Testosterone and Tests: Why You Should Be a Fan of Rugby and Cricket
When you talk about international sports, soccer is almost always part of the conversation. Why not? It is practically a religion in many countries. Head to Brazil or Argentina or anywhere in South America, for that matter, and you will see that soccer is seen as a life-or-death event, not a mere game.
Is soccer exciting? Sure, you might get caught up in the spirit of things if you are actually at a stadium watching two bitter rival clubs face off. But how much flopping around on the ground every time someone from the opposing team lays a finger on you can a spectator take. I won`t argue that soccer isn`t a sport filled with great athletic feats and extremely skilled players. I won`t even argue that seeing a goal scored isn`t exciting. It`s just that I think that there are other sports out there, international sports (i.e. ones not popular on US soil) that are better, from a spectator`s standpoint, than soccer.
Which sports beat the world`s favorite sport in terms of excitement? Rugby and cricket. The case for the bone-crunching sport of rugby is more obvious than cricket, but bear with me.
The image that most people have of rugby is of the scrum. This only occurs when the two teams biggest players try to push each other off the ball so that smaller, swifter players can pick it up and begin the play. So yes, there are toothless giants locked at the shoulders, trying to push each other down, but that is only a fraction of the game. A majority of the action takes place in the open field. There are plenty of brutal hits, just like in the NFL. The difference with rugby is that the players don`t wear pads, aside from an optional head protector that resembles a cloth version of a 1940s American football leather helmet. The no-pads thing fits well with the natural, primal vibe that rugby has. It`s a man`s game in the truest sense: it`s about finding out who`s faster and stronger and who can dish out more violence and intimidation.
The national team of New Zealand, called the All Blacks because of the color of their uniform, even go as far as performing the haka, a traditional Maori war dance, before kick-off in order to intimidate their opponents. I challenge you to find a team sport with more testosterone.
Cricket is the polar opposite of rugby. Most people would probably classify it as a gentleman`s sport, along with the likes of golf, and perhaps tennis and lawn bowling. Sound like a good time?
Playing cricket, like playing baseball, is never fun. That is unless you are ten years old, getting paid to play, or drunk. But the spectator aspect of cricket has its attraction. The level of attraction depends on what part of the world you are watching cricket in and who you are watching it with. Cricket is not a sport you`d watch on TV. It is best viewed live.
The game can be exceedingly slow (think baseball with only two bases, longer innings, no gloves and no foul lines), but the scene in the spectator areas more than makes up for the snooze-inducing action on the field.
Luckily, for residents of the US, the best place to watch cricket is in the Caribbean (that`s much closer than more staid cricket hotspots like England, Australia and India). People from the West Indies are crazy about cricket. Not crazy like soccer fans, who ignore everything but what is happening on the pitch. A Cricket match (known as a test when played on the international level) in Antigua or Jamaica or Barbados is akin to a good, days-long party. The alcohol flows freely, there are drum beats and music, and people don`t just cheer, they dance. When the top team from the West Indies (a team comprised of the best players from 8 Caribbean island nations) plays, there are an inordinate amount of comely female fans among the spectators. Everyone is loose, dividing their attention between the game and the stands. Alcohol, women, and a laid back atmosphere: what else do you want in your sport?
India is currently trying to capture that same party atmosphere in its newly minted Indian Premiere League. They went as far as inviting the Washington Redskins cheerleaders to perform at a match in Bangalore. Locally staffed cheerleading squads are in the works. Still, cricket is generally droller in India than in the Caribbean.
So there you have it. If you are a fan of short shorts and frequent flops, soccer is probably still your game. But if you prefer a team sport that`s big on testosterone and short on protective equipment, rugby is a much better option. And if you think it should actually be fun to be a spectator, cricket in the Caribbean, despite the boring, incomprehensible nature of the game itself, is more than worth the admission fee.
About Josh Lew Josh Lew lives in the Midwestern US when he is not traveling. He is a columnist for Gadling and has contributed to Hackwriters and Skive Magazine.