It’s been an interesting week. Â I was saddened to hear that Hall of Fame baseball player, Harmon Killebrew died Tuesday at the age of 74 of cancer. Â Killebrew played for the Minnesota Twins in the 1960s and 1970s. Â When he retired, he had hit more home runs in the American League than anyone except Babe Ruth. Â I’m too young to have seen him play, but my dad told me he was the “Stormin Mormon.” Â ESPN has some nice stories about Killebrew.
I was also saddened to learn that Margo Dydek suffered a heart attack on Thursday at age 37. Â There aren’t many women I look up to, but at 7 foot 2 inches, Margo is definitely one of them! Â I was a freelance sports writer, and covered the Utah Starzz back in the 1990’s when Margo played for the team. Â Margo was a very nice, shy person to talk to. Â She was born in Poland, and most recently coached in Australia. Â Apparently she is in a medically induced coma in a Brisbane hospital. Â I’m afraid of how things will turn out for her, and pray for a speedy recovery.
On a brighter note, I worked on the tv crew for the National Championships in Rugby on Saturday. Â If you don’t want a spoiler, stop reading now.ESPN broadcast the National Championship game between BYU and Cal on ESPN, and is re-broadcasting the game on ESPNU on Sunday morning at 8 AM (I believe that is Mountain Time), so you’re welcome to watch it. Â It is kind of a cross between football, basketball, and soccer, and there are some quite interesting strategies and rules that seem very foreign to football.
Before the college game started, the high school national championship was played between Highland High School and a team from Alpine, Utah called United Rugby. Â Highland Rugby was featured in the film Forever Strong, and it’s a great movie. Â Larry Gelwix is the coach, and the movie is based on a bunch of composite stories that Larry is familiar with over his 36 year coaching career. Â I highly recommend the movie.
The game was a rematch of last year’s game in which United Rugby beat Highland. Â This time, Highland won the rematch, and Larry took home his 20th national championship. Â He also announced on ESPNU that he was retiring, and was glad to win his final match. Â I watched the first half of the game, and was glad one of the guys on the tv crew knew the rules and strategy. Â It’s the first rugby game I have ever watched, so I thought I would share a few rules.
In football, each side plays with 11 men. Â In rugby, there are 15 and they play without pads or helmets. Â The ball is shaped like an oversize football. Â The oddest thing occurred at the very beginning of the game. Â United kicked off to Highland in a manner quite similar to a football game. Â The Highland player caught the ball, ran a few feet, and then kicked it back the other way! Â I was quite shocked. Â Field position is very important, so when you’re deep in your own territory, it is common to get the ball upfield to prevent the other team from getting a field position advantage.
A “touchdown” is worth 5 points and is called a “try.” Â The score doesn’t count until the scoring team places the ball on the ground in the end zone. Â After the score, they get to kick the ball through the uprights in a manner similar to football, but the “extra point” is worth 2 points. Â When a team scores a “try”, Â the location of the ball in the end zone is very important. Â The ball is brought back approximately 30 feet, and the “extra point” is attempted. Â There can be some really tough angles, so if it is a tough angle, the “extra point” is no guarantee.
If there is a penalty, a team may choose to kick off a tee (like a field goal) for 3 points. Â Like football, it is hard to see the penalties. Â There are infractions and penalties, but I can’t remember the difference. Â Some penalties result in a scrum, which is kind of like a “jump ball” in basketball. Â About 7-8 guys line up against each other, a team-mate rolls the ball in, and each team tries to kick it backwards to a team-mate. Â Unlike football, forward passes are illegal. Â The ball can be lateralled back to another team mate. Â You can advance the ball forward by running. Â If a guy is tackled, he sets the ball on the ground. Â A teammate picks up the ball, starts running (like a quarterback sneak) or laterals the ball to someone else. Â Play continues until the ball is dropped forward, or other penalty. Â Fumbles are frequent. Â Rugby is a much more fluid game like basketball–there are no huddles slowing the game down. Â After a tackle, a team can start playing quickly, or take a little time to set up a play.
In football, you have 4 downs to make 10 yards, but there are no such limits in rugby. Â You can be tackled a bunch of times for a gain or loss and it doesn’t matter. Â If a lateralled ball is dropped forward, that is called a “knock”. Â Play stops and I think a scrum is called. Â If your team has the ball deep in your own territory, you generally want to kick the ball down field to get better field position. Â Balls that go out of bounds have a throw-in like soccer. Â On throw-ins, it is common for 2 players to lift a teammate in the air toÂ receiveÂ the ball.
In high school, there are two 35-minute halves. Â The clock counts up (instead of down) and never stops even for injuries. Â When it reaches 35, the referee can add a few minutes, similar to “stoppage time” in soccer. Â In college, the halves are 40 minutes. Â I really enjoyed the game, and it was fun to learn.
The college game was another rematch. Â Cal and BYU have met in the finals for 6 consecutive years, with BYU’s only win coming in 2009. Â BYU was undefeated at 15-0 going into the match, while Cal was 28-0. Â BYU beat Arkansas State last week to reach the finals, while Cal beat Utah. Â (I’m sure there are plenty of Highland and United Rugby players on both BYU and Utah’s roster.) Â Cal had won 21 national championships going into the match.
BYU dominated the first 20 minutes or so of the game, but couldn’t score. Â Cal scored first, jumping to a 10 point lead before BYU finally got on the board, cutting it to 10-7. Â Cal scored on a penalty kick going into halftime, making the score 13-7.
Following a short 10-minute halftime, Cal scored a “field goal” (they call it something else) and a try to make it 21-7. Â BYU responded with a try and 2 point conversion to cut it to 21-14, but could not score again in the final 10 minutes. Â It was a real fun game to watch. Â I was glad to learn many rules and strategy from a guy on the tv crew. Â If you have a chance to go to a rugby game, I highly recommend it!