Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Sporting Event of the Year (Almost)

The Sporting Event of the Year (Almost)

I'm not sure at what point the uber affiliation of Oxford gets to you. It's not like they make you sign away your life to the promise that you will always care passionately about anything to do with the University (especially anything that can be deemed to be a competition) - though since I don't understand Latin that might have been part of the general thing they chanted at us when we got dressed in the silly gowns and the tourists took pictures of us. Because there must have been a point, a specific moment, when I went from being someone who didn't remotely care about Oxford to being someone who found booing in the midst of 'This is Soap' at the Edinburgh Festival because of the comments they made about my beloved institution an acceptable form of behaviour. Equally there must have been a point when rowing moved from being something I only ever watched at the Olympics to being something that can give me moments of heart stopping terror.

More worryingly I'm also not sure when I started to believe that beating Cambridge was something on a par with collecting a Nobel Prize. In many ways it's better, you can gloat more.

So the Boat Race. Lycra. Rowers with funny names. The opportunity to thrash those good for nothing Tabs. And the potential to put me in a sulk for the next month.

It must be noted, I've been lucky. We've only lost once since I first made my way up Woodstock Road (2004, when we were, of course, cheated out of our rightful victory) so the Boat Race has actually been a many splendid thing for me. I'm not sure what kind of pull it has on the nation at large, or why ITV deemed the event worthy enough to steal from the BBC, or why so many bad haircuts were on display but, once again, I found myself shouting at the tv.

And we won. Again. And again I felt a fleeting pang of sympathy for the light blue rowers before laughing and pointing. Because how can I feel proper sympathy when they chose to go to Cambridge? And I know that Byron went to Cambridge but that was not his fault as he wanted to go to Oxford but Christ Church was full. These people chose knowingly and I bet none of them keep a bear in their lodgings. So I was ecstatic even though I didn't get my hoped for sinking.

It does make me wonder how long Oxford will have this pull over me. At the moment it's still pretty fresh - I can almost smell the Cherwell and the University Parks and it's not difficult to recall that feeling of tip toeing in the path of so many people before you, of being part of something magical and permenant and iconic. And I know that in the next few months I'm going to miss Oxford because during Trinty Term Oxford is the most beautiful place in the world. It grabs you and makes your heart leap. And maybe the Boat Race will always entrance me because of this. Because it reminds me of who I was and who I am now. And - whatever happens, wherever I end up - I will always be a dark blue.

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