My late mother, God bless her soul, was never a sportswoman unless cooking was considered a sport. Yet, surprisingly, her favourite sport was rugby, yes rugby, rugby union mind you. I doubted she ever understood the rules and tactics of the game. I knew not why she was captivated each time a rugby match was televised. Thirty grown up, all brawns, all rough and tumble over a spheroid ball. Probably, it was the pheromone terrestrially transmitted, and may be subliminally.
Anyway, she was always enthralled and particularly bewildered by scrums. I could only guess, most probably, due to the extremely high concentration of pheromone of sixteen entangled beefy forwards, or maybe she just found them amusing smelling each other’s butts.
Rugby Union is played by two opposing teams of fifteen players each, arrayed in forwards-backs formations. Strong forwards steamrolled like juggernauts while agile backs weaved like springboks in unison. The team in possession of the prolate spheroid ball would charge and weave through the opposing team’s defence through lateral and backward passes, to gain ground and to score by grounding the ball in the in-goal area, a touchdown or try.
They could score from conversion kicks and of recent past drop goal kicks over and between the goal posts, which are considered a heresy by rugby purists. Heresy or not, drop goal kicks have been gaining popularity amongst the Northern Hemisphere teams to overcoming the traditional Southern Hemisphere stronger defence,
The Southern mantra has been to close ranks, to stonewall against all attacks by the opposing team. Every inch of ground loss must be exacting for the opposing team. Every charge must be challenged and stopped. No quarters given, expect none. Scoring must be through touchdowns for there is no glory in drop goal kicks, a dogma cast in stone.
Bruises, sprains and muscle tears were common. However, blood was interestingly seldom spilled malevolently despite being a full contact game where bones crushed bones and flesh pressed flesh, all sweat and pain. A hooligan’s game no doubt but always played by gentlemen, I reckoned.
Unlike the all-brawn American football with all the protective padding and helmets, rugby is all-brain and strategy game without any need for protection. Further, unlike the more popular soccer, rugby is always played by gentlemen. Ergo, serious injuries are rare and far in between.
My interest in rugby was quickly kindled when it was introduced to me at Raffles Hall. It was probably lying latent in my blood, inherited definitely from my late mother, God bless her soul. I was almost in my twenties then. I had my fair share of exhilarating tackles bringing down opponents and excruciating tumbles from being brought down.
Just to brag a little, I was the hooker in the forward pack. I bore the full brunt of the explosive pressure behind a scrum, right in the centre of that sweat and pheromone saturated scrum, but I smelled nobody’s butts. I was the smallest and toughest son-of-the-gun with sharpest wit and nimblest feet in the rumbling forward pack, and I ate the most mud and grass when a scrum collapsed.
We were a tight pack, bonded in camaraderie, forged through victories and defeats. I enjoyed the game. I loved the game. I played the game. I came out unscathed or unscarred bodily. Yes, no concussions, no brain damage too.
Interestingly, rugby is not much different from politics, in terms of game plan and strategies, other than the former being a contest of the physical bodies whilst the latter a contest more for the hearts and minds. No wonder, I was quickly awakened post GE12 or more fondly 308 tsunami, as if it was second nature.
Obviously, politics is similarly all rough and tumbles, and the domain of the tough, tenacious and wise. Politics is also downright dirty, spare no quarters expect none, but need not be despicable. No gutter stuff or underhand tactics or personal attacks or pornography or subterfuge. Politics, as in rugby, should be guided by pure conscience, moral ethics and rules of law or simply fair play.
Politics is equally aggressive and competitive, both in offence and defence. Political parties or coalition strive for victory by garnering the majority of votes or trust of the populace, touchdowns. Politics should be played on even field under fair and equitable rules to prevent affliction of injuries or accusations of bias. Election Commission must be more than independent, free, fair and clean, referees fair.
Politics is also a team play, for want of a better choice of word, working together, no prima donna for no man is an island, and no man can bear the burden of governing a nation alone unless he is the fabled Hercules of old. Politics is about high aspirations and ideals of freedom, justice and equality, and definitely not the “divide and rule” tactics on race, religion or status. No threats of violence or replay of May 13 to perpetuate incumbency.
I wonder. I was surprised with myself. Could it be that the RNA for rugby is paired to the RNA for politics? Just a thought or may be an old man’s hypothesis. How else to explain the stirring and exuberance I experienced on the fateful night of 308, my political awakening, unless, it had been lying latent in my genes, hard wired into my DNA, awaiting the appointed trigger? Maybe, I was just on familiar grounds.
Hmmm, both are so much alike, hooligans’ sport no doubt. As with rugby, politics should be played by gentlemen or ladies so that victory hard won would be sweet, honourable and praiseworthy, just like the 308 tsunami when David almost slew Goliath instead of the May 13 infamy.
How else could I explain my unhesitant heeding to Bersih’s clarion call or my sudden new found courage regardless of costs or consequences? Such empowerment, such bravery, I felt surging inside me, so strong, so electrifying, so audacious. I was no longer afraid, no more cowering. I was no longer feeling impotent, pretending apathy or indifference. Mind you facing off tear gas, violence, police brutality and tyranny was very unlike me? I had enough.
GE13 is around the corner. Our nation stands at her most crucial crossroads, a dawn of a new era or the plunge into the abyss. I say let it be a new dawn. What say you? It is time to walk the talk. What say you? As for me and my household, we choose to stand and be counted. What say you? Let’s them hear our silent cry no more. What say you? I say let them shudder at our angry song. What say you? Vote for freedom, justice and equality, for a better Malaysia, our beloved Tanahair. What say you!