My First Rugby Match

I don’t really know what rugby is. But this is what it looks like: 30 guys in really short shorts, clamped on to one another by the crotch, trying to knock each other down and occasionally throwing an overgrown white football back and forth while shouting out things like “Twenty-four! Thirty-seven! Twenty-one! Lithuania!”

I’m not kidding about the crotch bit. We’re talking serious violations of personal space here. But back to the game. It starts with this thing called the scrum. This is when eight of the sweatiest, dirtiest players from each side link themselves together via arm, leg, and groin, lean over, and in a unified grunt ram the head of the Guy In The Middle into the shoulder of the other team’s Guy In The Middle. I think the Guy In The Middle is called the hooker – something about hooking his legs around the ball – which, meanwhile, is taking a leisurely stroll between everybody’s legs until it somehow finds its way free of all the legs, upon which the tea party breaks up, someone picks up the ball, panics, and runs. But he only goes about five yards before someone grabs him by the neck or the shirt or the head or the face and slams him down into the ground and jumps on top of him, and then someone else jumps on top of him, and then someone else jumps on top of him, and then someone else jumps on top of him, and then, even though there are now five guys lying on top of each other and no one is going anywhere and even though the ball has decided to go out to lunch, someone else decides that it all looks like so much fun that he, too, wants to get in on the action and, after a moment’s thought, jumps on top of all of them.

Then, usually one of two things happens. Sometimes the ball miraculously emerges unscathed from this pile of leg, arm, butt and sweat and this little guy in a black helmet picks it up and gives to someone, who then in turn panics, runs, gets jumped, etc. etc. Other times the ball is considered “dead” and we’re back to the aforementioned scrum-ritual. And sometimes – I have no idea exactly when or why this occurs – everybody lines up in two rows and something else happens, or else someone goes out of bounds and kicks the ball into the field and in an attempt to snatch the ball two guys climb onto people’s shoulders and pop up into the air momentarily … sort of like NCAA cheerleaders do during halftime.

Oh yeah, and injuries. As you might expect with all this grabbing and slamming and popping there are a lot of bruises and concussions and things … when this happens, Gene, the resident opthomalogist comes running out and gives his professional opinion (“uh, he hit his head”) and play stops until the injured party gets up (to respectful applause) and is led heroically off the field.

This, I tell you, is rugby. But hey, don’t take my word for it. This is what my fellow sports fans – mostly female and, um, not rugby experts – had to say:

“Why are there two number 14s?”
“Did you see Dan’s legs? They’re like tree trunks.”
“So it’s like a goal. Oh, it’s not a goal? What’s a try?”
“Ooh, look how fast Ken runs.”
“Ew, it must stink in there.”
“Someone tell Dan Morris to pull down his shorts.”
“What’s his name? Brendan? Dude, Brendan’s job sucks.”

So that’s basically what rugby game is. And I loved it. All in all, a pleasant and entertaining way to spend a few hours of your Saturday, assuming the weather is nice. But wait, there’s more: here at HBS, we are fortunate enough to have not one, but two, rugby teams, so at the end of the first game, you get to see the B-team in action. I watched this one too. It’s essentially a repeat of previous match except for the following notable exceptions:

1) black shirts instead of red ones
2) shorter playing periods
3) more gratuitous physical violence
4) knowledgeable side commentary, like “Oh god, what is he doing?!?” and “Ralf, move it!”
5) more belching on the sidelines

See you next Saturday!

September 22, 2003
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