Gentlemen playing a hooligan’s game…

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The title of this blog post describes the sport of rugby, and although the origin of the quote might be difficult to trace, if you were to watch a game in person, it wouldn’t be all that hard to understand why the game was described as such. Standing on the sideline close enough to hear the bone-crushing tackles, the normally secret sounds of the game, and the thunder of the traveling pack… that’s when you truly get a feel for the game. Between the lines, rugby is an incredibly physical and highly demanding team sport, one that requires a willingness to both give, and accept, a level of physical abuse that borders on barbarism… all in the name of stopping your opponent, gaining possession, and advancing the ball down the field.

As with most team sports, the concept is really quite basic… one ball, two teams each defending their own territory, and, within a given a set of rules, one team trying to get the ball into the area the other is defending. Sounds simple, eh? When the whistle blows, rugby players engage in what looks like a violent battle, apparently willing to rip each other apart to help their team win. Even as the carnage ensues though, traditionally there is still an air of honor and civility afforded the opponent. Like someone once said… gentlemen playing a hooligan’s (or thug’s) game.

In his youth, Sam played just about every sport, dabbling in soccer, basketball and even football, before he settled on baseball as his chosen sport. Growing up playing sports myself, and still coaching soccer today, I totally get the lessons to be learned and values to be shared by being part of a team, so when Sam arrived on campus at Bowdoin and embraced not only the sport of rugby, but also the group of guys he got to hang out with, we were very pleased for him. Most of us have an innate desire to belong, and as a parent seeing their child leave the house and take a step into a brand new world filled with strangers, we have been thankful for the welcome he has received from his rugby playing friends (and the Bowdoin College community in general). Being passionate about whatever you do in life is one of the most important traits any individual could have, and as we spent a bright, spring morning proudly watching Sam (#5) and his friends play rugby, it was very obvious how much this game – and his teammates – meant to him. Go Polar Bears!