Pardon The Interruption
Open letter to Dan Le Batard, Miami Herald:
Earlier this past week on Pardon The Interruption, you debated with Michael Wilbon, arguing that rugby players are not as tough as NFL players.
I suppose it depends on your definition of "toughness" -- you seemed to have it confused with "size" -- but Wilbon was right.
Sure, NFL players are much bigger. Certainly the linemen.
But rugby players play both ways. They don't have multiple rotational substitution. They don't have time-outs. They don't run to the sidelines inhaling pure oxygen as if they just swam the Gulf of Mexico. Rugby Players play a full game, tackling, running the ball, scrummaging, kicking, fielding kicks, and more. They have to do all that whilst thinking on their feet.
Rugby players don't take breaks looking to the sideline for plays drawn up by coaches -- they are obliged to make decisions spontaneously. That's mental toughness, not hiding behind a coach to do the thinking for them.
Rugby doesn't have special "wimp" rules to protect quarterbacks, punters and place-kickers. And, as Wilbon rightly points out, rugby players don't wear helmets.
Now, as to that size argument... can you imagine Tony Siragusa or Warren Sapp running off their feet for 80 minutes, no timeouts, no TV breaks? Be honest.
Can you imagine the Gramatica brothers being "tough" enough to covert touchdowns and then make defensive goalline stands? (If you watched Martina's lameass girlie block on Jordan Babineaux on the blown field-goal at the end of the Seahawks-Cowboys playoff game last year, your answer would have to be a resounding "Not on your bloody life!!")
The average size of an international rugby forward is 6'3" and 245 lbs. That's about the size of Junior Seau. Less you need reminding, Seau is a pretty tough customer, who can hit pretty hard. He's like the NFL equivalent of the All Blacks' Jerry Collins, one of rugby's biggest hitters and a fellow Samoan. But Collins doesn't wear a helmet! Perhaps you have noticed the extraordinary number of Polynesians who play in the NFL, punching way above their weight. (The Steelers Troy Polamalu, another "Samoan" and one of the NFL's biggest hitters, weighs less than 210 lbs!). What's the percentage of Polynesians living in the United States? Yet, what's the comparative percentage of Polynesians that play in the NFL and NCAA football? Do the math. They are hard-nosed tough customers, and most of the ones that still actually live in Polynesia (Samoans, Tongans, Maoris) play the sport of rugby.
Another comparison: The average rugby forward is about 10-15 lbs heavier than NHLers like Bob Probert, Eric Lindros and John LeClair, all three considered "big men" and tough imposing physical characters in that sport. Scott Stevens weighed only 215 pounds -- you gonna dare to say that hard hittin' sonuvabitch ain't tough?
Yes, rugby has it's share of smaller skill players, similar to NFL special-team greats Steve Tasker and Billy Bates, another pair of pocket battleships. Size ain't everything! Indeed, every time a rugby team trots a Sumo wrestler onto the field, they quickly find those big men can't cut the stamina for twenty minutes, to say nothing of finishing a complete eighty minutes. If you can grasp why NFL coaches don't send players like Larry Allen onto the playing field to receive punts, you're taking baby steps to learn the sport of rugby.
I could go on, but I'll spare you the slapdown. If you'd like to know more, be sure to bookmark the rugby blog and I'll set you right.
Aside from all that, I think you're a pretty entertaining guy, and hope you get your own TV show some day.
C.c. Mr. Michael Wilbon