I know nothing about Rugby, other than their labyrinthine one-way system ensures that first time visitors to the town get at least three passes by its famous school, before they’re allowed to pick a direction that involves leaving Rugby behind.
It was at that very school, the story goes, that rugby, the game, was invented when, during a game of football, one of the players picked up the ball and ran with it (literally and metaphorically).
Could you have a better metaphor for the underlying causes of the current rugby battle – about whether trans women should be allowed to play women’s rugby – than that of an immature, privileged young man deciding that he could unilaterally change the rules of the game on the fly?
History, at least as far as I know it and can be bothered to research it (i.e. not at all), is silent on whether picking up the ball was the only change in that match. Were all the rules of rugby, which I understand to be quite different to football, made up in that game, on the fly, to suit the ball-handler?
“I say, Jenkins, can I throw the ball to Smythe Minor?”
“No! You have to throw it to me! ME!”
“But Smythe’s a lot near the goal.”
“I WANT THE BA…I mean, in this game you can only throw the ball backwards“Scenes from the first rugby match
“Haha, you’ve booted it over the bar, Jenkins, you idiot.”
“That’s what we have to do in this game, get it over the bar.”
“Riiiiiight. And that’s not because you’re a useless striker?”
“I no longer identify as a striker. You have to call me a hooker.”
“We already do, Jenkins.”Scenes from the first rugby match
Obviously the other players thought the whole thing had potential, or there wouldn’t be a whole other class of sporting knowledge for me to be rubbish at in the pub quiz. I can certainly image the people on the same team as the guy was making up these new rules were generally well-disposed to it, that being the kind of thing that tends to lend your team an advantage. The other team, though, how did they feel?
“HOI! JENKINS, YOU TWAT! PUT THE FUCKING BALL DOWN, YOU’RE RUINING THE GAME!”
“Oh, leave him alone. This new carrying-the-ball thing looks a lot more exciting than boring old football.”
“He’s just grabbed Fossington’s legs! Look at that! He’s gone and properly sent him arse-over-tit!”
“Well, can you blame him, with people like you shouting abuse and accusations at him?”Scenes from the first rugby match
Whatever that first game played out like, and heaven knows I’m not going to look to find out, what does seem to have been decided fairly quickly is that it wasn’t football. People who wanted to take part in football weren’t suddenly told that they not had to change the rules, to accommodate this new holding-the-ball lot.
“Tell you what, Jenkins, that new game you invented was quite good fun. We should do football in Tuesday games and this new Rugby-football in Thursday games.”
“No! Just no! From now on we only play my rules! Every time! Everybody!”
“Steady on, old boy, a few of us chaps still enjoy a bit of kicking football.”
“Bigots! Why are you trying to erase my existence! I have a human right to sports!”Scenes from (shortly after) the first rugby match
Maybe there’s some sort of lesson there. A lesson about not trying to replace something that already exists with something where you’re the one making up the rules.
Or maybe it’s just a load of balls. Who knows?