Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Count your rugby blessings

Richard Lowther of the Wakefield RFC requested that I write a 400 word essay about rugby in America for the club's programmes, and I agreed. It's meant for an English audience. - Wes

Count your rugby blessings

by US correspondent Wes "Brigham" Clark

Okay, so maybe your side (in your case, Wakefield) didn't do well. You're disgusted beyond words - a disgust that can only be washed away with many pints of bitter and ceaseless pub growling to anyone who will listen.

Really, it's not that bad. You could be a rugby fan or player living in the United States of America!

Here in Northern Virginia, where I play for the Western Suburbs RFC, rugby (properly called "the world's greatest team sport") is mostly an unknown. Few Americans have seen a match, either televised or played live. Fewer still care, because American football ("gridiron"), or worse, basketball, dominates the sporting scene. When asked about rugby, most Americans will mutter something about how only insane, semi-continent alpha males would tackle and be tackled without padding. And while it must be admitted there is an element of truth to this, we US ruggers work hard to fight this stereotype. (Sometimes we work harder than at other times.)

Our practice pitch is characterized by lush dirt, and we invariably get blamed for any beer bottles strewn about. Our matches at our home pitch - when we can get it scheduled away from the soccer players - is sparsely attended by wives, girlfriends and fellow players. Paid admission? No way. A clubhouse? You must be dreaming! Physiotherapist? I was at a match once where a fellow who had broken his leg within ten seconds of the opening kickoff had to wait on the pitch a half hour for the paramedics to haul him away. The only valuable medical advice we get comes from other players who have recovered from broken or sprained body parts, or from drooling, wizened crones dispensing folk remedies. (I'm just kidding about the crones.)

Even worse, the Powers That Be at our local cable television monopoly recently decided to restrict our usual two hour coverage of matches to thirty minutes, which is preceded and followed by incomprehensible Korean programming. (I have a horrible feeling that there's a bigger audience for the incomprehensible Korean programming here than there is for rugby.)

Professionalization is an issue that is largely unknown here. The only people making serious money with rugby are some of the US Eagles. Nearly everyone else (at nearly all levels of the game) are volunteers.

So quit grumbling. You could be a rugby addict in the United States!

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