Saturday, December 17, 2011

Ten Reasons Why All Americans Should Watch Rugby

Before I lived in New Zealand I had never seen a rugby match. Living there the year NZ hosted the Rugby World Cup quickly remedied me of that. NZ rugby players are the hottest, biggest celebrities in the country, and now I know why. The NZ All Blacks rugby team are fantastic athletes in one of the coolest sports I've ever watched.

I'm not a huge sports fan; I don't even watch much football in America. But with the entire nation of NZ so excited to host a world event, my curiosity was piqued. And before I knew what was happening, I was watching rugby games almost every night, organizing groups of friends to meet at one local pub or other after work to cheer and boo our teams together, and mourning on Mondays and Tuesdays when no games were on.  It was total rugby immersion.

The All Blacks haka

As a recent convert to the exciting, jaw-dropping world of rugby, I want to share with you why I think all Americans should give one of the world's favorite sports a try. Yes, we have American football. No, America is not currently good at rugby since no one here watches it. But there has to be a reason every other English-speaking country loves rugby, right? I'll give you ten good reasons to stop grumbling and start loving this sport:

  1. We all love football games. Even for those of us who do more talking and eating during them than watching, football is a bonding experience. Rugby is so similar to football that anyone who enjoys kicking back with a beer to watch American football would love doing the same for a rugby game. 
  2. It's exciting. Rugby is faster-paced than football but just as high-scoring. It's a passing game where the clock doesn't stop except for very limited time-outs, and you can score with tries (touch-downs) or kicks just like football.
  3. It's crazy and violent and fierce. Rugby is truly a team game, with the team often moving as one unit, passing, ramming the opposition, or breaking away to score altogether. Especially when the game is country against country in the world cup, these players will do anything to bring home a win for their nation's pride. There is a ton of contact, shirt pulling, and even players picking up opposing players to run them down the field.
  4. Haka intimidation chants. Every Kiwi learns how to perform one in school, and they are an awesome way to bitch out a team before the game, on the field in front of thousands of people. If you've never seen one, watch the NZ All Blacks' intimidate the French with their haka in the Rugby World Cup finals this year.
  5. Scrums. Sounds badass, right? Well, they are. This full-team tackle formation may look silly at first, but before you know it you'll be trying to replicate it at home.
  6. Everyone makes fun of America when we suck. The whole world makes fun of us during the rugby world cup because every half decent team gives us a beating. We owe it to ourselves as a nation to care more about this sport and get better at it.
  7. They really love making fun of us. The whole world makes fun of us off-season too with slogans hinting at the inferiority of American football like: No helmets. No pads. Just balls. Rugby.
  8. Rugby players are really hot (why do you think I watch?). The players all have to run more since it's a passing game, so they are in world-class athletic shape. Think David Beckham plus 30 lbs of muscle. And you can actually see the hot men because they aren't covered in helmets and padding. Nope, they're wearing tight t-shirts and short shorts, prime ogling material.
  9. Non-stop action. For all of the protection American football players wear, rugby players don't seem to have more injuries--some argue all the padding in football produces as many injuries as it covers. But in rugby, the clock stops for no man. Which means the rugby pitch often resembles a battlefield, medics scrambling on, players hobbling off, while the remaining players fight for glory 'til the clock runs out.
  10. You can't get better rivalry than country vs. country. The rugby season is a fantastic excuse to go out to a pub with a bunch of your friends, drink beer, get rowdy and trade loud insults about other teams, just like football. But in the rugby world cup, every fan dons their nation's colors and roots for their home, their countrymen. In the world cup, we all cheer harder and feel the competition deeper because it's our country's reputation, past, present and future on the line. 
My favorite All Blacks player: the dashing yet humble, Richie McCaw. He's so cool, he doesn't even want to be a knight.
If you're still not convinced, you don't have to take my word for it, you can read what NFL players said about rugby on Matador sports.

If we all watch more rugby, and encourage more kids to play rugby, our US team will get better each year. So, when the next rugby world cup comes around, paint stripes and stars on your face, travel to a far-off country to see the glorious rivalries in person, or kick back with a beer and watch the games at home.

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