Friday, March 24, 2017

American Rugby's Greatest Weekend?

In my last post from my experience covering the Vegas Rugby Sevens. I wonder whether that weekend was not the best in American rugby history. As someone who writes about, thinks about, is a fan of, and works on southern hemisphere and global rugby, I realize I am talking about low-hanging fruit. But the fruit will grow higher. 

Monday, March 06, 2017

Live Reports From HSBC Sevens Rugby World Series, Vegas 7s

I spent the weekend in windy (and always decadent) Las Vegas covering the HSBC Sevens Rugby World Series, Vegas 7s for This is American Rugby. My reports include Notes From the Vegas 7s CupQuarterfinals,” “Notes From the Vegas Semi-finals,” and “As It Happened: Vegas Finals.” 

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

USA Eagles-Uruguay Americas Rugby Championship Match Report

This is American Rugby published my match report from the USA Eagles-Uruguay America's Rugby Championship match at Toyota Field in San Antonio on February 4. 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Errol Tobias and the Boks

The South African online magazine The Con has published a revised version of my June Weekend Post article on Errol Tobias, the first black Springbok, "25 Years Since Errol Tobias’ Debut Changed the Complexion of Springbok Rugby." This is drawn from one of my current book projects.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Take My Money, Please!

I had an op-ed piece appear in  The Herald, the largest newspaper in South Africa's Eastern Cape, based in Port Elizabeth. It carries the title "How the Kings can take more of our money and be profitable" and looks at ways that the broke Southern Kings, the Eastern Province Rugby Union Super Rugby franchise, might better maximize profits.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Human Rights Day: Reflecting on Sharpeville and Langa

Today, March 21, is Human Rights Day in South Africa, a national holiday. The date is no coincidence. On 21 March 1960 Apartheid police opened fire on a crowd gathered at Sharpeville (by the PAC) to protest apartheid Pass Laws. 69 killed, scores wounded (although the generally agreed upon totals are about 180 the reality is that since people knew that going to hospital might result in their being identified as having been at Sharpeville, those who could avoided any official institution, hospitals and clinics included) most of those shot in the back and side, indicating that they were running away and posed no danger whatsoever. 

Sharpeville shocked the world and helped to accelerate the nascent global anti-apartheid movement, even as the National Party responded with draconian measures that ensured that any opposition to apartheid whatsoever could land people in prison, in exile, or worse. Sharpeville was almost inarguably the single most important event in bringing the realities of apartheid to the world’s consciousness, and the country’s status as a polecat of a nation was pretty well guaranteed from that date forward.

But that is not the only reason why 21 March is such an important date in South African history. 25 years to the day after the events of Sharpeville, 21 March 1981, another horrible atrocity happened the contours of which are gruesomely familiar. On that day a funeral party was traveling between townships of Uitenhage, an industrial city outside of Port Elizabeth (some 130 or so km from where I sit in Grahamstown) known most for automobile manufacturing (South Africa’s Detroit, in effect). Township funerals in the 1980s were most often political affairs and this one -- honoring the deaths of young people killed in protests earlier in the month -- was no different. The state had effectively made funeral processions of this sort illegal. Police showed up on the scene, the funeral marchers -- defiant, but unarmed -- stood their ground, and the police opened fire. Nearly a score lay dead, an uncountable number wounded, shot, you guessed it, in the back and in the side. It came to be known as the Langa Massacre.

There are active debates about the nature of  “the human rights tradition” in South Africa, and these are important arguments. But at the same time, if we recognize that apartheid was itself a gross violation of civil rights and that the anti-apartheid opposition was at least to some degree motivated by a desire for human rights, broadly defined, it is perhaps easier to understand why this date, 21 March, the anniversary of Sharpeville, the anniversary of Langa, is so well chosen. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Jonah Lomu, RIP

Jonah Lomu, former New Zealand All Blacks rugby star, was a beast, a global sporting phenomenon in the 1990s who is just about without comparison. A wing with world-class speed in the hundred but built like someone who would be comfortable in the scrums Lomu could run over people but he was just as likely to run through them. The closest American sporting comparison I can think of is Bo Jackson in terms of the freakish things that he did. The closest football comparisons might be a hybrid of Marshawn Lynch and Chris Johnson, which is to say the ability to run people over while possessing Johnson's "Cop Speed" to run away from them. But he was far, far better at rugby than either of those two very good players ever was at football.

  If you are putting together an all-time rugby XV, the greatest team in the game's history, there might be no more obvious answer at any position than to start by filling in one of the wing slots with Lomu. He first came to the world's attention in 1995 during the World Cup, an event that became famous because of South Africa's home victory, though he had shown signs of what he would become before that. The 1995 IRB World Cup is best known for Nelson Mandela embracing the underdog Springboks who returned from global sporting isolation and helped the New South Africa establish its footing. (And only just "helped," whatever Hollywood and too many journalists would want you to think.) And yet the unquestioned star of that event was Lomu who ran past and around, over and through people. South Africa stopping Lomu was one of the biggest rugby stories of that cup, but he cemented his place in the event's and the sport's history. By the time of his retirement after a too brief career shortened in no small part by the kidney disease that would help take him from us today at the gallingly young age of 40, he held the record for tries at the World Cup with 15,  a number that would only be matched this year by another all-time great, Bryan Habana. (Habana is possibly my favorite player of all time. He would make more than a few all-time squads. And he would start over Lomu on no one on the planet's all-time side.)

Lomu's death is shocking because of his age, and even though it was well known that his disease was serious, hearing about it was stunning, a blow to the solar plexus, like hearing that someone beat up Superman or outran the Flash. Because Lomu was a superhero. A black-clad superhero who could make his enemies quake just by doing the Haka. He is one of my favorite athletes of all-time. If there is an afterlife its rugby team just got a hell of a lot better. And someone on the other team is about to get run over.