rug·by /ˈrəgbē/ (noun): Pure violence, carnage and gore. Good, wholesome, family fun.
Last week I went out to a rugby match with some friends. The Otago Highlanders (our team) versus The Chiefs from Hamilton (not our team). Having never seen a game of rugby, and having a very faint idea of how it works, I was going into this blind. By the end of the night, I feel that I have ascertained a decent idea of what rugby is all about.
Rugby matches – you’ll hear them before you see them. Ladies and gentlemen, I have seen musical acts ranging from the musical stylings of heavy metal’s Iron Maiden and Metallica, to vintage Punk’s X and Reverend Horton Heat. Such bands, which I would consider quite loud, cannot hold a candle to the noise generated by rugby hooligans (a term of endearment).
Upon entering the stadium, and having our eardrums ruptured, we found our seats. Oh yes, I forgot to mention. Our seats were located in a section of the stadium renowned as THE ZOO. These are the cheapest seats in the house as a result of what I presume to be a catch-22 scenario: the seats are cheap, so they are purchased by broke-rowdy-college students, and the seats are cheap because people with money don’t want to sit with broke-rowdy college students. The title of the section is embraced by its constituents, many of whom dress up like animals.
It is also customary, apparently, to not use your seats in the way you have been taught to your entire life whilst in the zoo. Rather, you are to stand on top of it. I don’t see what is beneficial about doing this, but when in Rome…
I quickly learned that the Rugby match, while the main course of the event, is by no means the source of all the entertainment available at a rugby match. Without even looking at the sport aspect of things, the following were present for the stadium’s amusement:
Bagpipes: Keeping the whole ‘Highlander’ theme going. These lads and lasses marched around the field before the game started. They walked up to the Chiefs (the evening’s opponent) and blared their pipes at them for a solid five minutes.
These Blue People: We’re still not quite sure what they were, or why they were there, but they basically danced around the stadium the entire game. Uhm… that’s about all I can say about them.
Objects Floating around the Crowd: Whether they were wooden boards, beach balls, or people, many things passed over my head that night. Anything that was passed through the crowd that had legs was escorted out of the stadium by a very friendly police officer.
The Referees’ Uniforms: Blinding.
Pyrotechnics: Fire was shot out at times lacking any discernible significance.
A Chicken in a Denver Nuggets Jersey: This falls into the same ‘?’ category as the blue people above.
Despite the myriad distractions from the game, I did manage to watch quite a bit of it. Here are a few rugby basics, as far as I can understand them. I apologize to any rugby enthusiasts who may read this – I’m not usually so insulting:
- There are two teams in a match. Each team attempts to get rugby ball (which looks like a giant egg, about twice as large as an American Football), into the in-goal zone, or end zone.
- You can pass the ball…backwards. A forward pass automatically turns the ball over to the other team. You have to go backwards to go forward. I’ll let you mull that one over.
- The opposing team’s job is to prevent the other team from getting into the in-goal zone and scoring. They are allowed to do this by pretty much any means necessary, though I understand murder is frowned upon in most leagues. Players constantly walk this thin line, as they bludgeon the dickens out of one another:
Because, who REALLY needs those frivolous pads?
In the end, our team lost..by quite a bit. Seeing as I’m not a native, this wasn’t particularly crushing to me, and it most certainly did not detract from the excellent night I had. Rugby is loud, vibrant, and confusing, and I loved it all.