I went out to a sports bar last night to watch the third and deciding State of Origin rugby match.
What is State of Origin, you ask? Well, a week ago I had never heard of it either, but it’s basically the coolest thing ever. Imagine the following:
Every summer, weeks after the NBA finals are over, the greatest American basketball players are brought together for a best-of-three, winner take all, East Coast versus West Coast showdown. But not some BS exhibition like the NBA All Star game. These teams are determined based on where you actually grew up. It’s Brooklyn vs Compton, Marbury and Sebastian Telfair vs Tyson Chandler and Baron Davis. Players from the midwest, well, they will have to watch on TV because this is a coastal battle, and nobody from either coast would ever sit out of this game. The radio waves are filled with Mos Def and Jay Z rapping about how the East Coast is going to represent, but then Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube come back with their own rhymes about the West Coast squad. The deciding game three is set to be played outdoors, in Coney Island, at the home stadium of the East Coast Ballers. The place is packed and there is serious pride on the line. Everybody in the country tunes in as the broadcast grabs ratings that only the Super Bowl could touch, and the game is played with an intensity unseen in any professional league.
Pretty cool, right? Now, just substitute the Australian state of Queensland for the East Coast, New South Wales for the West Coast, white people for black people, and Rugby for Basketball, and that’s State of Origin in a nutshell.
The bar was packed with people and enthusiasm for the Queensland Maroons, who play their home games here in Brisbane, about a 10 minute walk across the river. I naturally rooted for the home team, why not? Unfortunately, this game was not in Brisbane but rather 500 miles away in Sydney, home of the New South Wales Blues. I met a girl at the bar who was from New South Wales and a fervent supporter of the Blues no less, which put my newfound Queensland pride to the test. But I stuck with the local team anyway, which was maybe a mistake, as the girl ditched me shortly after the game ended.
After a riveting game featuring about six lead changes, the Maroons held off a late try from New South Wales and prevailed, 16-10, to defend the Origin Shield for the third straight year. Glory for Queensland!! The bar went crazy and the atmosphere was pretty rowdy. I was sort of sweating the broad who ditched me, but my sorrows were replaced with quite a distraction:
All around them, a bunch of drunk rowdy Aussies, thrilled about the rugby match, were cheering wildly for these two. And, if you look closely, you can see a crumpled maroon Queensland jersey in the bottom right corner. What a strange night!