Sunday, October 09, 2011

October 9, 2011

Some random thoughts on the ongoing Rugby World Cup:

1. I've really made an effort to understand the nuances of the game and enjoy it, but it's not easy. The most important thing to keep in mind is that there is only a single line of defence to stop the attacking team from piercing through and running all the way to score a try. This, coupled with the 'no forward passing' and offside rules, pretty much dictates the dynamics of the play. But there is still an element of ugliness to the game, most notably exemplified by the pile of bodies that takes place during a ruck. We have no idea what's happening inside, where the ball is, and so on (wonder how the referee keeps on top of things, short of jumping into the orgy himself). Things are not clean and simple, so to speak (compare this to football: 'you can only kick the ball with your foot; now try and put the ball between the two posts'). The skill displayed by a player is not readily apparent to someone who is not a fan of the sport.

2. Speaking about the refs, it's refreshing to hear the referee (and the adjudicating referee) on the microphone most of the time. More transparency this way.

3. The small number of fouls is quite amazing when compared to, say, football (not talking about technical violations here). My theory is that the 'almost anything goes' nature of the game does away with the need to commit physical fouls. Who needs to break the law when you can legally do a number on your opponent? Rugby players can both dish out and take stuff, unlike footballers who writhe on the ground in feigned agony if an opponent so much as looks at them funnily.

4. Notwithstanding the fact that it takes more strength and stamina to go through 40 minutes of non-stop action than to get through a comparable period in American football, American football is eminently more watchable. The skipping of the heartbeat every time the quarterback is about to pass the ball is missing. There are exhilarating moments in rugby too, like for example when a player dodges the defence and is streaking towards the tryline, but these are few and far between. The strategizing, playbooks, etc. of American football is missing (or maybe I can't figure things out on account of my noobiness).

5. The pre-match war dance (saw the New Zealand team do it today) is extremely silly. Sure, some opponents may get freaked out by a bunch of brutes grunting in tongues, crowing about how they will shove their brawny and tattooed arms up their opponent's asses and punch their intestines black and blue, but any half-intelligent person is more likely to struggle to not double up on the ground with laughter.