The beauty of an ugly sport: rugby

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The University of Dallas Hoggies compete for victory at a home game. Photo courtesy of Clare LoCoco.

In the eyes of many, rugby is merely a brutally violent, grisly and ugly game played by enormous, burly men — and sometimes women. People tend to think that only broken bones and bloody bruises come from the vicious clash of 15 players brawling their 15 opponents on the rugby pitch.

Senior Hoggie Angelo Novello characterized these people’s question accurately: “Why would you go out and throw yourselves out on the ground into other men for 80 minutes continuously and walk away with broken fingers and bloody noses and cuts and scrapes and other things, and go out and do it the next week?”

For UD’s Hoggies, however, rugby is beautiful and worth playing because it forms a brotherhood, it’s fun and it helps them pursue virtue by sacrificing themselves for their teammates.

Sophomore Hoggie Mark Laurent quoted Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If” to describe the beauty and virtue of rugby:

“If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew / To serve your turn long after they are gone, /  And so hold on when there is nothing in you / Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’ … / you’ll be a Man, my son!”

Sophomore Hoggie Brian Jones shares this fierce warrior mindset quoting UD professor Fr. McGuire, “you’ll never be defeated until you yield.”

Jones said that rugby “is a way to pursue excellence” and it fights against the “pusillanimity” of some other sports.

“There’s nothing more ugly than a soccer player sitting on the ground crying when they’re not actually hurt,” Jones added.

“There’s a lot to be gained from the mental toughness of conditioning yourself to run at 250-pound men without a helmet on,” freshman Hoggie Charlie Mihaliak added.

Rugby’s tenacious nature is similar to profound music and artwork, according to junior Hoggie Ian Cook; rugby is “like a piece of classical music.”

“In a way, it could be [more beautiful than Michelangelo’s “David”] as far as beauty goes, because you’re trying to work with other people … to create something good,” Cook said.

Novello said the sport is also similar to warfare.

“You’re trying to flank and break through … there is a continuous ebb and flow of the two teams,” Novello said. “You think of the Spartans at Thermopylae, then you think of a rugby team. [If you] think of phalanx warfare, the mindset is kind of the same thing.”

Cook added that, prior to every game, he makes it a point to look at each player with the mindset that he is “playing with these guys and for these guys.”

“You make it an act of love, putting that love for the sport and the players and [channeling] that into running at guys at full speed,” Cook said.

“It’s a sport, so there is some lightheartedness to it, but if you really give yourself to it, then it does become a reflection of what our moral life should be: complete dedication to simple little things to bring about victory,” Cook added.

The Hoggies, inspired by Kipling’s poetry and the Spartan’s courage at Thermopylae, likening rugby to classical music and regarding it as in some way more beautiful than Michelangelo’s “David,” reflect UD’s spirit perfectly. Each time they step onto the pitch, they prove that it is much more than an exhibition of violence and public injury.

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