October 27, 2022 at 6:56 p.m.

Rugby lessons from afar

By Jerry [email protected] | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

My wife and I were visited by aliens a few years ago.
They parked their gleaming white craft on our driveway and climbed out. Oxygen must be important to them as they wore garments imprinted with the characters “O2.”  
The pair of aliens were soon at our door, making a request. It had nothing to do with taking them to our leader.
Though their speech was somewhat difficult to understand, we got the message that they desired to watch something called rugby. Thankfully, our cable package includes several sports channels, so we were able to accommodate their request and thus avoid being vaporized by any possible ray guns.
The so-called aliens are friends of ours whom we had invited over to watch the Six Nations Championship rugby match between England and Ireland, which was fitting as one of them is Irish while the other is English.
Our friends are bilingual; that is, they can speak both English and American, albeit heavily accented. One of them sounds like Daniel Craig, while the other sounds like Liam Neeson. Listening to them talk was like a night at the movies.
We settled in our living room as the game began. I know nothing about rugby other than it involves two teams and an oblong ball.
I was hoping to glean insights about the nuances of rugby, but that didn’t happen. Our friends were too busy shouting such things at the TV.
“You idiot!”
“Off the floor! Keep it off the floor!”
I finally figured out that the floor is what rugby fans call the grass playing field.
There are many similarities between rugby and football, which I was only too happy to point out to the two.
“I see you guys stole our idea of having goal posts,” I said. “And your rugby ball looks a lot like our football. But you haven’t yet discovered that pads can be beneficial for the players.”
This grabbed their attention. I was informed that most of what we call football was actually stolen from rugby and that what we call soccer is, in fact, football.
“Soccer,” they explained, “is a gentleman’s game played by hooligans. Rugby is a hooligan’s game played by gentlemen.”
So, no matter what the game, some level of hooliganism is involved?      
“Correct,” they said.
The English team took the field wearing sparkling white uniforms while the Irish wore their traditional green. There wasn’t much point to having different colored uniforms as far as I could tell; within minutes of taking the field, every single player had been transformed into a walking human-shaped grass stain.
There’s some strange terminology associated with rugby. For instance, there’s blood replacement, which isn’t a form of artificial plasma. There’s also the sin bin, which is remarkably self-explanatory.
Rugby appears to be a tough sport, very much like our football but without even the slightest hint of padding. The players run nonstop and smash against each other in a game that really should have been named kill the carrier.  
As with many sports, watching rugby traditionally involves consuming malt beverages. In keeping with tradition, we partook of a substance known as Guinness. I don’t know how Guinness is made, but its color seems to suggest tar is involved.
But, that’s where I drew the line.
“We’re in America, by gee,” I declared. “And we’re going to eat American food.”     
So, we fed them pizza.
After the rugby game was over, there was a spirited discussion that included the topic of the old days.
Both men agreed that what attracted them to America was our pervasive sense of optimism. Our nation’s energy and enthusiasm are imprinted in our collective DNA and stands in stark contrast to their experiences in Europe.
They don’t miss the gloomy “No, I don’t dare” mindset of the Old Country. They didn’t miss being shoved into a stifling little pigeonhole and being told to be glad for it because that’s as good as it will ever get. Both expressed a deep affection for their adopted homeland.
During the rugby game, I noticed the players received no coaching from the sidelines. It was up to each individual team member to determine the best course of action and grab the initiative whenever possible.       
This parallels the path our two friends took when they left their home countries. How entrepreneurial, how utterly American.
    Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, South Dakota. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry works full time for Dairy Star as a staff writer and ad salesman. Feel free to email him at [email protected].


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