Brian Edwards Media

Confessions of a Rugby Hater

rugby_scrum1 

 

The success of the All Whites in making it to next year’s soccer world cup finals reminded me of my love for ‘the beautiful game’ and my absolute failure to understand the appeal of rugby. 

This is probably an indication that you can live in a country for almost half a century, become a citizen of that country, regard it as home, brook no criticism of it from strangers and yet never fully understand or share the mindset of those who were born and bred there. If I were a Kiwi, I might feel quite differently about the national game.

Then again, I might not. My dislike for rugby can not  be fully explained by my being a stranger in a strange land. I’m quite capable of nationalistic pride when it comes to cricket or netball. And, like most born-again Kiwis, there’s nothing that pleases me more than when the Black Caps or the Silver Ferns humble the Aussies.

No, my distaste for the oval ball has  more to do with the game itself. It is terminally boring to watch.

The core  principle of rugby is that 15 guys try to carry/kick a ball to the far end of a paddock and deposit the ball on the ground across the goal line. 15 other guys are trying to stop them and to achieve the same result at the other end of the paddock.

Up to this point, rugby has something in common with soccer. Both games involve getting a ball from one end of a paddock to the other. But there the similarity ends.

The main difference is that In rugby you’re allowed to pull the player in possession of  the ball down onto the ground. Indeed, it’s positively encouraged. Then a whole lot of other players, from both sides, fall down in a heap on top of the first player, pushing and shoving, until either the ball emerges or the whole human tangle disintegrates. In any rugby match this will happen dozens of times, with the result that the game is slowed to a crawl.

But this was still too fast and exciting for the inventors of rugby, who decided that the disorganised heap situation or ‘scrimmage’ should be followed by an organised heap situation, which they called a scrum.

One might have thought that the combination of dozens of scrimmages and scrums would have slowed the progress of the ball from one end of the paddock to the other enough to satisfy even the most excitement-averse spectator.

But the game’s inventors had one more card to play. Despite the fact that the stated aim of the game was to advance the ball forwards to the far end of the paddock, the rules of the game would say that you could only throw the ball backwards.

In sum, the average rugby game consists of players running a few yards, falling in a heap, getting up again, running a few more yards, falling in another heap, getting up again… well, you get the picture.

There are occasional moments of brightness when the ball is passed from hand to hand in an elegant moving line or when  a player manages to send if flying over the crossbar to convert a try. But mostly rugby is a mind-numbingly tedious stop-start affair.

Soccer, on the other hand, is fast-moving, aesthetically pleasing and requires delicacy, precision and a degree of physical co-ordination that would be largely wasted on the rugby pitch where brute force and speed are the main, if not the only qualifications for success.

And let’s face it – soccer players are much, much prettier.

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32 Comments:

  1. You surprise me. I would have thought given your Irish background you would have appreciated a bit of biffo.

    There is not a great deal of difference in the two games in that the players of both games fall in a heap every few yards. The difference is that in rugby the players gather up misplaced limbs, get up and get on with it. In football a player falls down, usually without assistance, rolls a further 30 yards screaming in agony, lies comatose for five minutes until making a recovery that defies medical science.

    Is there such a thing as a ‘pretty’ males sportsman? Most of them look as though they are closely related to the missing link.

    • You surprise me. I would have thought given your Irish background you would have appreciated a bit of biffo.

      I’m not entirely sure of my facts here, but I think it’s the southern Irish who are the big rugby fans. The Northerners are more into soccer.

      You’re right about what happens when a soccer player wants to indicate when he has been fouled. Acting is merely a further skill neccessary in professional football.

      As to prettiness, it’s not common for soccer players to have no necks or look like brain-damaged bouncers.

  2. You will be vilified for this, Brian.
    Despite all the evidence to the contrary, rugbyheads will maintain that their sport is more skillful, exciting, meaningful and – most importantly to them – manly. This is complete twaddle, of course, football being much more skillful and exciting, cricket more meaningful and hurling (as seen here: http://video.filestube.com/video,0cb919d828d8cc1d03e9.html) by far more manly.
    I was thrilled by the result on Saturday night. It was a classic match, mnail-biting tension to the final whistle and the lovely sight of a coach not talking in platitudes after the match. Ricky Herbert’s expletives were the most exuberant I’ve heard in a long time and I had a tear in my eye watching the team celebrate. Good on them and may their efforts mean a new start for football in this country.

  3. And let’s face it – soccer players are much, much prettier.

    ‘Scuse me? Anyone looked at Dan Carter recently?

    • ‘Scuse me! Anyone looked at Dan Carter recently?

      The exception that approves the rule, my dear. And surely you can find an equally pretty man at home.

  4. …surely you can find an equally pretty man at home.

    Is this the copy for a new Tui’s ad?

  5. Rugby is becoming its own worst enemy. Too much stop-start with its: too much kicking for touch, too much re-setting of collapsed scrums, fuzzy rules, flaky refs who blow the whistle way too much, too many points scored by penalty kicks. Other than that — it’s a fluid, free-flowing game.

  6. I don’t hate the game but have zero interest in it, the news around it, the everything to do with it.

    It’s almost impossible to get anyone in New Zealand to believe this. Perhaps even harder than convincing religious people you’re an atheist…

  7. Let’s face it Brian, both codes are little more than barely-suppressed homoeroticism. What with all that kissing, hugging and jumping on one another in soccer when a goal is scored, and as your picture shows, blatant genital grasping in the rugby scrums. Mind you, those chaps in your photo appear to be French, so that probably explains the sexual ambivalence.

  8. As to the charge of prettiness, I’m not sure that’s entirely true. Anyone who wathced football in the era of Peter “Quasimodo” Beardsley, Iain “One header too many” Dowie, Matt “Gormless” Le Tissier and Kevin “Scarface” Moran would be nonplussed by mention of pretty boys. Check these guys out:
    http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/sport/top10s/2281604/Top-10-ugly-footballers.html?offset=10

    As for the histrionics of the tacklee, as a former player of both codes (at a very modest level, admittedly) I can tell you that a full body tackle is less painful and less damaging than a full blooded two-footed lunge at the ankle.

    • As for the histrionics of the tacklee, as a former player of both codes (at a very modest level, admittedly) I can tell you that a full body tackle is less painful and less damaging than a full blooded two-footed lunge at the ankle.

      No doubt, but one is legal and the other (I assume) isn’t.

  9. Methinks favourite beer, religion and sport all seem to be directly related to where one is born on this planet.
    However I have been in NZ for 25 yrs and have tried to like rugby I really really have, but
    it seems that most of the time during the game is spent groveling around on the ground or waiting for penalties to be taken.
    the aforementioned penalties awarded for incorrect groveling, or a least for reasons that I have never understood.
    The fact that the only other country in the world that shares rugby as its national sport, is Wales speaks volumes
    Now Australian rules, theres a game, shame about the beer, us Buddists know what we like

    • Methinks favourite beer, religion and sport all seem to be directly related to where one is born on this planet.

      Interesting theory. And the class aspect can’t be ignored. The game was apparently “invented” when a kid at a posh British private school (Rugby) picked up the soccer ball and ran with it. When I was a young man, a favourite saying in Northern Ireland was that soccer was a gentleman’s game played by morons, and rugby was a moron’s game played by gentlemen. The saying seems to me more apt if you change “played by ” to “watched by”. As far as I know, the term “rugby hooligans” has not been invented.The reason of course may be that the game is so boring that most of the spectators are comatose.

  10. I simply can’t agree that soccer is a more skillful game than Rugby. I have never found it interesting to watch two teams spend an hour and a half playing soccer and largely not scoring. As for the shootouts at the end, well that’s really a demonstration that the rules of the game are inherently too poorly designed to be relied on to produce a definitive result.

    Although you are discussing dominance of rugby in this country, I have had an opposite experience in my work place. Try and tell a soccer fan that you didn’t follow what a team of overpaid prima donnas (let’s say Arsenal or Manchester United) on the other side of the world did in the weekend, and the soccer fan gets all huffy.

    Last soccer world cup my co-workers actually expected me to defend my decision not to waste my time watching a particular game. I think it was Italy versus Turkey. They just did not register me when I said ‘I couldn’t care.’

    • em>Last soccer world cup my co-workers actually expected me to defend my decision not to waste my time watching a particular game. I think it was Italy versus Turkey. They just did not register me when I said ‘I couldn’t care.’

      Well, I think your co-workers were pretty unreasonable. With sport, as with everything else, it should be ‘chacun a son gout’.

      But we’re going to have to part company on the relative appeal of soccer and rugby. The pin-point accuracy which allows a soccer player to deliver the ball to the feet or head of another player a hundred or more metres away is simply lacking in rugby, as is the delicate footwork involved in keeping possession of the ball while dribbling it up the field and deceiving your opponents. Soccer is mostly mind-work; rugby is almost entirely push, shove, heave and all fall down.

  11. Agreed, we do part company on the relative appeal of soccer and rugby. I would contend that pinpoint accuracy doesn’t mean a game is interesting. Otherwise, I would find golf enthralling*.

    If you are interested in a mind game that involves deceiving your opponent perhaps chess would be an even better watch, or competition poker?

    * I know many people do find golf enthralling. I think golf’s only appeal is as a long walk to a bar.

    • * I know many people do find golf enthralling. I think golf’s only appeal is as a long walk to a bar.

      Hmmm. Might take up golf.

  12. The beautiful game. Enough said.

  13. Thinking about it The places where Football is v strong are Europe Africa S.America and Asia
    The places where it is less so
    are ex English English speaking colonies
    USA
    Cnada
    Oz
    NZ
    India
    Wales
    Makes you think eh ?

  14. @ THomasf: Sadly your theory falls down when it comes to England itself, Ireland (both versions), Scotland and – despite what you say – Wales. They may like their rugby in the southern valleys, but they are also glued to the football each weekend.

  15. Are you discussing Rugby Green Tea?

  16. As an afterthought, if anyone wants to see what excitement looks like in sport, check out Ireland vs France currently on ESPN. Ireland lost 1-0 in Dublin and are now 1-0 up in paris against a team stacked with stars. It’s grit and determination (and no little skill) against the combined might of Anelka, Henry, Gallas and Diarra. A thing of rare beauty.

  17. “soccer is mostly mind work” … and those concussive injuries will certainly take care of that!
    All this simulated warfare is marvellous! I love to think of all these blokes out there ‘at it’ every weekend instead of cluttering up the prisons, and I don’t even have to watch or pretend interest although I am prone to occasionally muttering: “Gads! Will you take a look at that brute! I’m glad he’s busy playing (whatever) and not out on the streets … we can sleep safe in our beds tonight”.
    Alas, even that theory doesn’t hold much truth, as it’s well proven that “winner’s” tend to go on rampages after the game.
    Ahhh … the time honoured rituals of male bonding, it’s an alarming thing to behold.
    Which side are YOU on?

  18. Don, what a pity that such a thing of rare beauty should have been decided by a thing of rare ugliness; blatant cheating, something tthat is common in most sports but is far worse in football ranging from scoring of goals sscored with a hand to ‘acting’ designed to get a penalty or to get an opponent sent off. No, football is an ugly game the way it played at the top level.

  19. Not so much a thing of rare beauty Don, not that I saw it obviously.

    I heard on Morning Report that the Republic of Ireland is up in arms today over France’s Thierry Henry’s professional foul today.

  20. Well, I’m a fifth-generation New Zealander, my great-grandfather was an All Black in the very early days (one of the team’s top try-scorers too). Consequently, the men in my mother’s family all played rugger from the age of about 6 to 66 and – of the four girls in my mother’s family – she was the one most excited by the game (although it didn’t stop her and one of my rugby-playing uncles marching against the Springbok Tour in 1981 – as, indeed, I did myself).

    It was hoped, therefore, that my older brother and I would naturally go for the oval-ball game at about the age of 6….. But then an earth-shattering event happened !!! In 1969 when I was 5, British football (ie “soccer”) finally arrived on New Zealand TV screens as a regular weekly event. My brother and I instantly fell in love with Liverpool and…well…how ya gonna keep lads watching dreary old rugby once they’ve seen ‘the beautiful game’ for the first time ?!!!

    Ended up playing football (competitively on Saturdays, socially on Sundays) from age 8 to 34. Still a major Liverpool fan. Rugby’s just too much like a flock of not-entirely-intellectually-gifted sheep all running together in the direction of the ball – dull, dull, dull.

    • Well, I’m a fifth-generation New Zealander, my great-grandfather was an All Black in the very early days (one of the team’s top try-scorers too).

      Let’s hope your great-great-grandfather isn’t turning in his grave.

  21. Dear Sir,

    Why would a country founded on the principle of being a better Britain pick the game of the physically and morally degenerate working class as it’s new national sport? Surely the game played by the upper class, the game of solid corinthian values and muscular christianity is the better game with which to announce our arrival in the world?

    Soccer is an effete game, with a contemptable culture of downright cheating. The constant diving, the rolling about in agony from “fouls” which never connected to gain a penalty, the “Hand of God”, Thierry Henry’s frank and guiltless admission he cheated and now the revelation of a huge match fixing scandal tells us that soccer might be suitable national game for a Frenchman, but it would never do for a nation of such superior and vigorous stock as our own.

    We should all seek the moral station as natons that makes us happiest and best suits our role, place and status in the world. Let the wog, the wop, the uncouth working class and the damnable Irish revel in their chosen sport. We cannot expect more from them. But for New Zealanders, we can and should demand nothing less than the sport of the Gods. Wat Tyler once challenged his superiors with the saying “When Adam delved, and Eve span who was then a gentleman?” If he had been speaking of sport, we all know rugby union would have been the immediate answer.

    Your Obd. Svt,
    Rev. Mungo Parkes-Lyon
    “The Grange”,
    Parnell.

    • Why would a country founded on the principle of being a better Britain pick the game of the physically and morally degenerate working class as it’s new national sport? Surely the game played by the upper class, the game of solid corinthian values and muscular christianity is the better game with which to announce our arrival in the world?

      Jolly hockey sticks!

  22. “Soccer is an effete game, with a contemptable culture of downright cheating. The constant diving, etc, etc

    Tommy, done said it well, real well. He right proudful of rubgy union, and I right proudful too. It’s a game for real Men, who don’t cry when they fall down.

  23. There’s a classic scene in the US ‘Dennis the Menace’ comic where Dennis & Margaret come across their mate Joey on the street.

    They’re unsure of what he is doing, so they ask:

    “Joey, what are you doing?”

    “I’m playing with a Yo”.

    “What’s a Yo?”

    “It’s half a Yo-Yo”.

    “Where’s the other half?”

    “I lost it”

    They tell him:

    “Joey, you can’t have fun with half a Yo-Yo!”.

    “That’s funny, I’ve just spent half an hour thinking I was having a good time”.