Nationalism, Globalism, and Rugby

The movie Invictus explains how Nelson Mandela embraced the white South African passion for rugby and made it a sport for the new multi-racial democracy. It is a wonderful and inspiring movie, and I would highly recommend it. After I watched it, I thought, rugby is a sport I could get into.

Several years passed with that thought in the back of my mind. From time to time, I would watch a little bit of rugby when it was on TV. Then, this past summer, I watched Amazon Prime’s show All or Nothing that featured a season of the New Zealand All Blacks, the New Zealand national rugby team. I loved it.

After that, I spent some time figuring out how I could watch the New Zealand All Blacks. Eventually, I discovered that you could watch them on ESPN Plus. The matches were at convenient times like 3:00 a.m. So, I decided to get up as close to the original time as possible on a Saturday morning to watch the replay. For most of August and September of last year, I would start my Saturday’s with coffee and rugby.

Since then, I’ve gotten into new teams. I try to watch one rugby match every week. I often watch the finals of the Rugby Sevens tournaments that are held around the world. Rugby Sevens is played with 7 players instead of the normal 15 on each side. My passion for rugby has only increased.

What makes rugby so much worth watching?

  1. It has the intensity of American football. If you like the intensity of football, then you can enjoy rugby. If you think football is barbaric and abhorrent, you probably won’t like rugby. By the way, American football and modern rugby both evolved from an early form of rugby.
  2. It lasts half the time of American football. You can watch the whole match in two hours instead of the 3.5 to 4 that it takes to watch American football.
  3. It keeps going. The clock almost never stops. One exception is the very brief replays, but the officials do the replays with an efficiency that puts most American sports to shame. Other than that, the game keeps going. It’s like the continuous play of soccer or basketball with the physicality of American football.
  4. The standings are based on points and not just wins. Like soccer, the leagues are organized around points. So, there is always motivation to keep playing and scoring. You get extra points for keeping the games close or for winning by large margins. This makes the whole game important. You never have a situation where teams are just waiting for the game to be over and putting in their worst players.
  5. It is international. Watching rugby has made me realize how insulated Americans are. Rugby is a truly international sport. Nations play against other nations. The Guiness Pro 14 League, for example, consists of different teams from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, and South Africa. Super Rugby is a pro league for teams from the Southern Hemisphere. There is a world cup (this September!) and not just a national title that is give the misnomer of a “world series.”

That last point has really broadened my horizons. A couple of months ago, I listened to a TED Talk by Wanis Kabbaj entitled “How Nationalism and Globalism Can Coexist.” He explains how much that we like in our nation is derived from global sources and how those who care most for their nation care most for the world. Nationalism and globalism can coexist. It’s a helpful talk, which I would recommend.

Rugby has provided me a visual illustration of how globalism and nationalism can coexist. The international competition is about national pride. It’s very moving to see the various teams ardently singing their national anthems. It is a celebration of the individual nations, the powerful thought of all that one’s ancestors have sacrificed to make your nation what it is. See an example in the video below.

At the same time, it is an international competition. It is a community of nations that are playing together and enjoying the goodness of the sport. It celebrates the camaraderie that nations can have together in proper competition.

In fact, nothing beats the international competition. It is the pinnacle of rugby competition. The nations can make one another better. They can work together and compete together in peaceful ways.

Yet, without the love of one’s own nation, you would not see the intensity that you see in international competition. Those who play for the national teams play for something larger than themselves, and it seems to motivate them to give their all to win.

Rugby is fun to watch, and it has broadened my horizons. It illustrates to me the good of both nationalism and globalism.


2 Replies to “Nationalism, Globalism, and Rugby”

  1. Wes,

    Your latest blog on rugby, nationalism, globalism was so interesting! Thanks! On a sideline, I’m sure you’ve been to Rugby, TN…if not, do it with the family!
    It’s a wonderful bit of our history… wrapped around rugby, the old country…and a “new start” in the new world that now is part of our history. Such an interesting bit of our nation!

  2. Thanks, Mary! I have not visited Rugby yet, but I will be sure to do so! Thanks for the tip.

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