zealand what a proper anthem is. And even the English, with their Barbour jacket-wearing private school-educated fans singing an ode to West Indian slaves, can enliven a dull day at Twickenham while their overweight forwards maul the oxygen out of the opposition.
The Lions don’t have any songs because they don’t represent an obvious place (nobody feels proud to be British AND Irish) and so cannot draw upon a shared history from which all great songs germinate. In any event, they don’t have any real fans as they change with each tour. This year’s crop will mainly comprise the cream of the overly-funded recent graduates of British and Irish universities. The same crop who are Instagramming their year of self-discovery with a month long drinking binge in New Zealand. It is as close to real sport as Super Rugby is to an evenly competitive competition.
The primary beneficiaries of the tour, apart from the bars and hotels of Auckland and Wellington, will be Sky Sports. Sky Sports and pompous English ex-players with ill-deserved media careers. I’m not going to queue for a ticket to fund Rupert Murdoch and Stuart Barnes. Why would I follow what is basically a Harlem Globe Trotters type franchise, aimed more at entertainment than sport? The Harlem Globe Trotters at least had that jaunty music to accompany them. The Lions only have the clanging of cash registers in their ears.
Having said all this, I may, of course, get caught up in the hype, grow offended at the lazy Kiwi way of shortening the team name to “The British Lions” and jump on the Sky-fuelled bandwagon. As Bruce said in Brilliant Disguise, “God have mercy on a man who doubts what he’s sure of”.
Author: Adrian Chapman
Adrian is a discerning sports fan, originally from Ireland but now living in Auckland and trying to understand the local obsession with sailing and other sports that involve sitting down and going backwards.
He likes most team sports, particularly anything that can be described as “Football”, be that Soccer, Rugby, AFL, NFL or Gaelic. However, he has the misfortune to follow teams (such as Arsenal and Carlton) that specialise in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.