Monday, January 19, 2009

Under the Hammer

Via Viz at USRRF:

All-Star Studded Team-Signed Barbarians Jersey on the Auction Block

The 22 signatures are from some of the greatest players in the game today. Richie McCaw, George Gregan, John Smit, Bryan Habana, and IRB Player of the Year, Shane Williams, are just some of the names that adorn this beautiful, mint-condition Barbarians jersey.

Donated to the US Rugby Football Foundation by Micky Steele-Bodger, President of the Barbarian Football Club, this very unique piece of rugby memorabilia is a must have for the passionate rugby fan.

"We are very honored to have such a piece of rugby treasure donated to the Foundation," said USRFF Executive Director Brian Vizard. "This could possibly be the most star-studded team ever assembled. Combined there are over 1,000 caps between the 22 players on this Barbarians side. The Foundation thanks Micky and the Barbarians in helping us raise funds for our youth programs."

Photos, a more detailed description of the jersey and more information about this Barbarians side and their match against Australia can be found on eBay, item #180320973308. The bidding will conclude at 10:00 a.m. (PST) on Sunday, January 25, 2009.

Signature list:

John Smit
Richie McCaw
George Gregan
Percy Montgomery
Shane Williams
Joe Rokocoko
Rico Gear
Ollie Smith
Francois Steyn
Jean de Villiers
Bryan Habana
Fourie du Preez
Federico Pucciariello
Rodney Blake
Nick Koster
Cencus Johnston
Mark Regan
Bakkies Botha
Johann Muller
Chris Jack
Jerry Collins
Schalk Burger
Jake White (coach)
Eddie Jones (asst. coach)

Friday, January 09, 2009

"Scrums" getting a bad rap

I love the English language, and not simply because it's the only one I can converse. I find it both remarkable and wonderful how the English language adapts, invents and evolves the way we speak and the words we employ.

Nevertheless, that doesn't prevent me - lifelong rugby fanatic - from getting annoyed whenever the language is bastardized and bowlderized.

A long-standing pet peeve of mine is the North American usage of the word "scrum."

I don't particularly mind when political reporters employ the word on Parliament Hill, referring to informal press scrambles in the parliamentary corridors with reporters and elected politicians, but it's tiresome hearing the usage being mis-applied by athletes and analysts in the sporting arena.

During last nights' fiery NHL game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens, Sportsnet announcers Joe Bowen and Greg Millen repeatedly referred to testosterone-fuelled players shoving one another as "scrums." Both used the noun as a verb over a dozen times.

Over the past few years I have heard similar mis-use from former NFL players and current TV announcers Dan Dierdorf, Troy Aikman, Steve Tasker and Phil Simms, whenever a loose ball or "breakdown" occurs.

Since rugby union was a progenitor and advent to both ice hockey and American football, I'd like to call a time-out. I don't enjoy Quebecois-style language police, but as a Quixotian rugby fan it's time to apply a headlock and set the record straight.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, a "scrum" is the name of the formation when rugby forwards "form a pack."

The entry for "scrum" in the Online Etymology Dictionary says:

Abbreviation of scrummage, a variant form of scrimmage (q.v.).

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary explains:
Main Entry: scrum
Pronunciation: \ˈskrəm\
Function: noun
Etymology: short for scrummage, alteration of scrimmage
Date: 1857
1 aor scrum·mage \ˈskrə-mij\ : a rugby play in which the forwards of each side come together in a tight formation and struggle to gain possession

wikipedia further clarifies:
A rugby union scrum consists of two team's eight forwards, with each team binding together in three rows.

The two forward packs form a scrum by approaching to within an arms length of each other. The referee gives the command crouch and the opposing front rows then crouch. Then the referee calls touch and props touch the opposites outside shoulder. The referee then issues the pause command to inspect the scrum, and lastly engage and the two front rows come together.

The American football snap and scrimmage (later adopted by Canadian football) were all derivatives of the early scrummage, and responsive in different ways to problems encountered in the way the rules regarding it were written and administered.

The word "scrummage" is a modification of "scrimmage" (the form of the word previously used in rugby and still used in American and Canadian football), which in turn derives from or is a cognate of "skirmish". The term was used in the laws of rugby union for a long time before being permanently contracted to just "scrum".

The keywords here are "formation," "binding" and "command."

Look at top at the Leafs vs. Canadiens photo again ... and ask yourself if anything remotely resembles a game re-start, or looks like a "line of scrimmage" with a "formation" of players "binding" according to the instructions of the referees' "command."

Sorry, you can't.

For rugby players and supporters, the language for anarchic pushing-and-shoving imbroglios like the Leafs 'n Habs dance above are typically referred to as "niggle," "biff," "fracas" or -- best of all -- "swinging handbags." Bowen and Millen would be better served using any of those, or (as above) use the original etymology and go back to "skirmish." Whatever, stop calling it a scrum.

To afficianados of rugby union, the scrum is a re-start of beauty ~ a controlled architectural life-force of organized teamwork that is unique to the sporting universe.

The scrum is passion and power combined with technique and finely tuned coordination.

(Photo - UWO vs. WLU varsity rugby. Credit: Jose Lagman. See more of Lagman's rugby pics at Rugby Canada.)

Listening to NHL and NFL colour commentators repeatedly misusing the word "scrum" sounds as dumbass as calling a hockey "penalty box" an "on-deck circle."

Which is to say, it looks & sounds foolishly ignorant and makes absolutely no historical or logical sense whatsoever.

Time for the professional "communications specialists" to brush-up on their communications skills and speak the language correctly.

Or is that too much to ask?

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Ulstermen "devastate" Munster

Magner's League interjection:

Ulster became the first Irish team to beat Munster at Thomond Park since Leinster did so in December 1995, as they humbled the Heineken Cup champions with a devastating five-try, 37-11 victory.

Terrific game. I was expecting a home-side walkover, but the Ulstermen came to play and truly silenced the new Thomond Park. Loads of biff, and dreadful sights for the locals with Ronan O'Gara and Rua Tipoki going off injured early. Even worse night for out-of-puff referee Alan Lewis, who repeatedly missed forward passes, including a first-half howler that led to Ulster's first try.