While I’m waiting to be fit to travel any distance – and for Small Boy Of The House (SBOTH) to actually have an away game – my thoughts turned to the folk whose children (girls as well as boys, of course) enjoy playing rugby. As I’ve said before, in the main they are a friendly, welcoming bunch. The RFU has specific codes of conduct for parents as well as children that stops a lot of the pitch-side nastiness, swearing and violence sometimes associated with the game with the round ball. Occasionally there are some that overstep the mark – those who have dreams of little Timmy running out at Twickenham or perhaps vicariously living their thwarted dreams of International glory through their offspring, but these are mercifully few and far between. Besides, they are usually subjected to the kind of Hard Stare that would make Paddington Bear wee in his wellies and muttered asides about whether they’re serving Has-Beens and Wanna-Beens with the Full English Breakfast this morning.
Sometimes among the crowds of long-suffering parents, however – and if you are really lucky – you may spot Affluent Area Rugby Dad (AARD). AARDs are generally men in their mid- to late-forties who still believe that they look in their early twenties and dress accordingly. Conventional Rugby Dad dresses for the weather. Usually something he’s found on the floor next to the bed that doesn’t smell too badly and is relatively free of stains. Not AARD. You’ll know an AARD as soon as you see one.
AARD will be the one who, despite it being near freezing, will be wearing the deep, nipple skimming V-neck sweater – probably cashmere and costing nothing less than £300, obviously. Over this he will be wearing a casually looped scarf or, better yet, one of those checked Arabic scarves like Kate Adie used to wear. This will be teamed with a pair of skinny jeans so tight that, not only can you tell to which side he dresses, you can also see whether ‘noddy’ still has his hat on or not. The outfit will be finished with a pair of tan cowboy boots, or a hideous pair of eye-wateringly expensive trainers usually endorsed by a rap star. Mutton dressed as ram, if you will.
AARD also appears to have used a year’s supply of Just For Men (in ‘extra deep black’) in one application. While he labours under the illusion he looks like Johnny Depp he more resembles David Gest. Sometimes there is a pony-tail. AARD is also no stranger to the spray tan or sun bed either, quite often looking like he’s swum through a lake of Wotsits to get to the ground. You know, the 'Ross From Friends Tan' look. He will drive something like an Audi or Beemer – and makes sure all you peasants know it by twirling his oversized key fob around whenever there’s anyone in his eye-line.
Almost exclusively, AARD will spend the entire match either TALKING VERY LOUDLY about his latest 'acquisitions', skiing trip or second home in The Maldives or will be hollering into his mobile phone a la Dom Joly about ‘sealing the deal’ and ‘seizing the moment’. You suspect he’s actually on the phone to his bewildered mum or the Speaking Clock as he continually looks round to see if we’re all watching. Which we’re trying not to but, well, you just can’t help it. It’s like picking a scab.
It is also abundantly clear that he actually knows very little about the actual game of rugby as he shouts for penalties when little Malcontent or Defacto (one of those pseudo posh names) is tackled near the try line or demands that the ref awards a corner kick when the ball goes out of play. When he does pay any attention he encourages the children to try a header or ‘give the goalie something to think about’.
Young Pesto / Epiglottis / Germolene is already showing signs of following in Daddy’s footsteps. They firmly believe that the rugby universe revolves around them, that they are the Most Important Player (since Daddy bought the team kit this season and donates handsomely to the tombola) and that no-one else should have a touch of the ball. Should any player from the opposing team have the temerity to come within five yards little Antimacassar will fling themselves to the floor like a pole-axed buffalo. Completely missing the point that anyone on the ground in rugby is Fair Game and will gleefully be trampled on by a dozen small (and not so small) children. Most of these will probably be their own team-mates heartily sick of the diva-ish antics the rest of them have had to endure so far this season.
After the match, AARD and his offspring will briefly berate the referee about his lack of bias towards Their Team. The ref couldn’t care less who AARD might be. Since it would probably be easier to knit fog while herding cats than to referee a bunch of kids he’s looking just forward to a pie and a pint – or several. Feeling suitably superior AARD and child will then stalk off in a cloud of expensive after-shave (which has had everyone wondering who had been using TCP) and impregnable self-belief to their car. AARD will rev the engine for a bit before driving off to Overpriced Leafy Suburb where they live, leaving us hoi polloi behind to enjoy the burger & chips or droopy pizza served at the club for the hungry hordes of sweaty small people and their freezing parents. AARD offspring will, of course, be dining on the finest ‘haricots cuits au four sur pain grille’ and ‘jus de cassis’ (that’s beans on toast and a Ribena to us, but let’s not burst their bubble, eh?). And so it will be until the next game. Unless wee Phlegm decides they're 'bored' of rugby and want a pony instead.
So next time you are (un)lucky enough to be standing on a quagmire of a local rugby pitch, breath steaming, nose dripping and feet likes blocks of ice, see if you can spot an AARD. It might just be enough to warm your cockles. Unless, of course, you are the AARD in the park!