Calling all Sandlot Football Stars…You Might be a Rugby Fan


by Jason Graves

Did you or do you still play sandlot football? I did. I was that guy drawing up crazy plays in the dirt, the “double flea-flicker, reverse, statue of liberty, on three,” playing in the cold, wet months of winter. Older now and with a body broken down my tales of sand lot stardom still shine brightly from the recliner as I tell them over and over. Maybe that’s you too or maybe you’re still building on your legend.

Are you tired of 5 minute commercial time-out’s every 15 minutes during the football game? Stoppages to review every play and possible penalty? Are you done listening to the Monday morning pundits talk about the 15 yard penalty and $5,000 fine that’s coming to a player for a hit that “was legal when I played?”

Are you tired of the time it takes between snaps, the long passes or short handoffs that end with the players walking back to the huddle, the pace of game like a turtle race? Are you tired of the pointing and strutting like a peacock after a first down or big hit?

If this is you and you’ve found this post by some random happenstance or if you know someone who fits the description above then I’m willing to bet you or the person you know is a rugby fan and may not even know it.

Rugby is basically football’s father, the contact sport without pads…its sandlot football without forward passes. If you caught that crazy game of Rugby Seven’s (7’s) during the Olympics then you saw a fast paced trimmed down version of Rugby Union. There are other versions of the game besides 7’s such as Rugby League but what I want to introduce you to is Rugby Union, that beautiful brutal game. While League is essentially the playground game of Red-Rover on steroids Union is more elegant in its brutality.

Instead of forward passes the ball must be thrown backwards, an analogy for life in many instances…to move forward one must go back. Elegant. To send the ball forward it must be kicked which can lead to some of the most amazing “forward passes” you will ever see or an intensely mad scramble for the grubber. Think of a grubber kick like a fumble at high speed.

Then there is the scrum. Yes, the speed and impact that occur along a gridiron line of scrimmage is impressive but in rugby the pure power of a well-organized scrum is truly extraordinary as over a thousand pounds of muscle and strength collide into a mass of rage; once the ball is hooked and sent back to the scrumhalf the offensive explosion that can be produced by the open space is often sublime.

I was once a football junkie. I played it, I watched it, I absorbed it. I was a walking encyclopedia of football knowledge and trivia. I grew tired of how the game was changing, “my game” was losing its aggression. Always a hockey fan I turned to the game on ice until I watched a full game of rugby. I had always been interested in the game, had even played it a few times for kicks, but football was my love. Well, I am now a rugby addict and have not watched a full football game in over 5 years…it’s too slow and too soft.

I challenge all football fans out there…find someone who understands Rugby Union, even just a little bit, and watch a game with them. I promise you, you will enjoy it and maybe, dare I say, grow to love it as I much as I do.

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