View from the Bridge: 42
by John Morrison
42: The Sporting Life
A wonderful game, rugby. Being split conveniently into two codes means that fans have not just one incomprehensible game to enjoy, but two. The crowd applauds whenever a player kicks the ball out of play; they'll cheer to the rafters if he manages to clear the stadium altogether and deposits the ball into the next postal district. Baffling.
The uninitiated may see a bunch of men lying in a muddy pile on the halfway line. But if they think that rugby is just an organised punch-up, they are missing some of the game's subtle nuances. They won't understand the potency - and, indeed, the sheer poetry - of a high, career-threatening tackle. They'll fail to appreciate that after eighty minutes of unremitting violence the players will walk off the pitch hand in hand and enjoy a relaxing bath together. And there's that wonderful sense of sportsmanship that rugby engenders. A player who, only minutes before, was trying to gouge your eyes out in the scrum, will offer to buy you a beer in the bar.
Perhaps rugby can best be seen as a metaphor for life. Since our attempts to go forward are constantly being thwarted by relentless opposition, we are forced to fling the ball backwards. So, after a career of pointless struggle and unfilfilled ambitions, when the hooter of life finally brings the whole messy business to a halt... we find we've got absolutely nowhere.
We know all about ear-biting in Milltown. And we don't much like it. The town's rugby team - dubbed the Milltown Marauders for no good reason - has strict and unequivocal guidelines about this cowardly activity. Any player who bites another player's ear will be sent off the field of play in disgrace, and won't be allowed back on until he's finished eating it.
Rugby has at least given the landlord of the Grievous Bodily Arms a legitimate outlet for his most violent tendencies. He's left his mark on the game over the years, and on quite a few players too. This season he pulled a hamstring muscle; fortunately it wasn't his.
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