Archive for June 22nd, 2007
I was going to look up some numbers and do some kind of comparison between rugby and football for today because I keep hearing this “pads are for pussies” nonsense coming from ruggers. My college roomate was a collegiate club rugby player, and if I had ever come home with my ears looking as vomitously grotesque as his did every week, I would have stowed my manly pride and used some goddamn common sense, but that’s just me.
But I realized that I am coming in with an inherent bias, having never played Rugby, and a certain NFL-fan-centric defensiveness that would come off as whiny. So I gradually became more interested in the differences in the two games, and the injuries that come from both.
I actually read a few academic studies of rugby injuries from such made-up countries as Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, so I feel like I can reliably assist in reconstructive knee surgery if the opportunity ever presents itself. But, mostly, I just feel completely confirmed in my desire not to play rugby.
Here’s what I came up with (note – many readers have told me I have misunderstood the rules, and I don’t doubt that, so read this with a grain of salt):
- Your knees are screwed in either sport. The whole planted, weight-bearing foot vs. impact phenomenon is the same in either form of tackling. That shit only bends one way naturally, and when it goes the other way, you’re going to be out of the running for a while.
- In rugby, there are no substitutions for any reason other than injury, and an injured player cannot come back in to the game. This motivates both coaches and players to dowplay any injury less significant than partial amputation. Kind of brings a new meaning to “just rub some dirt on it and get back in there!”
- Rugby tacklers don’t care if their target picks up a couple more
yardsmetres after he is hit, so they are not nearly as intent in their desire to halt forward progress by any means necessary as a U.S. football player is. Once a ballcarrier is down in rugby, the ball is turned over, regardless of yardage gained.
- Ruggers without the ball are positioning themselves to receive a toss, not to block for the runner, which is, in fact, illegal. In American football, every player experiences head-on, full-force contact on every play, unless he is a kicker or Barry Sanders.
- The most dangerous injuries in rugby occur not in the tackling phase of the game, but in the scrum, when massive players lock arms and some try to kick or “hook” the ball to a fast teammate using only their legs. Flexion of the neck and other paralyzing incidents can happen just through the exertion, or at times when the scrum collapses on top of some poor soul.
The most compelling evidence for looking at these two sports as being similar but not the same came from this article, titled Pads and Helmets, in which two gents, one American, talk about the differences they experienced in playing both sports. The key phrase comes near the end of the first account, when a friend declares “Rugby is a contact sport. Gridiron is a collision sport” (per Loser With Socks, this is a paraphrase of a famous college football quote). The American recounts an attempt to tackle a charging opponent football style and the extreme injury he recieved as a result, seemingly indicating that while rugby hits are hard, they are patently different due to the nature of the game and the lack of padding.
I found all of this interesting. While I understand the desire to project manliness (we still have NFLers resisting the Revolution helmet, even though it can reduce concussions and keep them from drooling in their beer by age 40), but at some point self-preservation has to take precendence. Some simple concessions to basic headgear are currently being made at the professional levels of rugby, where top talented players can cause more damage and have more to lose in terms of money and career.
I definitely achieved a better understanding of the appeal of rugby by researching it, and will probably pause when I pass by it on ESPN from time to time. But I will hereafter refuse to engage in this ridiculous debate about which sport is more manly. As the fellas at Kissing Suzy Kolber said, while taunting the English recently:
Whatever. I’m sure Ray Lewis wouldn’t last one second playing for Leicester. You keep on believing that.
I would 100% support the notion of letting Ray try out when he retires from the NFL. Even at 40, I think he could hang.
Other sources, in case you want to be an orthopedic surgeon’s mate, too:
Chiroweb This article does a good job of introducing the methodology of rugby as a precursor to describing the most common injuries suffered by players.