The Age-Old Question

Toughest player: rugby or football?  Oh come on, you weren’t expecting something amazingly philosophical were you? It’s Saturday for goodness sake.  Not exactly a required thinking day.    And besides, the Superbowl is tomorrow after all…I figure it’s time to stir the pot about one of our national past-times.

I’ll readily admit that I’m not much of a sports fan. You’ll never see me with my face painted in the stands or praying to the sports gods for a certain team to be victorious over another. It’s just not that important to me. To each their own. I doubt I’ll watch the Superbowl, but if I do watch, it would be more for the commercials than the game.  I do know a few things about sports though, enough to follow whatever game is on.

I’ve always been aware of how “tough” people in the United States think football players are. Now, before I go any further, I will say that I’m 100% positive that every single football player in the NFL probably has a higher pain tolerance than I do. That’s sort of expected when their chosen line of work includes getting hit by 300lb men on a regular basis.   Although I have given birth.  Twice.  For whatever that’s worth in the pain comparison arena.

Anyway, rugby happened to be on t.v. last week which is kind of an odd occurrence around here and it got me thinking about the varying levels of athletic “toughness” that exist on a global scale. I have to say that I’m definitely on the side of rugby when it comes to ranking the most batshit crazy and physically impervious athletes.  This is meant as a compliment.  Rugby players are impressive.  And they work their magic for a hell of a lot less than NFL players.

And let’s face it, the NFL is governed by so many rules that it’s often referred to as the “No Fun League” because of all the safety measures that must be followed.  See?  Told you I knew something about sports.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for player safety. I’m just saying that rugby players could be considered a good bit tougher than NFL players.  I mean they have to be.  They don’t have to deal with the same stringent discipline standards…. not to mention way less protective gear and pads for bodily preservation.

Rugby has a well-documented rogue’s gallery of dirty tactics and deceptive moves that are downright appalling, yet the players going into the game fully expect them to happen.  And boy do they make the game interesting!  Ever heard of bag snatching? It’s when a player has his testicles yanked in the scrum. How about gouging? That’s when one player pushes his thumb as far into the eye of an opponent as possible. According to UK’s Telegraph there have even been reports of penis biting made. These barbaric acts are so common they have names associated with them – how cool is that!?  Oh…umm… I mean, how horrible is that!?  And all of this while sustaining tackles that our players would never dream of enduring without major padding.  I can definitely see why rugby is a popular sport….just not so much here in the US.

For my money, any game where a player can expect to get kicked in the head and has to wear covers over his ears just so they don’t get torn off is the tops when it comes to “toughness.” Would our NFL players with all their pads stripped away and nothing to shield them from a hulking mass of a rabid New Zealander bearing down on them with bloodlust in his eyes still want to compete? I don’t think so.  But if that does ever happen, I think I’ll finally tune in to watch some sports.