Tackling the question of rugby vs. football

As Linfield students, we have the privilege of going to a school with one of the American favorite past-time programs in the United States.

Everyone should know by now just how good our Wildcats are in Division III football but to those who are a little late, allow me to fill you in. Linfield College’s football program is the most winningest sports programs in the United States with over a 50-year conference winning streak.

Now I’m actually not here to write about how fantastic our football team is. I’m actually interested in why football is a more popular sport than father-sport, rugby.

Rugby, for those who have never heard of it, is a sport similar to football which originated in England in the 19th century. The sport is best described as a blend of the contact of American football, the running of soccer, and the transition of basketball. It is a game played with the object of the game being to run with an oval ball across the opponent’s goal line or kick it through the upper portion of the goal posts.

Now you may be thinking that the reasoning behind me arguing that rugby should be just as popular a sport than football is absurd.

Well sorry to burst your bubble guys, but football actually originated from rugby. Just like how the United States was originally an English colony, football finds its route deep in English culture.

In rugby, there are 15 players per team. Eight of the players are considered forward, similar to linemen and linebackers in football, while seven players are positioned as a back, which is just like the backs in a game of football. The two most distinctive features of Rugby that distinguishes the sport from American football is the fact that the ball can never be tossed or kicked forward and that there is no padding or protective gear used by the players. In rugby, it is a penalty to have the ball moving forward resulting in the ball being turned over to the other team.

So why do Americans love football so much? Well for one thing the NFL is a nine billion dollar industry along with college football as a six billion dollar industry, so money definitely plays a role in the popularity of the sport. However, rugby and football have similar game rules and are equally dangerous and physically demanding. Why is there such a divide?

The answer lies within knowledge. Most Americans are not aware that rugby is the father of American football. And with the popularity of football seems to be rising exponentially, there seems to be little room for rugby in the United States.

However there is talk among rugby enthusiast of launching a campaign to help make rugby more popular in the United States.  According to 2013 edition of “The Guardian News” entitled “NFL knows U.S. professional rugby union could be a very good deal indeed,” two U.S. based promoters George Robertson and Michael Clements have launched a scheme to bring Americans closer to the game of rugby by creating a summer and spring season of intense rugby playing called The American Pro Rugby Competition. If all goes well, after the NFL season concludes, the American Pro Rugby Competition will begin and create an off-season treat for football fans, allowing more viewers to become more familiar with rugby.

So although it may take several years for The American Pro Rugby Competition to really make an impact on American viewers, at least it is a starting point to get more American-loving football players introduced to rugby. And who knows? Maybe football enthusiast during the off season will be able to appreciate the father-sport of one of America’s most beloved pastimes while enjoying the knit and grit of the game of rugby.

By Camille Weber/Sports columnist

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