Monday, 16 May 2005

The Knuckle-Draggers of League

Bob Jones once suggested that if you locked half-a-dozen of the world's geniuses in a room for a day and instructed them to devise a game for morons, the game they would emerge with is rugby league. Rugby league is a game that makes no demands from the neck up, which is why knuckle-dragging cretins like this can understand it, and why Queenslanders love it.

Rugby league and Queensland were made for each other: they go together like an air-conditioned bar goes with sports on the big screen -- and the ideal game for that big screen is rugby league. It's the game you pay to watch when you don't want to pay attention. Rugby league is not a game that repays close attention.

Which is why rugby league is not just the ideal game for both Queenslanders and morons, it's also the ideal game for TV. Can you see a pattern emerging here? The league field is fortuitously TV-screen-shaped; teams line up in closely-bunched groups opposite each other, and then take turns running at each other. Simple to understand. No more than four of five people are generally involved at any one time, so the camera can focus on the 'big hits' in blood-dripping, knuckle-grinding detail. Human drama. And the game goes in five-tackle-and-a-kick bursts, so you know what's going to happen next. Nothing much.

Which is the problem, really, for anyone with pretensions to using that grey stuff above the neckline. In the eighty minutes of a league game there's seventy-odd minutes of league action, but only one or two minutes from each game are worth lighting the candle for. Which is why the ideal way to watch league is with a beer in front of a TV highlights package -- all the weekend's action brought to you in one big hit, and most of it bypassing completely the conceptual parts of the brain and going straight to the knuckle-dragging portion of the cortex.

At least with rugby league you get nearly eighty minutes of game time. League's older cousin, rugby union, faces the problem that of eighty minutes of a game no more than thirty of those minutes are spent actually paying rugby -- fewer if England is one of the teams -- but of those thirty a full five to six of those are watchable -- or less, if England is playing.

This is still a better ratio than soccer however, of which in ninety minutes of game-time none at all is worth watching unless a goal is scored, and as 0-0 draws seem to be the most common soccer result it's little wonder then that instead of watching the game most fans spend their time throttling Belgians. A typical highlights package for soccer involves five minutes of Goals of the Week, fifteen minutes of interviews, and ten minutes of terrace action. Which helps explain the lingering popularity of Eric Cantona, since he had a talent for all three.

Which brings me to AFL. AFL produces athletes of tremendous strategic ability and great physical skill who can think on their feet and run a half-marathon in a game; a100 minute game of AFL offers over ninety minutes of action, and none of it knuckle-dragging -- after all, the knuckles are needed for other things.

Pity the game is near-unwatchable on TV.

Please visit the other members of the Creamy Latte Club, for which this week I am a guest writer, for their views on Rugby: the Ultimate Knuckle-Draggers Sport. TinCanMan, Chaos Theory, Vile File and Wired JAFA.


  1. It surprises me that rugby is seen as elitist in the UK. Soccer is the sports equivalent of those celebrity dancing shows I guess ;-)

    As TCM said - we are honoured (or he was anyhow - heh :-))) to have you post on this.

  2. I am, I am. Now if I could scrape together the IQ to make sense of AFL I could die a happy man.

  3. I now consider myself better educated - I'd always wondered what was the difference between league and union - apart from the sleeveless thing. Now I know.

    I'm still sticking to tiddlywinks ;-)

  4. Just have to share a personal quote on AFL:

    "Aussie Rules is a bunch of australian men in short shorts, pairing off around the field and grabbing each other when the ball comes near them"



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