In the last couple of weeks there have been some great sporting spectacles and debacles, but one thing that has been clear to me amongst all of them is that Rugby Union is the greatest game in the world, for the following reasons:
It’s all about teamwork. People of all shapes and sizes come together to work as a team where the sum of the total is far, far greater then the sum of the individual parts.
It brings people together. Watching the Heineken Cup semi final between Leinster and Munster I was nearly brought to tears by the layout of the crowd watching the game. No segregation, just a red and blue chequer board around the ground as small blocks of each team intermingled with groups of oppositions supporters. And not a hint of trouble or strife.
It teaches respect. Opponents knock lumps out of each other for the whole game but when the final whistle goes they shake hands, often embrace, and congratulate each other on a hard fought encounter.
It teaches compassion. When the massive Leicester centre Tuilage smashed into the equally impressive Leinster winger Horgan in the Heineken Cup Final and floored him completely, he returned to check that Horgan was not injured. A great sporting act of compassion.
It teaches respect. It always amazes me that in the midst of a great melee an often dimuntive referree can calm the situation with a few simple sentences and a bit of humour and play can resume. No backchat, no threatening gestures and no drama.
Many sports could benefit from some of rugby’s attributes, but if anything needs to get its act together it has to be Football, which in recent weeks has demonstrated dreadful moments that can inspire nobody to respect the individuals involved.