In cold or comfort, it's time for a feast of sport

Last updated 09:00 25/06/2012

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Alastair Paulin

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The forecast tells me that as you read this, it will be bucketing down in Motueka.

But that will be no deterrent to the rugby faithful who will flock to the Battle of the Bridge today.

This is a clash of epic proportions, dating back to the time when the Motueka River really did divide townies from cockies, consumers from producers, Labourites from Nats and, no doubt, other equally stereotypical divisions between Huia's Motueka fans and Riwaka's "over the bridge" fans.

Motueka's population struggles to produce two top-level teams every year but Huia is having a cracker season, and Riwaka is doing well, too. It should be a great game.

Since I have the weekend off, I had not planned to be at the game. But the three small suspects play for Riwaka junior teams, and when the club sent around a flyer urging junior players to get out and support the seniors, my wife suggested it would be a fun family outing .

This struck me as a busman's holiday. I've already spent enough wet Saturday afternoons stalking the rugby sidelines with a camera for the Motueka-Golden Bay News, and although I've come to enjoy covering club rugby, it's not what I'd choose to do in my free time.

But then came the news that the oldest small suspect (I'd call him the biggest suspect, but that sounds ... suspect) was to be a ball boy for the match, so my fate was sealed. I intend to embrace it.

I'll get wrapped up, get a jug from the clubroom's bar, fortify myself with several of the excellent all-beef sausages that are a draw at the Riwaka club and barrack loudly, encouraging the small suspects to do the same (minus the jug, of course).

I'll cheer loudly for both teams, partly to demonstrate to the coaches that I am a fair and balanced reporter, and partly just to annoy the one-eyed fans.

A good muddy game will leave me soaked and cold, setting me up for a warm living room orgy of televised sport over the weekend.

Some cosmic forces have aligned to bring us a feast of top-level sport this weekend, including an All Blacks test, the Euro 2012 football quarterfinals, the National Basketball Association finals and the start of Wimbledon.

It is as if the sporting gods realised that the weekend closest to the winter solstice is the ideal time to capture bums on couches. I'll ask you to overlook the flaw in this argument: that most of the action is in the northern hemisphere and that the forces of global entertainment couldn't give a toss about southern hemisphere viewers.

Some inhabitants of Motropolis will be celebrating the solstice with moon howlings and other nature-based rituals; I'll stick to sport, beer and salty snacks.

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My ritual is no less sacred than theirs. It honours family, passing on memories of getting up at 1am as a tennis tragic teen to watch Wimbledon with my Dad; it celebrates community, as fans unite to watch their heroes; and it worships the quasi-religious forces of sport and commerce.

There's something primal about gathering around the warm glow of the screen to watch sport. I go into a kind of trance as I mechanically shovel chips into my mouth, and I don't think it's just mindless greed. I suspect we harbour genetic traces of a time when our cavemen ancestors gathered around the fire and watched their clan mates smack each other on the head with clubs. Perhaps it is not just a trite fad to refer to the place where men seclude themselves to watch sport and eat salty snacks as a man cave.

Here's what's on the menu in my man cave for the weekend – although this menu needs to be taken with a grain of salt, as I'm sure real life will get in the way of this wish list.

Following the Battle of the Bridge, Saturday night will feature the All Blacks taking on an Irish side fired up by their nuggety showing last weekend.

On Sunday at noon on Maori TV is a replay of game five of the NBA finals, where the Lebron James-led Miami Heat could take it all from Kevin Durant's young gun Oklahoma City Thunder, and all-night coverage of Wimbledon starts at midnight on Sunday on TV One.

Somewhere in there, France take on world champions Spain in a Euro 2012 quarterfinal – and for petrolheads, the Rally of New Zealand will be spraying mud and gravel around the road of Auckland and Northland all weekend long.

Sleep? Who needs sleep? Now bring me the kettle chips!

- © Fairfax NZ News

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