That's the relationship status that's gets the most intrigue on social media. It also goes towards describing how I felt about the recent Lion's Tour I've worked on. It would be pretty obvious to anyone who has even dipped just a little into this blog of gigs I've done that I love rugby. More than that, I love sharing rugby with people. The great thing about the sports presentation gigs I get is that I'm sharing my love of rugby with people who are just as passionate about it, if not more so, the fans, administrators and players. I get the same advantage from doing match enhancement as the fans - there are extra cool memories created to go on top of the game itself. And if the experience is a one-off thing like a Lion's tour it becomes extra special.
Or it should.
However, working with the Lions as a team was far from a great experience. Their fans - amazing. But not the team. It became pretty clear from early in the tour that they had too many administrators and too much of a siege mentality. When I received a complaint from the team management about a piece of banter on the big screen referring to Warren Gatland's early tour press release meltdown, I rolled my eyes. To receive another complaint that I was belittling Lion's fans began to get annoying. To discover someone in the team was filming all my crosses to gripe about things was a bit much.
Like I said, the Lion's fans were amazing. They bring an energy to sports fixtures that's almost as much as the Asian cricket fans. These folks are true rugby fans, many on a once in a lifetime trip. They are knowledgeable, friendly and up for a bit of entirely good natured banter. My kind of fans. As I did every match on the tour, I started to get a relationship with some fans. We would talk rugby off camera and rib each other on it. It was great fun. They were even helping me in my other main job. To encourage Kiwis to sing and chnt in stadium. This is pretty far out for local rugby culture and it was hard work. But the Lion's fans actively offered to help. I'd take myself into the stands, amongst the sea of red to launch my chants, in the hope the Kiwi crowd would help me out. Often they would.
But Lion's management didn't get it. There were people that had nothing better to do than complain. Which was sad. NZ Rugby were really good about it. But it really took the fun out of it. Didn't help some rugby was frustrating either. On the plus side, I got to work with some amazing people and work some new venues for the first time - including Eden Park. And there were some great moments: watching the Black Ferns play in the curtain-raiser in Rotorua. The same match with the steam rising off the Maori All Blacks as they did their haka, meeting some past legends of women's rugby in Whangarei, doing my first test match at Eden Park. Lots of great stuff. Lots of amazing conversations about rugby.
Pity that one team didn't really come to the party - just sat and sulked in the corner.