So imagine my surprise/delight/incredulity to discover that some people with more money and less sense than me are trying to redress the balance with the launch of a new national sport: Major League Rugby. 2018 is the inaugural season and they're going all in, with the founding of seven franchises in various cities. Would you know it, we have our own team!? The Houston Sabercats.
The last time I watched live rugby was when I was playing in a match for Hannah's business school, the only different between me and an actual spectator being that I was standing on the field wearing boots. This time I paid for my ticket and eagerly took my seat on the half-way line, looking forward to some banter with my fellow spectators and the kind of atmosphere that only a rugby match can bring.
Shockingly, rugby doesn't seem to be the best attended sport around here so as I sat, alone on the fifth row, eyeing the empty seats all about, I had to make do with muttering to myself about poor handling skills and occasionally explaining what was going on to an older couple behind me. It didn't help that it's all played in a baseball stadium, the curve of the seating cutting off one corner of the pitch. There was an embarrassing moment when - not being able to see - a try was celebrated, with flashing videoscreen and everything, when in fact it was a knock on.
The game was pretty good, with many of the players coming from college programs and no small number of English, Irish and Scots on the field. No Welsh, because the best prefer to stay in God's own country. The visiting Capital Select team kept passing too deep so built up no momentum but the Sabercats were massive in defense, their kicker slotted everything, and no one was scared of putting in big hits, a legacy of American football no doubt.
In the end the 'Cats won 49-3, which was a bit of an unfair scoreline. But then is a scoreline ever unfair? The geniuses behind Major League Rugby are certainly doing their best, with plenty of giveaways, promotions, a ton of merchandise, etc. The "Saberkitten" cheerleaders came out at half-time and threw T-shirts into the small but passionate crowd, although given the foggy, cold night (and the flashbacks this gave me to playing in those conditions all the time at school) they were mercifully wrapped up in puffy jackets.
Is it going to catch on? Well...with limited opportunities for commercials every ten seconds, and a game where players have to make decisions on the field rather than be told what to do by a coach on the sidelines, rugby isn't the most natural fit for the American sporting model. I enjoyed myself thoroughly, mostly due to the superior feeling of being one of the few in the stadium who knew the rules. Still, it's the land of opportunity! And now I await the launch of Major League Cricket.
#1 fan. Or only one fan...?
Something tells me this isn't a purpose-built rugby stadium.
Hello? Do I smell or something?
The Sabercats and the Selects lining up for the national anthem. I began belting out Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau before realising my mistake.
A fine set piece.
'Cats dominant at the scrum.
More fireworks in the sky than on the field perhaps, but I'll be back!