Hong Kong Sevens

Rugby: A code to live by

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 March, 2013, 3:17pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 March, 2013, 5:54pm

Betamax video players were better than the VHS system, but VHS won the battle. Apple’s operating system was better than Microsoft’s, but Microsoft won that battle. Well, they won the first round and Apple nearly disappeared. So the best products are not always the winners in the long run.

Rugby is a far superior sport than soccer, or any other sport out there, but those of us who love rugby have to suffer the injustice of our great game being overshadowed by over-hyped inferior games peopled by over-paid and over-indulged players. There’s no accounting for taste.

Soccer players at the top level are so far removed from their fans they may as well be an alien species. The game is riddled with corruption, from Fifa to Uefa to the smallest game in China. The players behave like thugs, abusing each other on and off the field, and they’re allowed to abuse and intimidate the referee, which I’ll never understand.

Basketball, massive in the US, is a strange game, lots of tall people passing a ball to each other. First one team scores, then the other team, ad infinitum, until around the last 10 minutes and it gets exciting, if your definition of exciting is watching basketball.

Strangely, basketball is also the number one sport in the Philippines. Average height in the Philippines: Small! I often wonder if they lower the height of the basket or have special rules allowing shoulder carrying and leg-ups.

And then there are the Aussies and their passionate adoration of rugby league. Leave it out mate! I do watch league, it’s not a bad game, not a great game either. Were I to draw a comparison I’d say rugby league is checkers/draughts to rugby union’s chess, so not really a thinking man’s game then. Perhaps that explains rugby league’s popularity Down Under.

I used to love AFL, or Aussie Rules. Growing up watching it on TV, it took me a while to understand the rules – mostly because I wasn’t sure there were any. You couldn’t actually be sent off, you just got your name written in a wee book.

What I particularly loved about this game was when a fight broke out the camera ignored play and focused on a gaggle of mullet-adorned men punching the lights out of each other. AFL was more akin to the origins of all ball games; no-holds-barred, get-the-ball-from-one-end-of-the-village-to-the-other while the opposing team tries to stop you using any means possible. And then the powers that be cleaned up the AFL and I stopped watching. Shame on them. Shame on them twice because they still allow mullets!

Speaking of decent violence, I don’t suppose you can beat ice hockey, as in: “I went to a fight once and an ice hockey game broke out.” All that padding just lends itself to gratuitous violence and the crowd laps it up, but then it is the most popular sport in Canada and Canadians do need something to wake them from their torpor.

The least said about the two other North American sports the better, but do let me dismiss them. Baseball, we called it rounders when we were growing up and it was a kids’ game, was a simple game. You hit, you ran to base, or the next, or the next, or home, that was it.

Listening to coverage of baseball is like listening to a foreign language: “Here we go, two down, nobody on, no score, bottom of the ninth, there’s the wind up, a line shot up the middle.” WHAT? The suspicion lingers, they don’t know what they’re saying either.

And so to that other bastion of American sport, American Football. A dumb game, and if you follow the players’ shenanigans, a game played by deeply troubled and now concussed individuals. Then again, there are a large number of deeply troubled individuals in the US so perhaps you have to be on the same wavelength.

So why do I love rugby so much I can contemptuously dismiss all of these other sports?

Rugby is not a game, rugby is a lifestyle, a code to live your life by. Rugby teaches you an ethos both on and off the field that you can’t help but carry around with you for the rest of your life.

As a young lad joining a rugby club, the senior players, or first team players, are god-like. You give them more respect you do your own father and they’ll take you under their wing and nurture you. If you get out of order they’ll smother you with that wing and they’ll belittle you until you know your place in the wider scheme of things.

In short, rugby is part of the university of life and as a rugby player the world is your universe, as you’ll find passionate kindred spirits wherever you wander.

As a player, in sport, if you’re very lucky, you may one day claim that you changed a game, if you’re even luckier you might be able to say: “The game changed you.”

That’s rugby, that’s my sport, that’s the rugby sporting life.