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The Americanization of the All Blacks and Why They Won’t Win the World Cup

All BlacksHas anyone other than me noticed what has happened to the All Blacks in the last 8 years? Aside from hardly ever losing and absolutely destroying even good teams, the All Blacks have spun completely out of control with their image and mystique. This year’s Rugby World Cup has already seen the All Blacks demolish all of their opponents so far, albeit in a very week pool and all signs point to an inevitable victory for the storied All Blacks. But as in past years, the All Blacks will fall again.

The problem with the All Blacks is that their team has become Americanized as I like to call it. That is the team has lost sight of what the game of rugby is about and have turned it into more of a them against the world conquest. This team is so far ahead of other rugby teams in the world that it almost seems as if they’re a different race of people. I mean have you seen the size and speed of these guys, it’s disturbing at the very least. I often wonder if the pressure of being the best in the world has driven many of them to do steroids. I read an article recently about one of their players who had to stop working out his biceps because he was having trouble wrapping up people for tackles!!

The pressure has become so great for the All Blacks that several players have been quoted saying they don’t even enjoy playing for the All Blacks because it’s too much. Too much pressure, too much hype, too much of everything. These guys just look foward to being done with this years World Cup so they can get back to playing with their club teams as they’ve put it. The pressure has gotten so great that the team hired a psychologist to travel with the team and talk with them during the World Cup. I mean c’mon this is getting a bit ridiculous, it’s still just a game. And I swear that stinking Haka isn’t helping them either. Enough is enough, I’m sick of seeing these aliens do their goofy little dance again and again. I got news for ya Kiwi’s, it doesn’t intimidate anyone anymore so give it up. I watched a show on Setanta on the history of the All Blacks and every single one of them said that when they first started playing, they were so worried about screwing the Haka up that they stayed up late the night before practicing it. Now I’m no professional rugby player, but I’m pretty sure you should be putting more effort and time into match preparation then Haka preparation. The night before my wedding I was thinking about how my life was going to change and how I need to be a better man, I wasn’t standing in front of a mirror practicing the electric slide (because I’m already so freakin’ good at it!). These are the things that have brought down the All Blacks, it’s not about rugby anymore, it’s about the All Blacks.

Part of the problem too is their fans. Further into the show I was watching, as I mentioned earlier, fans were coming out of a match where New Zealand won by forty something points. Fans were being interviewed and all of them were saying, “it’s not good enough, they need to play better, they made too many mistakes.” Are you kidding me!!! Winning by forty points against a solid international team isn’t good enough?!

This is where the subcategory of Americanization comes in. It’s called New York Yankee Syndrome. It’s never enough for the Yankee’s, just like the All Blacks now. The Yankee’s this year will be making the playoffs for the 13th straight year, very impressive, even more impressive considering at the All-Star break they written off for dead. But you know all those godless Yankee fans are nonetheless complaining that Boston won the division. It’s not good enough that they actually rallied and made the playoffs, fans still crucify them for not winning the division, just as they’ll crucify them if they don’t win the World Series and just as all of New Zealand will crucify the All Blacks when they don’t win the World Cup. For years now the Yankees have had the best team year in and year out and they always falter in the playoffs. Why? Too much pressure, it’s too much for a human being to endure, to be put up on a pedastal like you’re some uncanny supernatural being. The All Blacks take it a step further by the players actually believing they are. The Yankees havn’t won a series since 2000 and now they have A-Rod, Johnny Damon, Bobby Abreu, Robinson Cano and all these other good players. The All Blacks are in the same position because they glorify their players like the Yankees do.

Dan Carter, the outstanding fly-half for the All Blacks, is the latest to be given the rank of God by New Zealand, with Richie McCaw, arguably the best openside flanker in the game, as Jesus. Rugby never used to have superstars, now with the growth of the All Blacks, we have superstars, which will ultimately hurt the game more than help it. New Zealand was the first team to have a superstar, a player whom the world would know and who would honestly be worthy of such accolades.

Jonah Lomu was his name, the most complete rugby player I’ve ever watched. He coupled size, speed and agility and absolutely dominated rugby at the wing position. His career was unfortunately cut short after he lost one of his kidney’s due to a long struggle with kidney problems, but the mark he left on rugby was indelible. Rugby doesn’t need superstars though, superstars ruin the game, they become bigger than the game and no one is ever supposed to be bigger than the game. I’m sorry, but when there’s 30 people out on a rugby pitch, one man does not make the difference Michael Jordan did on the basketball court. Not according to the All Blacks though, they believe their players are so good that they ARE rugby and therefore can be bigger than it. The reason I love rugby so much is that it’s the most complete team sport there is and no one player is bigger than it.

Next time you watch the All Blacks play take a close look at their jersey and tell me what you see. What you WON’T see is the words New Zealand over the silver fern like you used to. The All Blacks took the words New Zealand off of their jersey’s. Kind of funny when the motto of this year’s World Cup is “The world in union”. I guess the world doesn’t include the almighty All Blacks. If I’m a new fan to the sport and I see that jersey, how do I know who the All Blacks are and who they represent? I know I’m reaching here, but you get the point. They are the only team in the World Cup and probably the world period who do not have their contry’s name or flag on it. To me this is just shameful. These guys have actually elevated themselves in such a way that they’re too great for their country? They’ve put themselves in such a class that the Al Blacks have colectively become dillusional.

So another World Cup will pass and as George Gregan could be seen saying when they beat the All Blacks last world cup and time was running out, “Four more years.” Another World Series will pass as well and the Yankees won’t win either. While the All Blacks have risen to such fame and have marketed their crap all over the world, they have also disgusted fans like myself and many others and have turned themselves into the team we love to see lose, just like the Yankees. We want our teams to be good, but no THAT good and we certainly don’t want them thinking they’re better than us.

I’m going to be a little pretentious here myself and offer some advice to the All Blacks:

Forget the psychologists, the legend, the mystique and all the rah rah. Go back to what you remember when you were a kid, that this is just a great game that you love to play. It’s not about dancing or personal records, it’s about rugby. Somewhere you lost sight of that when you let the dark lords of New Zealand rugby suck you into the black hole. Just go out onto the field and play your game. Leave the expectations and criticisms to the fans and just play the game.

Speaking of dark lords and New Zealand. didn’t they film the Lord of the Rings movies in New Zealand? Maybe the All Blacks are orcs and Graham Henry is Sauron.

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31 Responses to “The Americanization of the All Blacks and Why They Won’t Win the World Cup”

  1. yue-houng says:

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2007/extramustard/09/28/caption.this/index.html
    i know this is samoa doing the siva tau but you know, notice that american third from the left? i’m pretty sure he’s pooped his pants.

  2. yue-houng says:

    third from the right. not left.

  3. GRUMPY says:

    I don’t know what your basing this on…

    When have the ABs ever said/acted like they were bigger than the game? We crushed Portugal 108-13 and after the game players like McCaw and Colins were saying that it was a good competition and that Portugal played with a lot of heart!! They even played a games of soccer with them!! How can they be bigger than the sport when they’re so down to earth and willing to spend time with and not criticise players from one of the weakest World Cup sides?

    Carter as God? McCaw as Jesus? Hardly! Besides the fact that McCaw is NOT Carter’s son, Graeme Henry’s AB rotation policy has ensured a strong all round team. Carter didn’t play in the latest game against Romania, because he had a calf strain… McAlister and Evans were practically as good.

    I don’t know where you’re from, but i live in New Zealand. I actually work as a journalist at a small community paper. I have interviewed members of the ABs before and they’re really down to earth, nice and friendly guys. Hardly bigger than the game! Most of them have their phone numbers listed in the telephone book!

    By the way, what players said they didn’t enjoy playing for the All Blacks? I have never heard that sort of thing.

    The haka is part of New Zealand. The ABs recognise NZ and our culture every time they do it! They don’t need to have New Zealand written on their jersey! They feel a great deal of responsibility playing for NZ, doing the haka, and donning the black jersey. It’s about national pride, honour, and tradition, not about super stardom or a pay check.

  4. Josh Houston says:

    For starters here’s what I’m basing alot of this on. This is where I got the info for my “the players feel to pressured to play for the AB’s and dont’t like it”. This article below was my main source along with a documentary on Setanta called, “The History of the All Blacks.”

    http://scrum.com/39_48007.php

    I think maybe you misunderstood what I was saying. I never once suggested the PLAYERS think they’re bigger than the game. I said the AB’s think they are. Players don’t ruin or think they’re bigger than the game, managment and owners do. I wouldn’t be so quick to dub the AB’s saints for saying Portugal played with a lot of heart, that’s protocol for any team that slaughters another team. Criticizing an inferior team who do not have near half the resources you do would be just plain stupid, which the AB’s are not.

    Thank you for clearing up for me that McCaw is not Carter’s son because I actually thought he was. You seem to think that my comments were based on the players feelings which they were not. It’s the media and your fans who suggest Carter is indespensible. Of course he doesn’t agree and neither to his teammates. But the media thinks without him the AB’s are done. I happen to think you have a very deep team and would still be the best in the world without him.

    I never suggested the AB players are bad guys, they all seem like very good sportsman and stand up guys. I don’t know how you got the impression I was slagging the players. How could you say they don’t need to have New Zealand on their jersey?! You say they’re proud to represent NZ and have pride. I guess not enough to show who they play for. Think about this. If you ask a player from each World Cup team who they play for, you will get responses like, “I play for Ireland or France or England, etc…” Ask one of your players and they’ll say, “I play for the All Blacks.”

    And if they’re so proud to play for New Zealand and represent their country for pride, honor and so on than why do they play for teams in Europe? Doug Howlett for Munster, Luke McAlister for Sale and Aaron Mauger for Leicester.

    I think the All Blacks are a great team and I’m always amazed at how well they play as a team every time I watch them. I only wish my country was enthused about rugby as New Zealand is.

    As for where I’m from, I’m an obnoxious, long-winded, ego-maniacal, trouble making, opinionated American. Specifically, New York where there’s 20 million others, most of which who are worse than I am.

    Thanks for the feedback : )

  5. Vic says:

    Just to add that New Zealand nationals who play their club rugby abroad are not available for national team selection. It begs the question of why the stars would leave home and family and the chance to represent their country in test matches (and possibly the next world cup).

  6. Josh Houston says:

    How is that the case when Doug Howlett is playing on their team as we speak, yet he plays for Munster?

  7. yue-houng says:

    he hasn’t yet played for munster. i believe he is (as with all the other all blacks who are scheduled to play for NH clubs) beginning after the world cup ends.

  8. Vic says:

    My bad, it’s Doug Howlett who’s moving to Munster after the RWC…but the point is the same.

  9. Josh Houston says:

    I see, so none of them are playing for those clubs yet. Pretty sad though that some of the All Blacks choose to play abroad and eliminate themselves from national team selection. So much for honor, pride and all that crap.

  10. Vic says:

    Some also likely feel the pressure from the lower/younger ranks. Once you hit a certain age or your 100m times start climbing, probably people start to look for contracts abroad before they get cut from the ABs. That’s good business sense … get a 3 year lucrative contract before you get punted from the national side :)

  11. Josh Houston says:

    According to GRUMPY above you’re wrong. “It’s about pride, honour and tradition, not about super stardom and a paycheck.” It’s about sacrificing your life to a thankless team that get’s rid of you like you’re old news, whereupon you wander around New Zealand begging for coin I guess : )

  12. Dave Fisher says:

    This commentariat is full of inneundo and nose-picking nose-stretchers.

    Re: “Next time you watch the All Blacks play take a close look at their jersey and tell me what you see. What you WON’T see is the words New Zealand over the silver fern like you used to. The All Blacks took the words New Zealand off of their jersey’s.”

    “Like you used to”…? The words “New Zealand” were never above the silver fern, they were always beneath it. And take a closer look at that same emblem PRIOR TO 1986 when the NZRU tagged the words “New Zealand All Blacks” onto the crest below the silver fern. Before that the All Blacks had comfortably gone 80 years with the silver fern alone and no text at all. If the NZRU failed in their effort to make proprietary claims on the silver fern emblem and had to change it for trademark purposes decades ago, and if that magically qualifies in the wild imagination as exemplifying “Americanization,” then your point is well-taken albeit twenty years late.

    What you call “Americanization,” others might just as easily surmise as contemporary “business” and/or “professionalism” and/or “capitalism.” Kiwis are hardly the first nation on the face of the globe to replicate it. Besides, the sport of Rugby Union has been fully professional for over a decade.

    Re: “The team has lost sight of what the game of rugby is about…”

    How many losses have the All Blacks accumulated in the past four years? Strange, most people who follow the sport of rugby seem to acknowledge the objective of the game is to prepare for the opposition, score more points than the opposition and win the game. On the basis of that, your point is indisputable, the All Blacks have surely lost sight of what the game of rugby is about.

    Re: “[I]t almost seems as if they’re a different race of people. I mean have you seen the size and speed of these guys, it’s disturbing at the very least. I often wonder if the pressure of being the best in the world has driven many of them to do steroids.”

    So, that’s while they lose. Because the players have lost sight of what game they’re playing, and they look like a different race of people, and people have imaginations so they imagine steroids and type it on a computer as though it were fact. Genius.

    Re: “And I swear that stinking Haka isn’t helping them either.”

    Another sweet catch. 3-0 blackwash of the British Lions in 2005. Back-to-back-to-back defending Tri-Nations champions. Grand Slam tour winners 2005. Undefeated NH tour last year. Bledisloe Cup holders. A record 26 wins at home on the trot. An overall record since the last RWC of 49-5. It’s a convincing argument ~ the stinking Haka might actually be harming their results.

    Re: “[A]s in past years, the All Blacks will fall again.”

    With logic the likes you’ve provided, it’s an airtight cinch.

  13. F. Martin says:

    The New Zealand All Blacks are like the New York Yankees? Welll, both teams have long records of success. And both sport slick uniforms. But the New York Yankees have deeper pockets and bigger revenue streams, including local population ticket sales and broadcast deals, than any other team in MLB and can BUY any player they want through free agency. New Zealand can’t compete in terms of dollars, which is why they lose professional players to the UK and France. And where is the same set of rules that says the All Blacks can BUY their way to championships by picking up free agents? Unlike Rogers Clemens, sorry, Felipe Contepomi and Brian O’Driscoll can NEVER be All Blacks even if it was their wildest fantasy. The eligibility rules are straightforward and nothing at all like MLB. Really, really absurd comparison.

  14. Mark says:

    NZ are out for another four years, how about that!

    I havn’t watched the game yet, but someone posted this on a forum I follow:

    “Carter was off form and they panicked.”

    I don’t know if that is a good assessment of what happened , but if it is, then that there is one disadvantage of putting their players on a pedestal aye… the superstar has a bad day and the whole team loses hope.

  15. Vic says:

    In reference to the original article, I want to add this link.

    Read between the lines and honestly tell me what the players thought of their chances of beating France and winning the RWC. McCaw is crying in the picture BTW.

    I have to agree with Josh in at least one sense, the All Blacks believed their own hype. Sad truth is, it happens to the best of teams and the best of players.

  16. Josh Houston says:

    Looks like I was right, 4 more years for the Kiwi’s. Whether you think my opinions are ridiculous or not, it would be difficult to refuse the fact that I may have been on to something based on the crushing defeat New Zealand suffered this weekend. How do you lose a match when the opposing team makes 172 tackles and you only make 36? New Zealand has possesion for 72% of the time and can’t win? Clearly New Zealand possesses the most fit and strongest team and you can easily make the argument that they have the best skills. So why the loss? It’s all mental, like I said. Now to address the previous comments.

    To Dave Fisher: Do you really need to spend an entire paragraph explaining when and where the words New Zealand appeared on the All Blacks jersey? I was simply pointing out that NZ wasn’t there anymore and that I find this strange and bit anti-country.
    Don’t even bother suggesting that any other nation in the world has capitalised like NZ has in terms of popularity and commercialism. You know and I know the AB’s are the most recognized and revered team in the world.
    I actually did acknowledge that the AB’s have only lost 5 matches (oops, now it’s 6) in the past 4 years and how impressive that was. Yes, the objective is to win. But try telling your fellow countrymen that any of that mattered now that they have prematurely exited the World Cup AGAIN.
    I also never said they ARE on steroids, I was just making the point that they are so much faster and stronger than the rest of the world and based on the pressure to win, it wouldn’t be terribly surprising if they did.
    As for the Haka, you clearly missed my point that there’s an overemphasis on it (i.e. the practicing of it the night before). To be honest though, I just don’t like the Haka.
    In regards to this:

    Re: “[A]s in past years, the All Blacks will fall again.”

    With logic the likes you’ve provided, it’s an airtight cinch.

    Well at least you got something right : )

    To F. Martin: Clearly you completely missed my point about the NY Yankees comparison. Where in my article did I say anything about buying players, revenues or money? My comparison was based on the pressure to win and the unacceptance of not winning a championship. George Steinbrenner, the owner of the Yankees this weekend told the media that if the Yankees manager does not win the current playoff series the Yankees are in right now he’ll be fired. It’s that same kind of pressure NZ puts on their rugy team that I was referring to. I give it a few days before Graham Henry is axed. You clearly just skimmed my article because you are way off the mark on this one.
    But you did make one good point, albeit in favour of what I was trying to get across. “Felipe Contempomi and Brian O’Driscoll can NEVER be All Blacks.” It’s that exact kind of arrognace that has got the AB’s where they are right now. As far as I know, Contempomi is still in the World Cup while the AB’s are not. Apparently your own players can’t play for the AB’s either now that your two centers, McAllister and Howlett among others, are off to Europe.

    Once again, my artcile was not an indictment on the AB players, rather it was an indictment against the fans, NZ media and NZRFU. My heart goes out to guys like Richie McCaw who is an outstanding player along with many other players on their team. I have the utmost repsect for every single person on that team and I wish them all the best in their futures.

  17. Alan says:

    While some good points were made, the lack of historical perspective is glaring.

    As others have pointed out, no one saw any need to put the words “New Zealand” on the All Blacks jersey. Similarly, the thistle, the rose, and the springbok also managed to go for decades without accompaniment. I hardly think that that was (or is) indicative of a lack of national pride.

    To call Jonah Lomu the first rugby superstar doesn’t make much sense either. Before him there was David Campese, Wayne Shelford, Colin Meads…people who were reknown throughout the rugby world (and who deserved that far more than Lomu).

    And to call Lomu “the most complete player” is patently absurd. His tactical awareness was modest by international standards. He didn’t have much of a kicking game. Despite his great physical attributes, he was a mediocrity (at best) in defense. I don’t know how any of these things can be said of a “complete” player. I might say instead that he was the greatest one-dimensional player ever.

    You have a point about the haka though. In the old days, it was a lot less impressive than it is now. And yet the All Blacks somehow managed to be intimidating without it. Colin Meads wasn’t much of a dancer, he didn’t roll his eyes in his head or stick out his tongue, but he didn’t need to do that to be feared. Maybe they should spend more time working on taking drop goals that might win important matches than on doing the perfect haka.

  18. Alan says:

    The second paragraph should read

    As others have pointed out, no one saw any need to put the words “New Zealand” on the All Blacks jersey for most of their history.

  19. Josh Houston says:

    Some very good points made, Alan, thank you. I don’t have a great deal of historical knowledge of rugby. I think I remember though that “New Zealand” were always on the jersey and now they are not, while the rose, thistle and springbok came first, then their respective countries were added.

    You’re definately right about Lomu though, he did lack in the areas you described. There have just been many rugby programs I’ve watched including “The History of the All Blacks” that have labeled him as rugby’s first super star. Probably because people tend to focus on offense and scoring while ignoring the other important components of rugby. I myself am guilty of that as well being captivated by his attacking ability while not even being aware he was on the field during defense.

  20. Alan says:

    If you have a look at this page you will see that the inclusion of text on the jersey came sometime during the 80s (it’s tough to tell exactly, due to inconsistent cropping and no exact dates on the photos). But you can definitely some of these, taken as late as the early 80s, with nothing but the fern.

  21. Calvin says:

    Regarding what you said about players leaving their countries to go play for overseas clubs. This is because players realise that they are getting old and will not make the team selections for upcoming years. I’m from South Africa and there has been many debates on players who are leaving, but it seems to be a logical choice. They will make more money there, and pride will not play a part since they wouldn’t of played anyway. Maybe it is best you stuck to baseball, because I may be South African, but i believe that the All-Blacks are the worlds greatest rugby players and completly true to the game.

  22. Josh Houston says:

    Thank you Captain Obvious. I didn’t think these players were going to the UK for the beer and fine cuisine. You should have read ALL of the comments above before commenting yourself since it was another commentor who suggested the All Blacks are proud of their country and that it’s not about money. I know it’s about money, we all have to eat. I wasn’t condemning them for leaving, I was simply responding to a comment that pride is the only thing that matters to them.

    Players realizing their getting old? Luke McAllister, one of the All Blacks to go to the UK is only 24!!! I’m pretty sure McAllister isn’t “realizing” he’s getting old. Aaron Mauger is only 27 and Howlett 29. I saw all of the All Blacks WC matches. These guys didn’t show any signs of slowing down.

    I also find it hard to believe that the “world’s greatest players” play on a team that can’t win a World Cup. They have some phenomenal players on their team, but c’mon, there are alot of great players in other countries.

    You’re argument is based on you ASSUMING that these guys won’t make the 2011 squad, we’ll never know now if they will.

    By the way, I hate baseball.

  23. Calvin says:

    By 2011 McAllister will be 28, Mauger 31, and Howlett 33. Now although that might not seem old in real life terms, for professional rugby it is. The All-Blacks are the worlds greatest rugby players, know that for certain mate. Their skills are unmatched. Don’t tell me you think Wilkinson is better than Carter and Habana better than Rockococo, please don’t. I’m shocked they didn’t win the WC, but in relative terms they were the number 1 team in the world for the 4 years leading up to the cup. And off the topic I’m just wondering if in America they’re starting to play rugby at school level, and do you think US will ever reach any sort of respectable rugby position?

  24. Josh Houston says:

    It’s more like in All Blacks terms they’re old. At that age they’d be guaranteed starters on England’s side. No I don’t think Wilkinson is better than Carter, no one’s bette than Carter and in fact I think there are 3 or 4 fly half’s better than Wilkinson. Habana is good but I guess he’s a tad behind Rockococo. But I don’t think superior skills and fitness are all it takes to win. The All Blacks lack the mental game. But I will agree with you that New Zealand produces the best players.

    In repsonse to your next question, America is still not playing rugby at the school level and never will. I was not able to start playing rugby until college and even there I would hardly say I was coached. There are VERY few opportunities to play rugby here before college. And if there is an opportunity, the program is minimal. I currently play on a men’s club and it’s near impossible to get people to play. We have a union that is unorganized at best and the playing facilities are dispicable.

    The US will NEVER reach a respsectable position in the world in terms of rugby because one, we play too many sports here to have room for another, two, rugby is viewed as a hooligan sport full of drunks and miscreants and three, because the US seems to not want to be a part of the world. When South Africa won the WC, there was a tiny paragraph in the sports section of our newspaper about it. No one cares about rugby here and no one ever will. Not with baseball, football, basketball, etc. It’s already nera impossible to watch rugby here.

    We have great athletes here, money and resources to be very good. We just need to develop rugby in grade schools and more in college. Eventhough my college had a team, we were not recognized as a varsity sport, we were just a club. We were given $5,000 a year to cover traveling, fees and equipment. The school didn’t care if we existed at all. It’s pretty sad because I love rugby and I want my son to play. But I’m afraid I may have to teach him myself in my backyard for him to learn. I envy guys like you who have the opportunity to play at a young age and have rugby all over their country.

  25. Vic says:

    The real shame about rugby in America is that for the kids, in terms of cost to a family, rugby can be played for pennies on the dollar compared to American football. In addition, if you have 45 kids, you play an A, B and C side. Way better for self-esteem and confidence than most other sports.

  26. Josh Houston says:

    Yes. Good point Vic. I remember when I was in 9th grade playing football and because the school was going through budget cuts, we were going to have to pay to play. It was like $550! The coaches asked for a show of hands on who would play and we all just kind of looked at each other.

  27. Alan says:

    I disagree with the statement that “America is not playing schoolboy rugby and never will.”

    In Southern California, there are presently 32 youth rugby organizations (some are affiliated with senior clubs, others are not). Each club has teams playing at multiple levels (U-6,8, and 10 non-contact, U-12,14, & 16 Boys, U-14 Girls, and HS Boys and HS Girls). Only one club has entered a team at all levels, but each club is represented by, on average, about 6 teams.

    Granted, 32 such organizations in an area of nearly 21 million people isn’t much, but in a historical context, it’s huge. When I was growing up, there was no youth rugby in the area. None. All of these organizations are less than 10 years old, and most of them far younger than that. Youth development is a major priority of the SCRFU, and it is growing amazingly quickly. And it’s not just in Southern California either.

    So, while rugby remains a drop in the bucket compared to other sports, I think that it is awfully pessimistic to say that it will remain that way, especially when looking at how much less there was so recently.

  28. Josh Houston says:

    OK, I see what your saying. But take a look at soccer. I think the majority of kids in America play soccer as their first sport. You won’t find many high schools that don’t have soccer, yet we’re terrible at the international level (except for 94′) and the MLS is a joke.

    The west coast seems to embrace rugby more than the east coast where a majority of our population is. I don’t know how many there are in NY, but it can’t be many. I live in Long Island where there are about 3 million people on this little island. There are less than 10 youth rugby programs.

    My point specifically was that rugby will never become a staple in high schools like football or basketball. I agree that youth rugby has grown over the years, but not nearly enough as it needs to grow for the US to become a recognizable force in international competition.

  29. Alan says:

    Well, 10 programs among 3 million people extrapolates to 70 programs for 21 million people. That’s more than twice as many! I suspect, however, that it’s somewhat less in middle America.

    I think the soccer comparison is an important one, but I disagree with a few of your points. For one thing, we’re NOT terrible at the international level. We’ve become a fixture at the World Cup. This is partly due to qualifying from the 4th best of 6 qualifying regions, to be sure, but until 1990 we couldn’t even qualify at all. Now we’re the top team in the region, challenged only by Mexico. Our national team reached the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup, and has been ranked in the top 5. Of course that ranking was bogus, but the United States is consistently among the decent teams…certainly not among the elite, but still better than most. As for the MLS, it too does not rank among the elite, but it’s hardly a joke. It’s possibly as high as the 10th best league in the world. And it is growing, stable, and economically viable, which is a greater achievement.

    And look at what soccer has come from. The NCAA only started recognizing the sport in the late 60s, and it was fairly obscure at that point. It’s definitely a big kids’ (and HS) game now, but it hasn’t always been like that by any means. Soccer people sometimes insufferably talk about how it’s going to take over “any day now”, but it’s not been like that. I don’t think it will ever be dominant, but it’s growth continues to be glacial…both in the sense of being slow and in the sense of being inexorable.

    I see rugby as having the possibility of following a similar path. And we’re about 40 years behind. I think that modern communication and the accelerating of trends might reduce that lag. The similarity of rugby to football might also move things along. On the other hand, it could hamper it; soccer had the advantage of offering something more unique.

    I certainly agree that the growth we’ve seen lately is not nearly enough to make the US anything more than it already is in rugby. But today, we are just leaving the ground floor; I see no reason to believe that we are approaching our limit.

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