For sixty years, Fiji proudly marched into the Olympic stadium, fielding teams of four or five athletes with no hope of winning a medal. Even as recently as London 2012, the plucky team of nine competed in archery, weightlifting, swimming, and judo, finishing below practically every other country in the qualifying rounds. This is what it’s like to be one of the other 207 smaller nations, unable to field teams fat with television viewing or corporate sponsorship money. Countries participate for pride and personal bests against those who bring technologically-superior equipment and the state-of-the-art training. Until the time comes when their national sport gets added to the lists. So it was when Rugby Sevens finally made it to the Games in Rio 2016.
The Pain in the Neck History of Rugby
Rugby has a long history, at least in its most basic form. Throwing around an inflated pig’s bladder was written about by the Romans as Harpastum:
Harpastum… Great are the exertion and fatigue attendant upon contests of ball-playing, and violent twisting and turning of the neck. Hence Antiphanes, ‘Damn it, what a pain in the neck I’ve got.’ He describes the game thus: ‘He seized the ball and passed it to a team-mate while dodging another and laughing. He pushed it out of the way of another. Another fellow player he raised to his feet. All the while the crowd resounded with shouts of Out of bounds, Too far, Right beside him, Over his head, On the ground, Up in the air, Too short, Pass it back in the scrum.’Written by Athaneus of Rome, cited in wikipedia.
The British Rugby School gets credit for creating the sport in the form played today. Rugby school was formed in Warwickshire as a free grammar school for local kids by a man who made his wealth as the grocer to Queen Elizabeth I. Somewhere along the way, the school threw out the riffraff, focused on paying customers, and catered only to the children of aristocrats. That’s when the name got slapped on the game.
What Is Rugby?
As far as how rugby is technically played, I am contrite in trying to even write about it. Wikipedia tells me that rugby could include any of the following *deep breath*: rugby union, rugby league, rugby football, rugby sevens, rugby-15, rugby internationals, Super Rugby, the Commonwealth cup, the Premiership, the World cup, and the IRB sevens. Most of the descriptions start with the disclaimer…”not to be confused with…” and I have noticed British acquaintances often start their social media posts with “…c’mon Channel One, show the real game, not this fill-in-the-blank other rugby nonsense…”Continue reading “F is for Fiji”