Regular readers of this blog – bloggees? – may have been awaiting my comments on the oval ball game. Rest assured I have not missed a minute of the 6 Nations (nor many of the games shown on winter’s afternoons) and my enjoyment has been greater at the discovery of the Egg Chasers podcast. But I hadn’t seen anything suitable for my blog until Sunday’s offering from the forward thinking team leading Italian rugby, headed by Conor O’Shea. Their willingness to turn rugby upside down so as to give their inexperienced team a chance of overturning the status quo is reminiscent of Trump’s assault on the Establishment in general and his current target, the media, in particular.
The Azzurri didn’t claim that this was the most watched match ever but they did claim that the offside line, that imaginary yet real line which determines who is acting legally and who isn’t, was no more. By re-visiting the tackle law, and avoiding following up after a tackle had been made they suspended this line so beloved of sports people so that its very existence was questioned by their opponents. Looked at from on high, pundits and spectators saw the confusion that was wreaked among the English players and wondered how such a state could come to pass. Was it possible that the old established England team couldn’t use their skills, which were superior in most respects to their opponents? They were so bewildered that Italy converted a rebound off the posts into a try and led 10-5 at half-time.
Whether the team resolved it or looked to their media savvy leader, the answer was clear- keep the ball alive. Forwards passed as soon as they were tackled, rather than lying on the ground waiting for support and ten minutes into the second half England were looking to be in control. Italy were forced to ruck when England caught them, and didn’t fully master the new modus operandi – getting penalised for charging down, which you can’t do in a non-offside position .
The laws of rugby can be confusing and those who “play media” to the same level that professionals play international rugby can confuse just as much, for a while. The claim of Trump’s media people – that media organisations have agendas – is true, or perhaps I should say not wrong. We all do and we align ourselves with those that are similar. I subscribe to those with values such as “Impartial, free and fair” which are held by the BBC, as John Sopel reminded The Donald.
And in that spirit of impartiality it would be wrong to dismiss new views, even of the media. But new can often simply mean different to what just happened. If you look further back you may find that these things had been tried, and failed. Italy’s defence discovered that there are good things about the old ways – in defending behind the tackler you’re not so easily breached. Rugby has evolved for decades and the media for centuries. Every rugby player needs an offside line that he can defend. And every President needs a line that won’t be crossed. But the line of post-truth agendas that he is trying to create is as illusory as the offside line. Maybe that’s why he’s so keen on his wall. It’s just that that’s been tried before too. On one occasion I recall that Joshua’s cacophony brought it tumbling down.