I'm not gonna say that I hate rugby but I also don't love it. I think a fair way to explain my position towards rugby would be indifference. But that doesn't mean that I don't want to join in on the celebration and excitement that is the Rugby World Cup... and despite the fact that I don't even understand what the hell is going on half the time, i still enjoy it.
I was sitting at home playing some Witcher 3 when a guy i know who insists on calling instead of texting to let me know that today there was a couple of big matches on in the quarter-final of the Japan Rugby world cup. I am not completely unknowing of these things... i knew that the event was going on but I didn't really pay much attention to it.
Don't get me wrong: I love sports but I am American, and whether you think it should be the case or not, rugby has a following about as strong as regional badminton tournaments, or maybe lawn darts (actually lawn darts, if it wasn't illegal, would probably be considerably more popular.) It simply isn't part of our culture and I would say it is extremely unlikely to become part of it anytime soon.
However, I live internationally and a vast majority of the people who also live over here (other than the Thai people, of course) are not North American. There is a high representation of Australians, English, South African, and to a much lessor degree Kiwis (people from New Zealand.)
I'm standing under one of the TV's
Therefore, when an event comes along such as this world cup, we can expect a packed house at the local pub despite the fact that they are NOT supposed to be selling alcohol during these hours.
There is a simple trick to enjoying a game that you don't know anything about: Ask and don't be a jackass just because you don't like / understand the sport.
I had a great time today because while I understand the basics of the game, a lot happens that I have questions about. Since a lot of these guys grew up playing the sport, I was given some really enlightening answers and no one tried to demean me for not knowing the answers myself.
For one thing, i love the Haka. I am forever curious why the Kiwi's are allowed to do this before every game but no other team gets an opportunity for an intimidation display. Has any other country ever asked for an opportunity? Why do the people from New Zealand get special treatment? Don't get me wrong: I find it wildly entertaining and I think the rest of the world does too and that is likely why it is allowed.
Today we saw two matches basically back-to-back. It was England vs. Australia (the mix in this pub was about 50/50 between the two nationalities) and afterwards it was NZ vs. Ireland. There are zero Irish people here and only one Kiwi, but since the All Blacks are likely favorites to win the entire tournament (as they tend to be) I think everyone stuck around to see what was bound to be a very one-sided thrashing of the boys in green.
I left once the All Blacks were up by 20 points before the half. I don't think it is terribly likely that anyone comes back from that sort of deficit very often, and certainly not again NZ.
So basically, i think that it is actually a great idea to sit down with a group of people and attempt to enjoy a sport that perhaps you don't know a great deal about. I have personally done this with Formula 1, Moto GP, rugby, cricket, and even gaelic football (which is now my favorite sport.)
There have also been times where European friends accompanied me to the Super Bowl and trust me when i say that they also had a ton of questions, many of which i did not know the answer to.
I feel as though sport(s) can be celebrated by everyone if they just have an open mind and are willing to stop comparing apples to oranges or insist that a sport is stupid just because they don't happen to enjoy it. You can have a great time and actually learn something. An added bonus is that you can have some drinks with some people that are going to be very happy if their side wins as well.
So the next time a big event is coming on at the local (especially if you are traveling) I strongly encourage you to get out there and see what it is all about. I truly feel that most of the people in the world are friendly, and even if you don't understand the game there are likely to be people that will explain it to you.
no matter who wins, this is an exciting 45 seconds or so
If you do enjoy NFL, do yourself a favor and do not try to make any comparisons between the two sports unless you are doing so in jest. You are very likely to be attacked by the "rugby players don't wear all that body armor" argument that is so common it is exceptionally boring. Go ahead and shout out "touchdown!" when one team scores a try and see if it gets any laughs. It does for me but then again, i am bigger than most people and am actually really approachable and friendly. Just roll with the punches and enjoy a bunch of really big dudes who are running more in 80 minutes than you have in the past 4 months.
Am I excited about the next rugby match? No, not even a little bit. However, i am excited about hanging out with good friends and having a good time, regardless of what is on the TV... and I plan to do it well into the future.