Rugby: The real American contact sport
Published: Friday, August 24, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08
Rugby is a real sport. It combines physicality, mental toughness, and teamwork all at one time, in a way that no other popular sport in the United States does. The sport is gaining in popularity at the amateur level in the U.S., however it still falters in the wake of American gridiron football.
The spectacle of American sports will not truly be impressive until rugby ousts American football as the most popular contact sport in the U.S.
Rugby is played with minimal padding, certainly not the hard plastic protection seen in American football, and there is almost no stoppage of play during the half, which lasts 40 minutes according to the International Rugby Board (IRB) “Laws of the Game: Rugby Union.” Any gridiron player would be hard pressed to play an 80 minute match, with only a 10 minute break in between halves.
Rugby, though seen by many to be a lesser sport, is not without history in the U.S. The United States has had its own national team, the USA Eagles, since 1912. In the 1920 and 1924 Olympics the US took home gold in rugby. It is important to note that American football has never been an Olympic event, with the exception of a demonstration at the 1932 Games.
Gridiron football players, especially in the NFL, are in a league of their own. Many seem more concerned with big pay-outs and showboating than their team winning. According to Doug Anderson, team President of Chicago Riot Rugby, “[rugby] is the epitome of a team sport, it allows very little room to showcase individuality, because it’s never about the individual, it is about the team.”
The team mentality of rugby goes beyond the players on the pitch. The IRB “Laws of the Game: Rugby Union” states that there is only one referee per match. Any altercations that take place on the pitch are typically handled amicably between players, with little referee involvement. He is busy watching 30 players play a non-stop game; he cannot deal with childish behavior. Unlike many American sports, there is no “talking back” to the referee, one misstep, or display of bad conduct and your team can be penalized 10 meters.
This camaraderie on the pitch lends itself well to a good sport for kids to learn important life lessons like sportsmanship, teamwork, and mental toughness. And “pee-wee” leagues are gaining popularity. “As long as there are kids playing, rugby’s future is going to be fine,” said Kyle Franklin, team captain of Chicago Riot Rugby. So maybe there is hope for rugby in the future.
While the fast pace and hard hits help make rugby a more enthralling sport than American football, it is also helped by its availability on the world stage. According to the IRB, there are 93 registered international rugby teams. That makes it so there is a nearly limitless combination of match-ups that American’s can watch.
One thing American’s crave is entertainment, so perhaps at the very least rugby and American football can live together. Rugby can fill in that Wednesday to Sunday lull of contact sports, because as any rugger worth their salt will tell you: “Saturday is a rugby day.”