Rugby. Have you ever seen or played the sport? I have. When I was 8, me and my buddies gathered in Geoff Samuels front yard and played full contact American football. No pads, no helmets, no flags, no touch or tag. Our games were full contact tackle. Please don’t tell my mother because if she knew, she’d have a fit. This was smash mouth football. Only we didn’t wear short shorts or prison striped shirts or men’s bathing suits from the 20’s. We wore jeans, cleats and NFL football jerseys – mostly the Dolphins, Cowboys and Steelers. I had a Mean Joe Green sweatshirt.
Rugby. The name sounds manly, derived from the adjective rugid, I suppose. And from what I know, the game inspired American football. Rugby started off as a gentlemanly country club like sport in England I think. As such, it comes as no surprise that the sport is favored by the elite Ivy League schools, whose players are the size of jockeys. I was watching one of the championship matches between Arizona and Dartmouth, I think it was; Dartmouth, the bastion of conservative country club elitism. The star player and Olympic hopeful Peter Tiberio from Arizona who on TV looked to be 5’2″ and 126 pounds, with just minutes into the match against Dartmouth, snapped his arm in two trying to make a tackle. I’ll say this – he’s a tough guy. He continued to play with a broken arm for a while. Ultimately, Dartmouth, known more nationally for their debate squad, than for their sporting teams, won the NCAA championship. And as a sports fan, I have to give them props for the accomplishment.
The game of rugby is a bit bizarre in my opinion. It is a cross between croquet, another English creation, and grappling as guys bunch up in a scrum, wrestle a bit and pass the rugby ball between their legs. Then they toss the thing underhanded to a teammate who tries to run to the goal line. The underhanded toss may have influenced cricket, that game between dueling teams of tiny insects, and also may have been the inspiration for those underhanded free throws in basketball that the old guys used to launch at the free throw line in the early days of the game.
Rugby might catch on in the states if the games were more exciting. One suggestion I have is to add horses to the mix. Each team gets one to use for 5 minutes during the game. It’d be a little like rugby polo. The idea would be to get the ball to the jockey on the horse who would then charge the players with a snort while heading for the goal. And the halftime entertainment could be tweaked with a barbershop quartet and wine and cheese tasting.
Rugby; a rugid and potentially festive sport.