Apparently former Wales and British Lions rugby captain Gareth Thomas has outed himself as gay. According to the BBC he said “It’s pretty tough for me being the only international rugby player prepared to break the taboo. Statistically I can’t be the only one, but I’m not aware of any other gay player still in the game.” Good luck to him in having made this public as a player in “the toughest, most macho of male sports”.
In my experience rugby has such a bizarre, almost homo-erotic culture that it would likely provoke the most strange reactions in a genuinely gay player. It’s well known that rugby players like to get extremely drunk. This often culminates in clothing being removed and it’s quite common for a bunch of rugby players at the end of a night to be stark naked in the bar — usually but not exclusively in an all male environment. This seems to be a rite of passage. Not exactly related to nudity but on a scatalogical theme is that it’s also considered by the more extreme drinkers that someone hasn’t had a good night’s drinking unless they have drunk so much they’ve lost control of their bodily functions — vomiting and losing bladder control are a bit passé, the ultimate is to wake up in bed caked in one’s own fæces.
I used to live with (in the non-biblical sense) a member of the university rugby team. When on tour his teammates used to play a hilarious trick on any player who they spotted asleep. It was better if the slumbering student had his mouth open as the trick was that another team-mate would place his penis as far into the sleeper’s mouth as possible. The rest of the team would then wake the victim and laugh at his shock at what was resting on his lips. One of the team also had an ambition that he was well on the way to realising — to drink ‘a pint of piss from every county’. This meant that in the bar after the match a pint pot would be passed around the opposition, who would urinate in it until it was full. Our hero then downed the pint in one — to much enthusiastic applause.
I also lived with another club rugby player who went on a European tour with his club. He brought back the most strange set of holiday photos — he was quite lucky to get Boots to develop them. There was the obligatory tour photo of course — all thirty or so players (all male) stood in a familiar school photo tiered arrangement with the minor detail that none were wearing any clothing. Some had their modesty covered by the players in front but plenty of the team were happy to bear all. That’s probably fairly par for the course. What was most bizarre was their game of human skittles. This involved turning the bar into a bowling alley by piling up chairs and stolls at one end like skittles and then making a bowling lane along the length of the bar. This was lubricated with soapy water. The human skittle was then propelled down the makeshify bowling alley at the ‘skittles’ with the objective of knocking over as many as possible. Naturally, to avoid friction the human skittle himself had to be stark naked and was thrown face down as hard as possible by four teammates who grabbed each limb and swung him forward to gain momentum before releasing him down the alley. This was all captured on the photos in step-by-step detail and the skittle himself seemed quite pleased with his achievement.
This subculture would no doubt be of fascination to anthropologists practised, as it was, by red-blooded heterosexual males. No wonder Gareth Thomas went to great lengths (he got married) to keep his self-knowledge secret.