Monday, October 17, 2005

The Rules

Civil society is based on rules. We all have an understanding of the rules, we know what’s expected of us, and we know the consequences for breaking the rules. Every system is flawed, but we usually share a common understanding of how the system is flawed. We know which rules are strictly enforced (like the ones forbidding murder or robbery) and which ones are loosely enforced (like speed limits on highways in Montana or jaywalking in Chicago). Whether you agree with rules or not, 9 times out of 10, you at least understand what they are.

I was thinking about all this yesterday when I had my first real camogie match. After three practices with my team, I attended the second-last match of the season. I fully expected, given my inexperience, that I would be sitting out most if not all of the game. I spent several days thinking about what I would do if I had to play, worrying that I would make a total ass of myself. As luck would have it, our team was short players and it quickly became clear that ready or not, I was going to have to play.

When I took the field, I was wearing a decidedly non-regulation pair of sweatpants (the ref having agreed not to enforce the skirts-only rule) and our team started out with only 11 players instead of twelve. I was put in the forward line, where I couldn’t really screw anything up. My only job was to try to whack the ball into the goal, should the ball happen to come near me. I was also supposed to cover a tiny girl and try to stop her from clearing the ball away from the goal.

So, I understood in basic terms what was expected of me. What I didn’t understand were any of the rules governing how to play. When I confided this in one of my fellow forwards, she said “Just don’t hit anybody.” That’s a pretty broad rule, open to a wide range of interpretation. From what I’d read on the Internet before I joined a club, camogie was advertised as a less violent, physical game than hurling.

After getting shouldered, elbowed, jostled and nearly knocked down the first couple of times the sliotar came near me, I figured out that I might as well take my teammate’s advice literally – just don’t hit anyone. A little bit of shouldering and jostling were part of the territory. This guideline served me pretty well and I only gave up one foul, in the second half of the match.

The match was a lot of fun, once I got over my nervousness and got a feel of how aggressive I was permitted to be (pretty damn, or so it seemed). I described the match to Peter as “long stretches of terror interrupted by quick bursts of panic.” I wanted to do well and, as usual, my expectations for myself are much more stringent than anyone else’s. I had one shot on the goal, which went just a little wide.

The first half of the match was a hard-fought draw. After half-time, we made some changes to get some of our more experienced players into the mid-field, where they would have a better chance of scoring. We scored a goal, gave up a goal and then scored the go-ahead goal with about five minutes remaining. It was a well-played game and I wish I could remember more of it. Adrenalin and nerves took over and I just played without thinking too hard about it.

With a bit more practice and a better understanding of the rules, I’m sure this is a game I will enjoy and play for as long as I am able.


At 17 October 2005 at 12:38, Blogger Lyss said...

I am impressed. That sounds like a scary sport. Stay safe!

At 17 October 2005 at 14:25, Blogger Shane said...

Hmmm... is it wrong that I find the idea of girls running around in skirts and knocking each other down while violently waving sticks in the air to be really hot? ;)

Sounds like you had fun. I'm proud of you for being brave and over coming your fear of stranger-danger.

At 17 October 2005 at 21:37, Blogger Arbusto said...

I want to play! The best I can hope for is my flag football team to win Tuesday (I cant play on Tuesdays) so then I can play Thursday.

At 17 October 2005 at 22:40, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

That sounds like fun.

At 19 October 2005 at 11:34, Blogger Better Safe Than Sorry said...

i've never even heard of that game, must be one of those different countries, different games, different rules! be safe.

At 20 October 2005 at 02:54, Blogger Career Guy said...

Skirts? Really? Now that's strange. Sounds kind of formal. I enjoyed your description. Where did all these violent females come from in our family? (Ilana and Kaila played rugby--not sure how violent Anna and Norah and Clare's soccer was.)

At 20 October 2005 at 23:59, Blogger Career Guy said...

I got it! I got it! The new nickname for your team: Violent Femmes.

At 23 October 2005 at 08:23, Blogger -Ann said...

On Tuesday, when I went to practice, several people asked me what I'd thought of the match. I told them what great fun I had and said that my biggest surprise was that I didn't expect the game to be so physical. Every one of them had the same reaction: "Yeah, and they were a nice team too. Wait until we play a rough side."


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