So, what do you do when your team lose 50-0 in the Challenge Cup Final (yep, that wasn't a typo!) at Wembley? Emmigrate? Hide in a cupboard? Burn your shirt and pretend you never really liked them in the first place? Well, if you're one of the 2000 or so Hull Kingston Rovers fans who braved the rain on a bank holiday monday, you go to Hull's Queen Victoria Square, and you applaud the team for managing to reach the final.
I am thankful for having been there on Saturday. I actually enjoyed myself, despite my beloved team receiving a monumental drubbing. I have to admit that, whilst I tip my hat to my fellow Robins for their dedication and unwavering support, I wasn't there to welcome the team back from Wembley. I did spend the entire journey, and the week leading upto it with butterflies, wondering if we just might sneak the winning try. I did stare open mouthed as the Hull KR defence stood motionless as Leeds mounted attack after attack, and the scoreboard ticked over quicker than the electricity meter on Blackpool seafront, and I did do my best to put a brave face on, refusing to back down in the face of justified ridicule, and singing proudly until the train doors opened at Hull Paragon station once more, and we all drunkenly went in search for taxis home. But I couldn't bring myself to go on Bank Holiday Monday, and celebrate such an abject loss.
Now, pushing what was a soul destroying day at the office to one side, the weekend has given me a magical experience. The thrill of a Wembley occasion, the spectacular surroundings of the stadium, and a magnificent performance of "Abide With Me" by Lizzie Jones, widow of the late Featherstone Rovers player Danny Jones, who died suddenly only minutes into a game earlier this year. She showed that her vocals were majestic and strong, as is her spirit and backbone. I am sure that like me, the rest of the 80,000 Rugby League fans present at Wembley, and those watching at home have taken this spectacularly brave lady, and her two beautiful babies into their hearts.
Since Saturday, you can imagine the banter that has been flying around my home city, especially seeing as we have two Super League sides who both hate each other in equal measure! Much of it has been cruel, but much more has been funny, ironic, and comedically inspired! One of the best experiences I have had was mixing with fans from other clubs whilst negotiating the London Underground. Rugby League is much different to Football, in that fans manage to co-exist peacefully, and usually share the same pubs, coaches, trains and thoroughfares on match days with no fighting, save for the occasional idiot who infiltrates every community! But many fans at Wembley were not supporters of either team, and the mix of loyalties, accents and rye banter only served to make the day.
Moreover, the day, and the unexpected loss of a long time family friend on Sunday morning, have handed me a welcome chance to examine the tribal disappointment of a sporting loss in a whole new light. I am crestfallen. I am embarrassed. I am seismically disappointed. But I am still alive. I have met some great people. I still have my health, my job, my sense of humour, and my slowly receeding beer gut! Cup finals matter, as does sport generally, but that is all it will ever be: sport. Despite having lost miserably, I would be prepared to repeat the day all over again, and not just out of blind loyalty to my club, and to some of the greatest supporters in the world. I would repeat it again and again, because it means spending the day in the company of the Rugby League Family, and as an audience member of Lizzie Jones, who will forever be regarded as inspiration and dignity in the face of unimaginable loss personified.
The Challenge Cup Final 2015 taught me four things: Firstly, that there truly are more important things in life. Secondly, that Leeds Rhinos really will take some stopping if they are to be denied the double this year. Thirdly, that if the Super League and Challenge Cup were decided by the dedication of the fans alone, Hull Kingston Rovers would be double winners year after year. The fourth lesson I learned was that although I was supporting the losing side on Saturday, I was, and always will be a member of the winning sporting family.