The sporting life |

The sporting life

Jay Meehan, Park Record columnist

The portly gray dude likes to see himself as no more than a casual sports fan. Never an athlete by any stretch, he no longer participates in much at all (he blames his knees and shoulders). Save for the sporadic round of golf, he can take it or leave it. He soars above the fray. He likes to watch.

He’s not even a sideline kind of guy since they realigned high school football in these parts, thereby rending asunder the long, trash talk-rich rivalry between Wasatch and Park City. For some reason, he figures tailgating in Orem and Provo just wouldn’t be the same slice of cigar.

Admittedly, he’s rather full of himself. Relegating the National Football League to an intellectual plane somewhat akin to the current Republican debates, he finds little motivation to keep up with who might be leading the pack at any particular moment.

However, although he’s not absolutely sure how he would "spin" it if a Pro franchise were to up and move to LA, that dynamic could easily undergo a metamorphosis of sorts. His aloofness, it would seem, is not carved in granite.

Now, college football! That’s a whole different story! Now we’re talking DNA and the Human Genome. Not that he ever connected himself with a school of higher learning to the extent that he has an affiliation with an Alma Mater or anything.

No, it’s much, much deeper than that — at least a layer or two below Logic and Reason in the sedimentary rock strata.

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Beginning as a smug Irish-Catholic Notre Dame fan while formulating his persona in northern climes, all it took for him to lose his religion, so to speak, was a family move to LA. Not that it morphed overnight. Even the neurotic-in-question couldn’t flop that easily.

The first year the Fighting Irish showed up to play the University of Southern California, he cheered them on to a 17-0 shutout of the Trojans. It was epic! Contested in a monsoonal LA Coliseum with only evaporation as drainage technology, it became a mud bowl of hilarious proportions.

Suffice to say, he became an SC fanatic soon enough and remains so to this day. It’s a marriage made in heaven. Dysfunction seeks its own level, I suppose. But I digress!

The ensuing culture shock fit him like a glove. Life was good! The Dodgers won it all his first year there (their second). Did I mention baseball was his favorite sport? Soon he bled blue! Then he became a Rams fan. There seemed to be no stopping his rush to the dark side.

They also flaunted a minor-league hockey franchise that proved quite sufficient in satisfying the level of addiction he had brought from the north. Before long, the Lakers, replete with Baylor and West, joined him in the southland. LA sports became the primary quicksand of his life. Even when he again sought out mountain valleys, they would weigh like purgatory upon his soul.

Redemption would arrive, however, from an unforeseen source. Coinciding with his relocation, pilgrims encrusted in similar bark began assembling a local rugby team from whole cloth. Not that he would ever actually haul a kit bag to the pitch and play, mind you, but as a fan he soon enough became smitten. The elegant violence seduced his sensibilities. He was a goner.

This new light shining upon his sports landscape lent itself to a rebirth, as it were. Road trips to other ski towns with their own rugby sides became de rigueur. Scrums and mauls and loose-rucks were spreading throughout the west like wildfire — as were new levels of sportsmanship featuring post-match beer consumption and rugby songs Henry Miller might have written.

All this came flooding back as he watched, in real-time from London, the championship match of the 2015 Rugby World Cup between the New Zealand All Blacks and the Australia Wallabies this past Saturday.

In a breakaway of epiphany, the debt he owed Park City rugby overwhelmed all else. Without their patient nurturing of his burgeoning interest back in the day, his growth process would have been retarded considerably. Being able to fully appreciate the high level of poetic motion being put on display by these two southern hemisphere titans bordered on the ecstatic.

And, to hear the portly gray dude tell it, by the time the All Blacks iced the match as time ran out with a gorgeous pitch-length "grubber" breakaway, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. He gets that way when he’s alone.

Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.