Friday, December 3, 2010

Lelo Burti

This is a shot of the National Stadium in Tbilisi, where the Georgian Rugby Team makes its home

On Saturday, the US Rugby team played the Georgian team in Tbilisi for a friendly match. Unlike their football team, Georgians love their rugby team because it’s somewhat internationally significant. Their team recently won the European championship and ranks fifteenth in the world, one spot behind the America team, which was much to my surprise since I always thought we were terrible; but really, how many countries even have Rugby teams? But it’s not surprising since rugby blends two things that Georgians love: men and contact.

I would have gone to the match at the national stadium in Tbilisi if I didn’t have a birthday to attend on Saturday night. Based on how many people were in attendance, it wouldn’t have been difficult to get a ticket; the crowd wore a blue and yellow shirt. Apparently the Georgian’s support hasn’t translated into actual bodies in the seats.

Anyways, since I couldn’t be there, I had three of my fellow Americans over to the house to watch it with my family. We bought beer (unfortunately, it was Natakhtari, which just happens to sponsor the Georgian Rugby Team; they don’t really have much selection at the markets in Bandza) and potato chips, as that’s what you need when watching an American sport’s team, while Ira stuffed us with satchmeli (food) and Khutcha (my cousin) constantly filled our glasses with the family wine. It was the best of both worlds.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know much about rugby, but it’s not that hard to understand at a basic level if you already know American football (don’t ask me about strategy though). I just wanted to see someone carted off on a stretcher, which nearly happened early on when an American player illegally clotheslined a Georgian player. Pretty sure Lasha spouted some not so flattering names towards the American culprit. If it were you or me, we would have been decapitated, but since the guy was a rugby player he got up after the initial shock had him down and out for a few moments.

Despite not really knowing what was going on, it was still a ton of fun to watch, with the Americans leading for almost the entire match. But Georgia was driving while down 17-12 in extra-time and had the ball near the end zone; the room was at a standstill in anticipation. I could taste the victory when suddenly the power cut out. Immediately, Lasha looked at me and exclaimed “Saakashvili!” It was a classic response.

Eventually Rezi got on the phone with his friend and found out that Georgia had scored, kicked the extra point, and won 19-17 (not quite what Luka predicted: a 24-12 Georgian victory). We didn’t believe him until the power came back on and the game was the top story on the news. As Ian exclaimed, the whole thing seemed staged, let’s cut the power, kill all the Americans, and act as if we won! But much to our chagrin, it was all too real.

I was kind of happy Georgia won anyways, as I really don’t have all that much invested into the American Rugby Team, and I had a feeling a Sakartvelo victory would mean much more to them than an American victory would for us. But my diplomatic stance didn’t stop Luka and Rezi from giving me constant business. Pretty soon we’re going to have a lesson on winning with humility.

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