19 September 2007

Football v Rugby

Last spring (Northern Hemisphere for 'autumn'), I pitted Baseball against Cricket to decide once and for all which is the greatest ball and stick game. The coming of the Northern fall brings with it football, rugby and the definitive battle for supremacy among these contact sports.

But first, the ground rules. For the purposes of this comparison, I will be using the NFL, the pinnacle of American football, and Rugby Union, the more popular, and in my opinion, superior form of that game. Ten categories will be considered, worth ten points each, plus a five point bonus category. Let the best game win.

Best Team
Football (7) - Cameragate notwithstanding, the New England Patriots have been the team to beat for the past six years. However, due to free agency and the salary cap, the Pats pale in comparison to the great teams of the past.
Rugby (9) - According to the IRB World Rankings, New Zealand is the current world's best, and it isn't for a lack of opposition. They dominate on the world scene, despite the best efforts of Australia, South Africa, England and France.

Best Historical Team
Football (9) - This is always good for a debate, but I'll go with the Cowboys. They are tied for the most Super Bowl wins, and I'd put the Boys of the early 90's up against anyone.
Rugby (9) - This one is a little tougher, but I'll go with the All Blacks again. Their 1925 squad was referred to as 'The Invincibles', and that's good enough for me.

Best Rivalry
Football (7) - The best rivalries are in college, but the Cowboys/Redskins rivalry isn't bad, followed closely by Chicago/Green Bay, Denver/Oakland, Denver/Kansas City, and Dallas/Philly.
Rugby (9) - There are some good options here, but I've got to go with New Zealand/Australia. Seems to usually come down to these two teams and they are currently the top two teams in the world.

Football (9) - Ties are possible but highly unlikely. Overtime rules cost it a point though--I don't like the fact that the losing team might never touch the ball.
Rugby (6) - Again, ties are possible but unlikely in league competition, although they do happen more than in the NFL. In tournaments such as the World Cup, overtime rules include two ten minute periods. Better than a tie, but sudden death would be better.

Big Play Potential
Football (10) - This is football's moment to shine. You never know when the QB is going to throw a deep pass, a RB is going to break through for a huge gain or even when a safely is going to drop a WR cutting across the middle. Good times.
Rugby (8) - You get some big plays, but no forward pass removes lots of opportunity.

Football (3) - And this is football's weak point. You've got offensive and defensive units, linemen, skill position players, etc. All it takes is the ability to do one thing well.
Rugby (8) - Some specialization, but for the most part, every player on the pitch needs to excel as an all-round player.

Football (5) - Rules have to be written to enforce sportsmanlike behavior. Shameful.
Rugby (9) - Tana Umaga, former All Blacks captain, once abandoned a favorable play to check on the Welsh captain who had been knocked unconscious. Pure class. It's a rough game, but the players respect their opponent.

Best Trophy
Football (5) - Not really a fan of the Lombardi Trophy. Kinda boring.
Rugby (6) - The Webb Ellis Cup. What is there to say? It's a nice enough cup.

Football (6) - A good deal of the world watches the Super Bowl, but no one else seriously plays football. The American Football World Cup could only attract ten participants, and until this year, when the US first entered the World Cup, Japan had been a two-time champion. Japan!
Rugby (7) - It's not yet soccer's equal on the world scene, but rugby enjoys fairly widespread popularity, although it has been dominated by a handful of countries for most of its history.

Football (9) - I get questions about this all the time from rugby fans, but I still give footballers credit despite the pads. As we learned two weeks ago from Kevin Everett, injuries still happen, even with a helmet and big shoulder pads. Football's hits and collisions are too big to try this game without protection.
Rugby (10) - Some players wear padded headgear, but otherwise players play without protection. And the hits are almost on par with the NFL. High speed collisions aren't as common and tackling rules help, but this is still a violent sport.

Bonus: Best Tradition
Football (3) - I'll go with the Lambeau Leap. Nice to get the fans involved.
Rugby (5) - New Zealand's haka is both a cultural celebration and fierce intimidation. That's Tana Umaga leading the haka in the video below.

Add it all up and rugby takes down American football and it isn't even close: 86-73. Football is a great game, but give rugby a try during the World Cup, shown on Versus.

17 September 2007

Protesting APEC

September 8-9 was the annual APEC forum, and it was big news in Sydney. It was such a big deal that Sydney was basically shut down on Friday for a declared holiday.

Why was it such a big deal? Because APEC brought George W Bush to town, and people wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to protest the war, globalisation, climate change, human rights violations and just about everything else. Leading up to the big weekend, the Stop Bush Coalition planned a major protest and attempted to get their plans approved by the police. The two groups didn't exactly see eye to eye on the protest, though—during the last week, the protesters were forced to alter their protest route. The police promised a strong showing and even purchased a $700,000 water cannon. I had planned on attending the protest, but decided in the last week to stay away.
However, as the protest began Saturday morning, the news coverage revealed no problems. I decided to join the protest rally at Hyde Park, their destination. Reports later in the day revealed 3500 police and either 10,000 (protester count), 5000 (police count), or 3000 (media count) protesters. There were only 17 arrests, 14 of which were quickly released, some within minutes of being cuffed, and two policemen were injured. All in all, it was a rather tame rally, especially compared to what the police were predicting.

Post-rally, both sides claimed victory and questioned the other side. The police claimed their strong showing prevented trouble, while the protesters said they planned a peaceful rally all along and wondered aloud why the police felt it necessary to bring such numbers.

Personally, I thought both sides came off as foolish. I understand the police's need for safety, but I felt they were heavy-handed. A water cannon? 3500 officers? Snipers on rooftops and in choppers? A little much. But I also thought the protesters came off as petulant attention seekers, a least the ones on the news. I suppose the media shares some guilt in this as well. Too many of the protesters I saw in the park appeared either misguided or disinterested in the cause.

All in all, I left the rally dejected. The police and the government seemed oppressive and the protesters' message was lost in their chase for attention. On a good note, I'm going to turn this into a paper. We have to write about a conflict for my Peace and Conflict Studies class. I'm not going to discuss the rally itself, but rather the planning, or lack thereof, between the protesters and the police. Without having done too much research yet, I think the truth lies somewhere in between.

06 September 2007

Lucky Sevens: APEC

Sydney is in lockdown because of APEC this weekend. Heather and I, along with everyone else who works in the city, got a holiday today in an attempt to clear some traffic out of the city. This month's Lucky Sevens question: What does APEC stand for?

05 September 2007

City2Surf 2007 results

City2Surf was a few weeks back. I didn't get to train like I should have given our recent move and starting my Development Studies program. Plus, after running the marathon in May, I didn't exactly take the 14K seriously. Halfway through the run, though, I realized that 14K is still a little more than your average morning stroll. Especially when you get to Heartbreak Hill. But I finished in about 85 minutes, which beat my goal and beats last year's time. If I run it next year, I'd like to cut that down to sub 75 to qualify for the front of the pack seedings.

More important is the other goal that I beat. As I posted before, City2Surf encouraged runners to raise money for a charity this year. I was running for UNICEF and hoped to raise $250. Thanks to your generous donations, $365 was raised. In total, City2Surf runners raised just over a million dollars. Kudos to City2Surf for making this possible and thanks to you for making a difference for kids around the world.