Tuesday, May 15, 2007

More Manny fall-out

Manny Castillo update archive:
Friday May 11
Saturday May 12
Monday May 14

Well, it's started: the well-intentioned finger-wagging editorials and commentaries, like this one by Lee Prokaska in yersterdays' Hamilton Spectator ("No game is worth dying for") that assumes the very worst of the police charges of aggravated assault leading to death.

Without any additional informatiion -- and that includes the match officials report and a comment from Rugby Canada -- I still cannot walk as far as to believe this is a straight story of assault that has so-far been made public. It could be true, but I can't operate from the assumption, not when the hearsay and eyewitness accounts are filled with all sorts of trap-doors and viable escape-hatches.

Sarnia sports blogger Jim Miller has just posted an interview he conducted with Eric Clarke, head coach of the Sarnia Saints senior A and B rugby teams, and a part-time referee for Lambton Secondary Schools Athletic Association games. Clarke echoes the feelings of rugby fans everywhere, telling Miller, “Obviously I’m very sad for the family and so is the entire rugby community.”

But like myself, Clarke is wary about accepting everything he's read about the eyewitness reports:

“I’ve read a lot on the incident and there could be some misconceptions." [...]

Clarke didn’t see the game and his knowledge is strictly from the various news outlets. It will be the job of the authorities to sift through the many variations of the story and Clarke said the possible scenarios are endless.

Clarke admits rugby is often a tough sell ... [and] still a sport which is misunderstood, especially in Ontario.

This is due, in part, to the fact it’s not on television and it receives very little press attention. [...]

“The lack of (media) coverage used to really bug me,” said Clarke. “It doesn’t any more. What bugs me is the misconceptions. We hear it’s a rough, barbaric game because we don’t wear any equipment. There are actually fewer injuries than football because we’re taught to tackle properly and respect opponents." [...]

“I wish I could just sit everyone down who doesn’t understand the game, hold a clinic, answer questions and say ‘this is the way it is’.”

Source: Jim Miller Sports.

Similarly, Al Charron tells the Globe and Mail:

The death yesterday of 15-year-old Mississauga high-school student Manny Castillo was a shock to the entire rugby community, Mr. Charron said. The sport has a rough, tough reputation, but he says it has a core of etiquette that is at odds with the details reported about the fatal incident at Lorne Park Secondary School. [...]

"Players pick each other up off the field. What [bitterness] happens on the field is forgotten. I can't think of a game that hasn't ended with both sides shaking hands."

He said that like hockey and baseball, rugby has its code, but it is not a code of retaliation.

Hockey and baseball codes are infamous for their eye-for-an-eye philosophy. If a batter is beaned by a pitcher, the players on the offending team know they are fair game to be hit by a pitch the next time they bat.

If one hockey coach sends out a goon to brawl or bully a star on the opposing team, the adversary coach usually matches brawn with brawn.

"Rugby has a reputation for violent collisions, but rugby's not a sport for cheap shots," Mr. Charron said.

"If someone got me, I'd want to get him back with a good, hard tackle.

"When I heard about what happened in Mississauga, it struck me that it was an incident that could have happened in any sport or activity. My heart goes out to the family of the boy who died -- and to the other boy, who, I'm sure, never in his life thought someone would die.

"It wasn't a rugby play, but something that happened between two players afterwards. But what people will remember and attach to the incident is the rugby connection. It will feed a stereotype that it's a violent game and that will affect the sport, take it a couple of steps backward.

"Why did it have to be rugby?"


The Globe and Mail article continues:

Rugby Canada spokesman Nick Taylor says the popularity of the sport has grown -- though the installation of a new registration system makes it hard to track exactly the rate of growth.

Around 32,000 adult rugby players have been registered over the past three years.

About 20,000 of them play in a given season, and others sit out due to injuries or pregnancies.

The sport is even bigger at the high school and postsecondary level, Mr. Taylor says. School players are not registered with the national rugby body but with their local school conferences.

Mr. Taylor says there are an estimated 35,000 high-school players on boys and girls teams, and another 5,000 to 7,000 at the university level.

Brian Lynch, president of the British Columbia Secondary School Rugby Union, says the participation in the sport has "climbed dramatically.

"It's larger than football now."

There are more than 200 boys and girls high-school teams across the province.

"The game is safer and the referees and officials make safety paramount in the game," Mr. Lynch said yesterday.

"What you don't have control over, however, are reactions.''


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