Sinead Ryan: 'Don't get left on the bench as a rugby widow'
We're in the middle of rugby season. For all I know, we might also be in ice-hockey/ping pong/synchronised swimming season too, but I'm long resigned as a rugby widow. I have, however, picked up some tips along the way about men who play with odd-shaped balls so, if you also need to join in and impress, here's how:
First, the science bit ... the European Heineken Cup is rolling on until May; the Guinness Pro14 (all 152 wretched games of it) ditto, and the Six Nations internationals will kick off early 2019. And, in case you thought you'd get a break later on, there's the World Cup in Japan to 'look forward' to also later in the year.
Tip 1: If you can't beat them, join them. I'm a reasonably interested, but not overly fanatical Munster supporter, for instance. This annoys my season-ticket-holding Leinster fanboy immensely. You have to take your fun where you can get it, I say.
Tip 2: If you are forced to watch 30 blokes wrestling on a mucky pitch, then amuse yourself by offering sage opinions and putting the cat among the pigeons. It doesn't really matter if you understand them or not; fanatics will delight at the opportunity to debate them. Here are some key phrases to master:
As the teams emerge, shake your head slowly: "They've had their injury problems, haven't they?" All teams have injury problems; everyone will nod sagely and start discussing groins and hamstrings.
"They need this win": ditto.
"Who's on the bench?". A number of players may look like they're having a quiet sit down instead of playing. They're reserves in case the favoured player breaks something or is rubbish. There'll be a robust discussion on this.
Furrow your brow and then ask, "Who's at hooker?". If you think you'll giggle, or don't believe hookers play rugby, say 'scrum-half' or 'flanker' instead. 'Number 8' is the only one without a funny name. Nobody knows why.
"Was that a knock-on?" This is a sure-fire favourite. Use it if anyone kicks the ball a short distance. It'll likely start a bracing argument and you'll come out of it well.
If there's a collective groan at something, throw in, "Surely that was offside!": This will lead to a spirited exchange of views and possibly shouting at the telly.
"It wasn't pretty, but job done": useful after the team whose supporters surround you, win.
"Bloody ref, typical Brit/French/Italian": if they lose.
Tip 3: Cog off Twitter. Every match has a #hashtag and lots of boring experts who used to play 25 years ago but think they could do better. Repeat something profound, like "JJ needs to come off", or "Best isn't at his best", but only if a number of tweets have said the same thing. You'll look astonishingly prescient when it comes to pass.
And finally, the real fan, the proper rugger-bugger, only watches rugby in its rightful home: a warm pub in Ranelagh with cold beer. Pitch-side, freezing your fleek off is for GAA.
Too much reality is not always a good thing
Immersive VR-headset games which put the player in the midst of the action are a popular Christmas gift, adding a layer of astonishing reality. But I'm not convinced about the latest offering.
'Titanic VR', designed for PlayStation by Irish company VR Education Holdings, puts players "aboard the doomed vessel the night it hit an iceberg and sank in April 1912".
You can navigate hidden passageways inside the wreck, and witness "the tragic story of the sinking as witnessed by survivors". Too soon, people, too soon.