September 19, 2011

The surprising entertainment of rugby

Over the past week or so I've suddenly found myself watching the Rugby World Cup (for the first time ever). As a Canadian, rugby isn't a sport that I've ever been interested in. During my travels in Europe in 2006 I was exposed to some high level rugby and came face-to-face with some of the players thanks to the connections of the friend I was traveling with. However, the sport didn't really grab me at the time. It was an awesome experience, but there isn't much exposure to rugby in Canada and so my curiosity soon faded upon returning home.

But now, left with the frustrating sports scene in North America with its constant commercials, big name players who are constantly injured, and where poor attitudes are the norm, my interest in rugby has returned. Plus, it's all available in HD and everything's better in HD!

Here are 3 reasons why I've realized that rugby is an awesome sport to watch:

1. Continuous play. It really doesn't seem to stop. International rugby is an 80 minute game that takes about 95 TOTAL minutes to play from the end of the National anthems to the final whistle. There are whistles constantly, but play resumes sometimes immediately and always within 30 seconds. Even if a player gets injured (which happens all the time...see point #3) a medic comes onto the field while everyone else continues to play around them. If a fight starts up between a couple players, they're left to fight while everyone else just keeps on playing. The fighters break it up pretty quickly since the play is continuing around them and they don't want to miss the action.

Not only does this result in continuous play, but it also results in less macho attitudes. If you wanna talk big you can't just hide behind the refs and trash talk. You actually have to back it up. This has been a huge frustration for me in the NHL and NFL, where both leagues seem to be filling up with idiots that find it easy to talk like big men because as soon as the going gets tough there are four to six refs that they can hide behind. Viewers are left with having to endure the whiny antics of these annoying, childish imbeciles. No such nonsense in rugby.

Oh, and continuous play also means no commercials until half time!!

2. Surprising athleticism. These boys are big, but they're not slow. I'm still learning all the rules of the game, but I'd say that on average the players are far more athletic than the average NFL player (emphasis on average... i.e. there are no giant fatties). It's also cool that several players have to be multi-talented. They are all specialists at their positions of course, but several players can kick, tackle and run; something not seen in football. No slackers in rugby.

3. No pads. Just men. Padding has been the worst thing to happen to North American sports. Sure, padding provides safety for the players and minimizes minor injuries like bruising and such, but playing contact sports without pads (or with minimal padding) adds to the game in so many ways. First of all it makes players play smarter. You can't just run/skate as fast as you can at a guy and crush him. You actually have to know how to hit him without injuring yourself. The NHL has problems with players skating around like they're invincible and the result is a lot of injuries. No such stupidity in rugby.

Second of all you don't have the problem of padding becoming overly protective for the hitter, and in turn, overly destructive for the hittee. Pads in the NHL and NFL are so big and hard that just getting tapped by someone's shoulder pad could give you a concussion. Surely someone out there has done a study on the average rate of concussions in contact sports and realized that the bigger and harder you make the equipment the more head injuries there are. This just seems like common sense! Please NHL, if you want to eliminate head injuries then change the pads!!

The result of these 3 things is that you end up with a really entertaining sport to watch. I don't even always know what's going on and it's still fun! Granted, I do like my sports and so am more easily entertained by them than the average joe.

It's just so refreshing to see a sport without diving, without whining, where there's tons of athleticism and a lot of character guys. Plus, when you watch the Canadians play there's a ton of pride. Those boys don't give up and that's always inspiring too.

Needless to say, I strongly recommend checking out the Rugby World Cup. It's on TSN and TSN2 all the time these days (in HD!!!). Check it.