As quickly became evident, this was rugby from a slightly different perspective. The program followed the fortunes of a team from Sydney, Australia as they entered a national tournament. The difference was, this team - and all the other teams in the tournament - was comprised entirely of gay men. Okay, I thought, not what I was expecting, but let's watch this, because it appears to be the kind of message that the gay community really needs in the struggle for equality. I have to say that for 95% of it, the program, did exactly that: ordinary blokes playing a game that they were passionate about (I can relate to that 100%) and sharing the indefinable bond of the team.
These guys, however, shared more than the team spirit that goes along with the finest sport in the world. They shared more than a sense of belonging to a sporting group. What they all had in common was a life that I have not known; a life of discrimination, of prejudice and of emotional torture. The depth of their individual pain became evident in the changing room as they waited to run onto the pitch for the tournament final (and ultimately win the whole bloody thing!) and each of them opened up to the team about what it meant to them. Yes, there were tears - and quite right too, because the pain and the emotion was so obviously real, the damage to young lives so raw, and the love in the room so absolute.
I sat and watched and was surprised to find that I was feeling a little envious. Of course I didn't envy them their pain, distress and damage that had been done to them (and may never be repaired) but I did find myself hankering after the kind of team spirit that was almost palpable in that changing room, even through the TV screen. I wondered how many 'straight' teams they played against, and how many of those games had a particular edge at a team and individual level. Every sport is a little different when your opponent has an unreasoning hatred for who you are or what you represent, and I'm sure they must come across plenty of that attitude.
Only one character jarred a little: the one guy who had gone down the twee route. I've always thought (well, once I'd grown up, at least), that 'twee' has little to do with being gay. Twee guys seem to me to be people who want attention regardless of their sexuality, yet it's people who behave this way (it also always strikes me as a very child-like representation of femininity) who are often viewed as the stereotypical gay man. It was a disappointment that the program dwelled on this fellow for as long as it did, because he was the only character who, despite all the noise he seemed to want to make, did not seem to embody the idea of team membership.
However, overall, I thought the documentary was a triumph. It proved to be a superb showcase, not only for club-level rugby and the feel of the changing room and camaraderie that it generates (a good cause in itself: so much more healthy a sport than the spiteful atmospheres created by soccer or ice hockey), but also for gay men. It made a very strong case for the simplest truth, namely that gay men are merely men who are gay. These guys showed immense bravery allowing the camera into the changing room, particularly during the emotional scenes I have mentioned. They also demonstrated strength and trust - both so necessary to allow oneself to cry in front of team mates. They showed above all that they are strong yet sensitive and considerate men. That makes them - at least in my book - no lesser men than any other, and better than a great many.
Oh for the day when we can stop defining people by their sexuality.