NEW YORK, NY – Today’s post is chock full of history. Team USA has an unprecedented chance at an Olympic Gold 3-peat… We’ve also got today’s Hottest Olympian. Here’s at it…
Rugby, which is tackle soccer with no pads, timeouts or free substitutions (your aim is play all 80 minutes), is back in the Olympics – replacing baseball, of all things – and guess who the returning Gold Medal winners are? If you guessed Team USA’s Men’s Eagles, you’d be correct! In fact, they come in having won gold the last two time rugby was in the Olympics. No joke. BUT… the last two times the sport was in the Olympics was 1920 and 1924. And since there were little things like World Wars either ending or gearing up, there were but three nations competing in The Games. But hey, you still gotta hit the ball right? Right.
The American’s (Eagles) will be hard-pressed to retain the title, however, as all the best rugby-playing nations are in attendance, mosquitoes – and poop in the waters – being damned. But this version of rugby, called 7s, gives our Men and Women (yes, they play and they’re tougher than you) a better chance at winning a medal than the full-on version of 15 vs 15 or 80 minutes. In 7s, you play 7 on 7, for 7 minute halves but on the same size pitch (field). That makes for scores in an eye-blink, huge open-field tackles, and extraordinary fitness levels.
No nose-tackles, though. Imagine the Jets and Giants playing against each other with 5 on 5 for 5 minute halves and the NFL calling it… 5s. That’s the equivalent of the Olympic version of the sport, and yours humbly could argue both sides of the case poo-pooing or supporting this development. Names to look for: Jillion Potter. She beat cancer… Nate Ebner. He’s the New England Patriots‘ version of Rudy, just real tough, athletic and driven. His Dad was a rugger that buddies of mine played with. He owned and worked at a garage and two guys held him up. He fought back and was murdered. Nate’s drive comes from that and he vowed to play rugby again. Say what you want about Bill Belichick and the Pats, but they fully knew the backstory and are allowing him, under contract, to go for it. That’s cool. Here’s an interview with him from a few year’s back. He’s obviously got a sense of humor.
Three other Eagles watch (other than speedsters Carlin Isles and Perry Baker, who’ll be hyped out the wazoo, along with Ebner and Potter) are Danny Barrett, Andrew Durutalo and Zack Test. These three also played for the Rugby World Cup team, which is full-on 15s, and are – like the rest of them – great dudes and dudettes. Barrett is The Beast. The Thug. Meanwhile, Durutalo is the ultra athlete, soft-spoken – with rugby deep in his DNA. He will also take your head off… Test is the hard-nosed, wide-receiver/outside linebacker type that plays both sides of the ball. You’ll hear the announcers saying talking about his college football days but this guy is a rugby player through and through. Football is now an anecdote.
As those three go, so too will team USA’s fortunes. Oh, and their coach, Mike Friday, is a character you’ll embrace. Great sense of humor in a no-nonsense chassis.
And there’s your American History Lesson in Rugby and the Olympic Games. There is no reason you can’t carve out 14 minutes to watch fast-paced car-crashes involving women and men that will talk to you and the likes of me, sans pretension or entitlement. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Carmelo.
Feel free to go for gold below and come back tomorrow for pal Cheesy Bruin, a man that should be the sunscreen applier for all women’s track events. And please follow us on Twitter – @MeetTheMatts and like our Facebook page, Meet The Matts. Thank you.
P.s… What do you think of our Hottest Olympian of the Day, Mikaela Mayer?