Rugby vs. Football
Dr. Jay Maron


Suppose a convention is held to create a new college sport and suppose someone proposes a sport with the following properties:

At least a dozen coaches are required, each with million dollar salaries.

There are a small number of glamorous positions and a large number of grunt positions.

Only elite players can participate in the program. There is no team for casual players.

There are patrician leagues and plebe leagues, with little upward mobility for the plebes. Patrician teams cannot be relegated and some teams have the status of eternal royalty.

The rulebook shall be as thick as The Lord of the Rings, it shall be full of kludges, and it shall require at least 6 referees and a set of replay cameras to enforce.

The positions shall be highly specialized, with a set of coaches for each position.

The fundamental structure of the sport will be inflexible because it is full of specialized players and coaches who don't want their niches destroyed by a rule change.

The sport consists of 10% action and 90% loafing, facilitating commercial breaks.

There is a single-elimination national championship that steals attention from the regular season and from non-contenders. Epic matchups that should happen don't happen.

Ball possession is critical, discouraging risk. All plays are set plays, discouraging personal initiative. Plays are called by the coaches.

The sport is institutionalized and petty infractions or poor grades can get you cut from the team.

If you lose you are vilified.

Players shall be forbidden from making money outside institutional channels.

An expensive stadium is required.

Expensive equipment is required.

A team with a lead can play conservatively and lock down a win.

The last quarter is often garbage time.

You might have the dream of playing for a particular college, but you have to go somewhere else because there is already a player there that is better than you at your position, and the first team gets most of the minutes.

Nobody outside your country knows anything about your sport.

The sport feeds into a professional league where there are only elite teams and no casual teams.

The professional sports league has a draft where the players have little say in who they end up playing for. Contracts are fixed by draft order.


Suppose someone else proposes a sport with the following properties:

The sport has diverse positions accommodating all athletic types and there is fluidity between the positions. A tank may on occasion find himself with the ball and space, and a fancy air superiority fighter may on occasion find himself at the center of a maul.

The rules shall be logical, elegant, and flexible, pithy, and require only one referee and no coaches. For example, two teams might negotiate a variation on the rules that enhances their team's styles.

There is an A team for serious players and there are B, C, and D teams for casual players.

Games can be scheduled anytime and with any opponent. For example, Hoffstra is renowned for being good hosts and so one offers to play a game at Hoffstra. If a rival team is full of jerks then you can ignore them.

You can play the sport without previous experience.

Any group of people can spontaneously form a team.

The team is outside the domain of the Athletic Director.

You don't need university facilities to practice or host games.

You are free to play for any professional sports team. Professional clubs exist worldwide at all salary levels.

The equipment consists of shoes and a ball.


What do you call a fast man that can't catch? A cornerback

What do you call a fast man that can't tackle? A wide receiver

What do you call a fast man that can't tackle or catch? A sprinter

What do you call a fast man that can tackle and catch? A rugby player

What do you call a slow man man that can't tackle or catch, but is badass in intangible ways? A rugby player