Rugby Union 3 years ago

The difference between war and rugby

  • The difference between war and rugby

This ANZAC day, letís take a moment to remind ourselves that rugby matches are not battles, players are not soldiers, and that the verbiage of war is not what we should be using to describe games.


No one's going to die. There are going to be winners, and losers. Both will shower away the mud. Both will return to their beds, warm and comfortable and completely free of lice. Both will see their families within the next day, through skype, after a plane ride, or because they are at breakfast.

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If we go by the language of war, no one loses a rugby game. If we go by the language of sport, no one wins a war.

The same words have such a vast difference in meaning, the experiences are so incomparable, that the use of the same words devalues both. Sport is allowed to be important even if it is nothing like war. Each has their own significance - even if there is a vast gulf in magnitude.

I won't pretend I've never done it, because I have. Reached for the lazy cliche, the martial metaphor - taken terror and death and grief and borrowed it for a sports column because I couldn't be bothered to think of a better word. †

But in the 100 years since the invasion at Gallipoli, where the bond between two countries was forged in a terrible campaign that killed thousands, I think we should have thought of a few better descriptions for the sport, which many of those ANZACís played.

That's my challenge for every sports writer, especially my fellow bloggers on Fans Unite. To stop using language appropriate to events which still define us as countries a century later, when we're writing about a game.

And to readers, a different challenge: to see the young men who had no idea what April 25 1915 would actually bring - not as heroes making the sacrifice for King and Empire and some nebulous greater good; but much the same as the blokes who are pulling on a jersey this weekend. Young men who wanted an adventure, to see the world, whose thoughts ran more to returning home in glory than not returning home at all.

A hundred years later may we remember uncommon actions by common men. And then celebrate them with rugby matches - common actions by uncommon players.

And when we write, may we keep in mind the difference.

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