Fighting in Rugby
Someone once asked me what it means to be a professional. To me it’s all about removing the emotion of a moment and focusing entirely on the task at hand. A professional is a person who can separate their instinctual responses from their intellectual reasoning and not let anything keep them from making decisions based on reason instead of emotion. On the rugby pitch that means blocking out the crowds, the rain, the bad ref calls, the opponent’s trash talking, and simply focusing on giving it your all to win the game.
It means not fighting. Rugby is an intense game that involves the crashing of bodies into one another and the complete disregard for personal space. It frequently involves tapping into our primal sides and finding the strength to power through a line. When you’re on the ground with another player or two on top of you, it can be the most personal of sports. Yet it’s one of the few sports that removes the personal aspect and is just a game when the final whistle blows.
So there I was at the end of a game when two dudes decide to throw down over something fairly petty (one called the other a liar). I dove in to break it up and when the combatants were finally separated I was cheap shotted in the eye. I was pissed, but kept my cool and walked to my sideline while the belligerents continued to bitch at each other separated by a few dudes. It was ugly and not something we want or need in the sport.
I could have retaliated against the dude who cheap shotted me, but reason got the better of me. After all, the rugby pitch is not the octagon or the hockey rink. It's the place you resist those temptations to resort to violence and deny your urge to fight or for that matter, argue with the referee. You show respect and humility because it’s a gentleman’s game with a longstanding tradition of restraint. It's one of the many reasons rugby forges good people and the camaraderie it builds is a cornerstone of this old sport.
Ruggers who play through anything without being phased are the hallmarks of this game. The ref, the other team, the rowdy fan that heckles them cannot affect their game. They don't complain, make excuses, or take things personally. They don’t talk smack or throw fists because they’re what rugby most desperately needs…professionals.
The worst part of fighting on the pitch is that it only hurts your team. If you lose your cool and take a swing at someone to satisfy your own personal blood vendetta, it’s your team that suffers when they’re having to play a man down.
And then there’s the respect factor. Take a swing at someone and you’re marked with the scarlet letter of disrespect by everyone, including your own teammates. You’ve just told the world that you can’t control yourself and had to resort to violence.
Some will say it’s ironic that a company with Sin Bin in its name is commenting on fighting, but in fact the opposite is true. The Sin Bin was originally intended to be a place where players would settle their differences without slowing down the game. It was a place where two guys could man up and fight it out without outside interference.
Maybe we need to bring that back.