Rugby left underappreciated

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Jim Dieterle, '13, rushes after a loose ball in Allegheny's recent loss against Clarion. DANIEL BAUER/THE CAMPUS

When is the last time you went to a game? A football game. A soccer game. A basketball game. Any game at all.

The sad truth of the matter is that sports at Allegheny College are essentially ignored.  No one pays attention to when or where the games take place.

School spirit is lower than public knowledge of Obama’s newest tax plan.

I have never been much for sports, but the camaraderie of getting pumped  for games (whether or not aided by liquid means) is one of…well, possibly the only thing I miss about high school. This weekend, I went to my first sporting event at Allegheny –– one that some don’t even consider a competitive sport –– and found some vestiges of Gator pride.

While I would love it if all sports at Allegheny were more publicized and better-attended, this week I am focusing on rugby.

Before you ask, no, my rugby-playing roommates are not forcing me to write this.  This is not to say that if Hannah (rugby name: Muscles) told me to do something, I wouldn’t do it.  I sure as hell would.

After stumbling all the way to Robertson to watch my first game, I would pretty much do anything that she (or my other roommate, who happens to be the captain of the women’s rugby team) told me to do.

Because now I would be terrified of them tackling me into the wall until I was nothing but pulverized bone meal.

Last year, I lived on a hall with approximately ten thousand rugby players.  I became used to them picking me up when I was in their way, such as when I was brushing my teeth at their favorite sink or when I was walking too slowly.

I learned not to dress nicely when it was muddy outside and they were practicing, because I was definitely going to get tackled when they got home.  I learned to always keep the freezer full of ice, to hide my food and how to sleep through noise that could only be compared to a herd of elephants simultaneously giving birth.

But I never made it to a single game.

They were usually far away, or they were early on a Sunday morning after I’d spent my night playing way too many board games, or it was too much of a bother to go alone because no one else even knew we had a rugby team.

I now realize that I was  a huge idiot.

My knowledge of rugby before watching them play was limited to YouTube videos, rugby drinking songs, and a lot of confusion as my friends tried to explain to me that a hooker was not what I thought it was.

Usually, I find watching sports about as interesting as watching Muscles play WordScramble, her current favorite online game.

Their next game is a home game this Saturday at 11:00, and I will definitely be there.

Rugby is fast paced enough for those with the most abysmally tiny attention spans.

It is violent enough to keep a pair of EMTs on the edge of their seats for the entire game.

It is confusing but  never monotonous.

It is a lot easier to understand after watching, so I will make no attempt to explain it, but even I could figure it out after a while, and I didn’t understand how to play football until my senior year of high school.

Although the team didn’t get to play in a stadium with seats, fans sat on folding chairs and towels or spent their time sprinting up and down the field shouting things that were generally encouraging.

The Gators were especially pumped this year.

The women’s team finally has a coach, and in their first game, which was against the reigning tournament champs, they managed to tie.

In the past, the Gators suffered defeat more often than not, but this is an incredible start to what is sure to be a turnaround season.

The second try (think touchdown) was scored in an unbelievably tense final few minutes of the game by Cecily “Bruce” Jacinto, in an incredible struggle where 40 girls shoved and tackled until she managed to push her way to the final line.

Unlike football, rugby does not include huge spans of time in stasis.

The game virtually never stops, because even after someone is tackled, his or her team has a chance to recover the ball after an intense struggle called a ruck.

In a ruck, players essentially wrestle over the fallen player’s body while the fallen player tries to pass the ball through someone’s legs to where a teammate can pick it up.

One of the most interesting parts of the game is the throw-in. In a throw– in, the ball is thrown to a teammate that is being hoisted in the air in what may be the most uncomfortable lifting motions I can conceive of. The airborne teammate is hoisted by her shorts. She is then expected to ignore her killer wedgie and focus on catching a ball and blocking her airborne opposition.

Don’t worry: guys are usually lifted by their legs. Before knowing this, my boyfriend, also a first–time rugby spectator, was horrified on their behalf.

After the game, new coach Mark Grimes recommended that the girls “ice whatever hurts” and laughing teammates passed around tape and bags of ice the size of my head.

The guy’s team, several of whom I was certain had been killed during the game, casually wiped off blood and sweat and talked about how they were going to dominate in their next game.

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