Went to a rugby game Saturday night. Didn’t have a clue what was going on. Watched the game for 15 minutes before I realized I was actually staring at a street fight in the parking lot.
I asked my friend Andy, who is English and therefore understands all sports played without helmets in the driving rain, to explain the game.
“Small fast men run from big slower men who are hurting other big slow men,” he replied. The team with the most survivors wins.
This would fit with the old saying that rugby is a hooligans’ game played by gentlemen, while soccer is a gentlemen’s game played by hooligans. At least rugby crowds are less prone to rioting than those at old country football matches. (“I never worried about violence,” a British soccer fan once told me, “as much as I worried about someone rolling up a newspaper and peeing in my overcoat pocket.”)
On the other hand, about 30 years ago I went to a rugby party in Duncan where some of the players were urinating over a balcony, one was up a ladder attempting to bite a light bulb (very bad idea) and yet another was having relations with a woman on the hood of a car. I’m not sure where the gentlemen part comes in.
In any event, this week’s game was rousing good entertainment, even if I never was quite certain why they were blowing the whistle or how they knew whose severed ears belonged to whom after the scrums.
If nothing else, it was nice to have something to fill the aching void that is Saturday night during the NHL lockout.
This is the dilemma for Canadians sports fans who have only one true love, yet who, when they turned on Hockey Night in Canada, found it had been replaced by a double-header of The Nature Of Things, Suzuki moaning on about prairie dogs (not a bad name for a team).
To a hockey fan, there’s no real alternative. Our other national sport, lacrosse, is in reality a niche game followed mainly by people who can’t afford skates. The Canadian Football League hasn’t been the same since the nine-team league had both Rough Riders and Roughriders. (No, U.S.A., we’re not making this up.)
Baseball is America’s pastime, not Canada’s. The NFL is baseball with a handgun. Basketball is the NFL with more paternity suits.
Once every four years, we get unreasonably optimistic about our prospects at soccer, only to discover that Canada isn’t that good at sports the rest of the world cares about. True, our women’s team was a Norwegian referee away from the gold medal match at the London Olympics, but our men’s side brought us back down to Earth last week, losing a critical game to lowly Honduras in a manner similar to Custer at Little Bighorn. The next world rankings are expected to show Canada sandwiched between Equatorial Nowhere and a team of exiled Tibetan monks.
Which leaves us, day after day, desperately listening to newscasts full of non-news of the Puckocalypse and the Oilers’ future in Edmonton.
It has been suggested that there are more pressing matters:
* An Ottawa-based think-tank warned last week that Canada could face a European-style debt crisis unless certain provinces — mainly Alberta and Ontario — get their act together.
* Even those who insist there’s no such thing as global warming can’t ignore the ongoing drought in the American midwest that has forced up food prices in Canada.
* The federal government is quietly pushing through a trade deal that critics say will effectively give the Chinese government, through its state-owned companies, control of much of our natural resources for the next 31 years. With almost no debate, the agreement takes effect this Halloween. Not sure I understand how that will help us, but then, I don’t understand rugby, either.
Oh well, maybe after Chairman Stephen has finished selling us to Beijing our new owners will insist on keeping the Oilers in Edmonton (formerly the province of Alberta, now a wholly owned subsidiary of the China National Offshore Oil Company).