Thanks to both Jenna and Jessa for passing this on … the letter to the editor from the New York Rugby Club in response to the article “Is Rugby A Sport?” (blogged earlier this week here):
To whom it may concern,
I submit this letter (both in text below and attached as a word document) on behalf of the New York Rugby Club as a response to the sports column that ran in the Nov 29 issue of the New York Press – http://www.nypress.com/19/48/sports/sullandholl.cfm
The NYRC has been very happy with our growing relationship with the NY Press – the recent insert for the New York 7s Tournament in the Nov 22 issue being a prime example of how your paper and our Club have been able to work well together. Hopefully, articles such as the one written by Sullivan and Hollander are not representative of the views of the NY Press as a whole.
Director – NYRC
A 1000-word article ran in a large news publication in NYC this week that was 100% dedicated to rugby.
Normally, this would be great PR news for a sport which, despite a long and storied history in the United States and New York City, occasionally seems a bit invisible in the face of all of the football, baseball, basketball, and hockey (not to mention soccer, track & field, golf, tennis, etc.) going on in this town. So for the more than three thousand of us who live and work in the greater NY metropolitan area and call ourselves rugby players, we celebrate nearly any mention of our game that makes it out to the general media.
But not this one.
Perhaps it goes without saying, but rugby players truly love the game. When someone takes a swipe at it, no matter how ignorant that swipe may be, we tend to want to stand up for our sport and hit back. But, as the authors of the article in question pointed out, we are all a bunch of “prep school types”, so we at least will try to be intelligent about the process.
To start off, let’s have a look at the writers. A short search on Google reveals that this is something that C.J. Sullivan and Dave Hollander do on a regular basis: pick a sport, most likely not one of the big four (i.e.: football, baseball, basketball, and hockey), grab a catchy tag line such as “Is ‘X’ a sport?”, and then proceed to make sophomoric and uninformed comments about the game in question to make themselves sound witty. So okay – this is the brand of “sports journalism” we are dealing with. Fair enough. At least they are consistent.
Are we saying that rugby should be exempt from their attentions? Absolutely not; it is the nature of our game and those of us who play it that we can take a hit and get right up again and keep playing. However, we do ask that those who publicly scorn our sport at least make an attempt to get their facts straight. After all, as mentioned at the beginning, rugby can seem invisible in the popular media; any article that makes its way out there will be by definition a large share of the message reaching the general populace, and it would be irresponsible in the extreme to allow the uneducated ramblings of these two to be the only story.
So we would like to try and clear up the confusion on Sullivan and Hollander’s part – one would think that as journalists they would make even a cursory attempt to educate themselves about any topic they cover. But if they choose not to, then that task falls to us. If Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Hollander would like further clarification on any points, the officers and board of the New York Rugby Club cordially invite them to attend a practice session as our special guests at any time. We’ll even take it down a notch to make sure everyone can keep up. Please contact us at newyorkrugby.com to take us up on the offer.
The writers expound on many common, but substantially flawed, notions about rugby. Principally they seem to think that rugby in the US is played only by a few drunken frat boys who are intent on using the game as an excuse to hit each other.
In fact, there are over 66,000 registered rugby players in the USA playing across youth, high school, collegiate, club, and master’s levels. Approximately 25% are girls and women. There are over 3,000 registered players and 78 teams in the NY Metropolitan area alone. Our local area of play here in MetNY includes at least 6 separate divisions of competition beyond the collegiate ranks, plus All-Star teams who compete against other regions of the country. And while it would be disingenuous to claim that nobody’s ever mixed beer and rugby, please show me a team of any kind that does not have a party after a game or otherwise socialize off the field.
Again, these are all very common misconceptions of the game of rugby, and we are happy to enlighten.
However, the claim made about rugby and its lack of athleticism is incomprehensible. Sullivan and Hollander state that “The [rugby] contest appears to deemphasize any demonstrations of the athletic skill at its higher levels. Speed and dexterity seem nonexistent. Rugby has only the rudiments of sport…. It’s as if a sub-human species lacking opposable thumbs created a game about moving a ball forward.”
First to address the relative merits of a game whose goal is to move a ball forward…I guess they’re not big fans of football, basketball or soccer either? Come to think of it, maybe that’s the problem….they don’t like sports at all? It all becomes clear now.
But much more importantly, based on their statements, one has to assume that the authors have never actually watched a game….and most definitely not at the “higher levels” they speak about. One might as well claim that the iron-man triathlon is not a test of endurance, or that football favors the small, weak, and slow. To get an idea of the type of athleticism required to play rugby at its highest levels, start out with an elite soccer player. Think of their speed and footwork skills. Now add the ball skills of a top basketball player or football quarterback. Then add in the ability to make and take an open field tackle, similar to football, except instead of play stopping after the hit, the players get right back to their feet to compete for the ball and keep playing. Combine all of this into eighty minutes of play with no such thing as a time-out, and you might begin to see what it takes to play rugby.
If the writers are still skeptical, I reiterate our invitation to attend a practice session with the New York Rugby Club and then write another article about rugby. We can even arrange for it to be a non-tackle practice if that is more in keeping with their comfort level – no hard feelings.
Jessa Giordano – Director, New York Rugby Club – firstname.lastname@example.org
Approved by the Board of Directors of the New York Rugby Club, Inc.
David Levine – President – email@example.com
So, anyone want to wager on if the two writers will show up for practice?
And if you wanted to write in to the editor of NY Press, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.