Adult Material - For those of you of gentle or faint dispositions probably best to stop before you start this particular blog...
Extreme Sport - definition - "having a high level of inherent danger".
Adrenaline is rising. In this arena of highly-charged emotions, testosterone-filled warriors jockey for position. In these pre-match moments, the pushing and shoving is but a shadow of what will follow in the following two hours, when all those present will, at some point, be liable to risk of physical violence and mental/verbal abuse.
Once I'm in position, I know there is no escape. No escape at all. The arena goes dark. The speakers turned up to ear-splitting level; a sudden silence as the formalities take place. And then, within an instant, the moment of truth.
The referee blows his whistle and I'm 'down pub', in one of the biggest in the town centre watching Manchester United and Chelsea thrash out the Champions League Final... it is, indeed, extreme support of the most extreme kind.
Sitting next to me are another bunch of 40-somethings (with the odd 50 something thrown in for good measure); one is an antique dealer (who normally watches games like this in the comfort of his own lounge whilst sipping wine from a white, french grape), a computer consultant who likes to take people on extreme cycling trips, and an IT head (as opposed to a 'S*IT head', who seemed to be about four rows further back) . All mature, sensible blokes. We're sitting in the front row, whilst behind us gather a mass, and I mean a mass, of 'extreme pubbers' who seem hell-bent on experimenting in every way possible with the english language to demonstrate that their own commentating skills are far superior to those of the faceless professionals emanating from the sound system.
"Aw, f*** off Ref you f******* b******! What the f*** are you playing at you c***".
The dreaded moment arrives when one of the teams score. It's United. Now what? Do we cheer and risk getting 'noticed' by the Orcs in blue or say nothing and risk being singled out by the devils-in-red ? Forget enjoying the action replay , we've got important decisions to take here.
We decide to go down the general bluster, head nodding/shaking route. Our accents have audibly changed in a matter of a few moments to those of almost genuine football supporters. "Aw, naarh - can't believe it - f*** me!' Yep, we're getting positively bullish in there...
Thankfully just before half-time the boys in blue score too. We go through a similar round of delighted/devastated expressions and expletives. And then in a moment of pure theatre the referee blows his whistle for half-time, the neon strip lights are blasted on as if we're going to be interrogated, and three large snakes of beer-filled warriors form out of those assembled.
Snake number one spits and curses as it moves like an arrow, smashing down the bar on the emergency door; fresh air hits my face, followed all too soon by the rush of smoke being blown back into the pub by the now fully exited human snake; as the door blows the wind open again, a large huddled mass of warriors is visible on the fire escape puffing for all they're worth. Clearly preparing themselves for another 45 minutes of extreme sports...
Meanwhile snake number two has managed to coil entirely around its victim - the bar staff - and squeezes and squeezes until it has achieved the magical position of being served a few more pints.
Somewhow I find myself an innocent member of snake number 3. This snake has no choice but to move swiftly, and uncomfortably up the stairs in search of its prize - a urinal that you can pee in without needing to wear an anti-nuclear suit. Just walking in to the smell-hole-from-hell, made me realise my extreme sport training is still very much 'a work in progress'.
'Oi, that geeza wot u was torking 'bout - ee's bollocks ee is', shouts out a young gentleman from one of the wall-mounted units.
'Yerrrh, I know' comes the reply from his colleague, who is mysteriously located behind a locked lavatory door - 'e's bollocks, e is.'
Returning to my seat I do a quick head count; all my friends are still there, thank God. They're talking about something - haven't got a clue what, and I'm not sure they have either since you'd be doing well to hear a 747 above the cacophony of footballing insights being bandied around by our extreme sport experts.
Miracle of miracles, someone managed to join snake number 2 and fill my glass. At least I hope that was someone from snake number 2 and not number 3. Next to me my antique dealer friend is beginning to earn his extreme sport colours and is starting to get excited by the thought of violence and confrontation. Mind you, when you're 6 foot 3 you can probably confront a bit more confidently.
The lights are off again, snake number 1 reappears in a frenzy of activity and as the second half begins the extreme sporters shout more and more loudly everytime someone on the pitch commits a foul, demanding heavy tackles and red cards, my antiques dealer friend amonst them. The sofa and chardonnay seem a long way away now...
Full-time goes into extra time. A red card comes (much to the delight of many it seems) - and the cup is decided by penalties. Cheering, booing, shouting; lights on - the room is awash with blotchy faces and pumped up emotions.
Risking the wrath of all the United fans we manage to get up and sidle out of there, cursing, smiling, and pushing as we go in the manner of true extreme sporters. Out, out into another dimension - a world of fresh air, peace and space.
Returning home I find my girls curled up on the couch watching the last few devastating moments of 'Desperate Housewives'. I go out into the garden for a few minutes of silence and fresh air and stars. For a spiritual life-coach, it's been an interesting night...
I set myself a question for further investigation. If I wanted to 'reach' those blokes in the pub, where would I start?