Recently, with all the debate about “devastating” hits in football, I have been thinking about my playing days of Rugby and missing the sports. A lot of the talk about these dangerous hits in football have centered around the equipment that football players are using. The thinking has been, since football gear does such a good job protecting players from injury it allows players to turn themselves into weapons.
This got me thinking about Rugby a little bit. Since in Rugby, protection is limited to light foam shoulder pads (optional not mandated), mouthpieces, small caps worn on some players heads, and my favorite- electrical tape taped around some players heads to keep their ears from getting ripped off, I kept thinking about how Rugby is such a superior sport to American Football.
Now before you start ripping me on this and laying out all the reason that football is better, let me just say that I love American football. Be it a local high school game, college football, or the NFL, I love watching American Football. I love it not so much for the actual game itself, but for all the pageantry that surrounds the sport. You can’t beat ESPN college game day, Super Bowl parties, and tailgating before a big SEC rivals game. I will say that there is nothing in sports that beats the pageantry that surrounds American football. But if we can separate the game from all the things that surround the game, I think Rugby comes out on top.
Here are some reasons why:
Rugby is full of action. Rugby is a game of possession, much like soccer. Just because you get tackled doesn’t mean the game stops. The play is not dead. There is not game clock giving you a break before you need to run the next play. Unless there is a penalty, play continues and you have to get moving. Compare this to football, where in a 3 hour game you might get 11 minutes of actual action on the field. If you don’t believe me check out this study. If you like soccer for its continued action and like football for its strategy and hard hits, then Rugby is the perfect game for you.
Rugby players don’t wear pads. I have to agree with the argument a little that the more protection a football player has the more violent the sport becomes and the more “devastating” hits become. I am not saying that the solution to the problem in football is less protection, but I do see that it can change the nature of a game. In Rugby, because you don’t wear a lot of protection, you do limit yourself by what type of hits you take and give. Add to that the fact that Rugby is a game of possession and not gaining yards and the game is less violent then most people think. When most American hear that you like or play Rugby, the usual comment is “Wow, that is such a violent game.” I would disagree. I would make the distinction that Rugby is more aggressive and less violent then football.
Rugby players know how to actually tackle. Now, I wasn’t the best tackler in the game, but I learned how to tackle. One reason is that when I was playing, (don’t know if this is still the rule) in Rugby you had to make an attempt to wrap up a player. No spear tackling, no throwing your body into a player to knock him down. You had to know how to tackle and you had to do it well. Add to this, again the fact that Rugby is a game of possession, and you will find that most tackles in Rugby are very controlled on both ends. The ball carrier is trying to maintain possession of the ball as he is getting tackled and the tackler is trying to gain possession of the ball. This leads to tackles in Rugby being more controlled and lesson violent then in football.
Rugby makes a better athlete. In Rugby, all players have to be fit. You won’t see any 350 lb linemen type players in Rugby. All players play both defense and offense. All players need to be able to run continuously for 90 minutes. All players need to be able to pass and catch the ball. All players need to be able to kick, catch, or run a play without stopping to ask a coordinator what play they need to run. They have to be well coached because there isn’t time for coaches to tell players everything they need to know. They need to know the game well before the step onto the field.
Rugby leaves everything on the field. There isn’t time for end zone dances, no time to stair at the crowd as you tackle your opponent. No, the game keeps going. You score in Rugby, place the ball down, and act like someone whose job it is to score, not someone who is surprised by the fact they just got a touchdown. No calls for excessive celebration. You celebrate in Rugby when the final whistle blows, you’ve left in all on the field, and you have won. Rugby players also have an amazing ability to leave it all on the field and drop the egos at the whistle. The same guy that creamed you, the same guy that stepped on you, or punched you in the face, is the same guy you are shaking hands with and hanging out with after the game.
Rugby has the . This is the coolest thing in all sports. This might lend itself more to the pageantry of the game, but because it happens right before the game whistle blows, I added it. NFL can keep their cheerleaders. I’ll take the Haka any day. aka
If baseball is America’s favorite past time, then football is America’s sport. I may not change minds, but American needs to know that Rugby was the godfather of American Football. You can’t have football if you never had Rugby. You can check me on the history of it if you like. Let the debate begin…