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Rugby Resurrection In Rio

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The six days of Rugby competition were a refreshing shot in the arm for the Summer Olympics, which continues to include various boringly bizarre and archaic sports on its competition menu.

Rugby triumphantly returned to the Olympic games in Rio after a 92-year hiatus. The last time medals were awarded in the sport was during the 1924 games, in Paris. By all historical accounts, the anti-American sentiment during the gold medal game between the host nation France and the United States, was at a scalding boiling point.

In 1924, there was only three nations competing in the 15-aside rugby competition… France, the United States, and Romania. The U.S. had traveled 6,000 miles via train, bus, ship and ferry from Oakland, California. Worth the trip for a guaranteed medal you might think? The French press didn’t take kindly to the visitors labelling them “streetfighters and saloon brawlers” (after a brouhaha in the port of Boulogne, where immigration officials mistakenly refused the team entry, and the players – many of whom had been seasick during the turbulent crossing – forced their way off the ship onto dry land).

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USA’s 1924 Rugby Team

A rash of historical details aside, the Americans entered the final as 5-1 underdogs and the line had been set at 20-points in favour of France (European Champions). In hostile conditions, the Americans won 17-3 and managed to knock France’s star player, Adolphe Jauréguyout of the game, resulting in the pitch being littered with bottles and rocks. The Star Spangled Banner was drown out by the booing and hissing of French fans as they stormed the pitch, resulting in the U.S. requiring police protection to escort them safely back to their locker room.

Tough to assess whether this specific incident killed the inclusion of Rugby from future Olympic competition, but it certainly didn’t help. Whatever the reason, Rugby had been omitted from the games for close to a century. Finally, in 2016, the mysterious sport had it’s Resurrection in Rio…

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The return of Rugby to the Olympic games in Brazil was played in the highly entertaining 7-aside format. This provided fast and furious action that made for an incredibly dynamic experience for viewers. Many uninitiated to the sport, were exposed to one of the best kept sporting secrets on the planet. The six days of Rugby competition were a refreshing shot in the arm for the Summer Olympics, which continues to include various boringly bizarre and archaic sports on its competition menu.

The team from Fiji won the gold medal in the men’s division convincingly flattening Great Britain 43-7 in the final. It was the first medal EVER for the tiny island nation, and it was easily more entertaining than all of Michael Phelp’s 23-gold medal races combined. Australia won on the women’s side, providing heartbreak for Portia Woodman and the New Zealand ladies. The first medal of the tournament, and technically the first awarded in 92 years, was handed out to the Canadian women, who defeated Great Britain 33-10 for the bronze.

David Rodgers / Getty Images

David Rodgers / Getty Images

The American men didn’t qualify for the medal round and unfortunately didn’t have a chance to defend their gold medal from 1924. Despite having a strong talent base of athletes based in a ridiculously large population, the U.S. has traditionally failed at the British inspired sports of Rugby and Soccer Football. Most developmental energies and resources from the past century have been focused on NFL football. After the exposure of Rugby at the Olympics, it will be interesting to see (moving forward), if more kids begin playing the sport in America, resulting in future medal success.

From a television viewing perspective, the two 7-minute halves (10 in medal games), of free flowing action without stoppage in Rugby, is a welcome relief from the American “football” matches that take over 3-hours of broadcast jibber-jabber to cover 60-minutes of action. Frequent stoppages in play to pause for advertisements offering you beer, razor blades, deodorant, pick-up trucks, insurance, and the possibility of enrolling in the US Army/Navy, can make for a slower and much duller experience.

Hall Of Fame

Meanwhile… In America, Sunday’s scheduled Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, between the Green Bay Packers and the Indianapolis Colts was canceled due to poor field conditions.

Speaking of slower and much duller experiences, have you watched any of the other sports at the 2016 Olympic Games? (I’ll admit that I’m slightly biased, having played Rugby for many years). After watching the excitement of the Rugby 7’s, many of the other events seem like an absolute chore to ingest. I would be hard pressed to spend any of my own money on some of these events, let alone watch them on television. I sure wonder why some of these duds are still included in the Olympics? (If measuring entertainment value is being taken seriously?)

Boldly, (at risk of insulting a few sporting communities), I’ve watched and analyzed a few of these events, and I’m absolutely dumbfounded by their inclusion at the Olympic games…

Men’s Field Hockey

What the hell is going on here? Has anyone had the heart to tell these athletes that their sport is rather lame? It’s time to play the villain and rain on this jamboree of befuddlement. I honestly tried watching… and it was painful. Maybe not as painful as playing, since everyone is hunched over? Was this a sport played back in the day by the Hobbits in the Shire to stay fit? What is this?! Why are you using those ridiculously short modified candy cane sticks to play? How about getting some actual hockey sticks measured to your height and we’ll go from there. Until then, your sport is on notice at the Olympics.

Shooting

You’ve got to be kidding me?! Need I elaborate more on this monstrosity of madness… How? What? Why, is this atrocious “sport” included in 2016. We should be taking this ‘Shooting’ thing behind the woodshed immediately. I respect if you kids want to go and compete at the gun range, just not at the Olympics. There really needs to be a happy meeting point between the X-Games and the Olympics where events like this can go to have fun, without ruining it for the rest of us. For now, don’t insult the intelligence of planet earth by including guns at a peaceful athletic gathering.

Equestrian Dressage 

This my friends… takes the cake! What on God’s green earth is this all about?! The only way you would green light this event at the Olympics is if you were a closet Equestrian Dressage fan, or someone bribed you with a massive amount of money. I would take rhythmic gymnastics, synchronized swimming and/or speed walking any day over this embarrassment of an event. If you want to include horses, why not have thoroughbreds compete in a 10-furlong race, Kentucky Derby style! (That may be the best idea yet). Take this Equestrian Dressage and punt it as far away from the Olympics as possible.

There are a few more honorable mentions, but I’ll cut down my soap box rant to save some digital venom for a later date.

Remarkably, the IOC has gotten with the times and recently announced Baseball and Softball will return to the Tokyo games in 2020, while Karate, Sport Climbing, Skateboarding, and Surfing will be appearing for the first time. For more on the largest and most radical group of event additions to any one Olympics in it’s history, check out Kyle Cantlon’s previous work from Catch-22.

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For more on the 2016 Rio Olympics, check out his week’s podcast:

 

Follow author: @Phil_Jones2020

 

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