BY MATT MERKEL
Franciscan University athletics has been a roller coaster of success and failure over the past few years. Lovable bottom-feeders such as the basketball team have teased us with that elusive win for two years, while the swim team, men’s tennis and women’s volleyball have had amazing recent seasons. Through out all of the drama that comes and goes through Finnegan Field house, the most consistently successful sports team on campus is the men’s rugby team.
Even though the rugby squad doesn’t play in the NCAA they’ve given the fans exactly what they want: success. They’ve won their title multiple times and have yet to have a truly disappointing season. Many students attend every game to see their classmates dominate the opposing teams, and they relish in the fact that we own one of the most successful local teams in the sport. The highlight of the rugby season is the Rugby Ruckus. Even though it is over and ended in loss, many students attend the subsequent games to be apart of every miracle season.
It baffles me that rugby is not a popular sport in America. It has the perfect combination of violence and skill, grace and strength, collard jerseys and knee socks. It is almost perfection.
I guess it’s no wonder that I always find first year students confused about the logistics of the sport as they begin to watch it.
When going to your first rugby match you need to pay attention to the obvious things:
Essentially,15 players on each team move a ball from one side of the field to the other, trying to get it across a line. Yes, it is a more complex game than that; but as a first-time fan you need to understand that and not let smaller things frustrate you.
You also need to appreciate the pure athletic skill out on the field. I guarantee you that if I went on that field to play in a match I would get broken in half. Appreciating the moves that would typically give you a hernia makes the game so much more interesting.
Also, make sure to root for the home team. I know that is an absolute given, seeing that we only watch games from the FUS field. But never – under any circumstances – root for the opposing team just to be ironic. It’s not.
Also, go with fans that know the game. I love telling my fiancé about whatever sport we are watching together. It’s like I am teaching her a new language. Almost as if I am the ambassador for that sport. To all of those people out there who are unsure of what a rule means, feel free to ask. I promise that anyone would gladly answer. One caveat to this guarantee though: ask your questions during halftime. There is nothing more frustrating than watching a game and then being taken out of it because you have to answer a question. Wait until a break in the action to ask your friends. It allows you to get more background info of the game and will typically get you better answers.
Like I said, watching a new sport is similar to learning a foreign language. You’re not going to understand everything at once, and you’re probably going to find many of the nuances of the game silly. Many players have their ears taped or wear protruding head gear. Players throw other players in the air, and somebody is always going to grab somebody else’s shorts. Take everything in context and understand that it all has a purpose.
At the end of the day you’re going to have a blast watching a foreign sport being played on your campus. Keep with it and you’ll impress your future coworkers with your knowledge about a culture that many students never get a chance to experience.