Shaking Hands: What Rugby Can Teach Us About Politics

Whoso sheds his blood with me on this field shall be my brother.” -King Henry V

friendsRugby is a fascinating game. A wonderfully fascinating, and bitterly ugly game. Cuts, bruises, broken noses, blood, and a few fractured limbs are just a few of the occupational hazards.  Men with thighs the size of tree trunks, and biceps the size of my thighs, clash with unmistakable force, naturally separating boys from men. 80 minutes in total, 22 men all together,  and each one fighting with every ounce of energy within himself to win. Its a spectacle that channels violence in the most organized manner possible. As my favorite saying goes, “At baseball games they play organs. At rugby games we donate them.”

However, it isn’t the ugliness that happens in between the whistle that separates this sport from others. It’s what happens after the fog of war has cleared, that sets the game of rugby, and its athletes, apart from the otherwise left-leaning billion dollar sports/political complexes in America. For starters, theres are a few standards that come with being a, “gentleman’s game.” No twitter beef, no childish on-field antics, no $100 million in guaranteed money, no private jets, no private interests, no outspoken (and uneducated) political hacks, just good old-fashioned head bashing. But no matter how ugly things get, when the final whistle sounds players put aside their pride, shake hands, and crack open a cold beer. Maybe its just a European thing to settle disputes over alcohol, but there is certainly a larger lesson to be learned here.

“You can’t shake hands with a clenched fist.” -Indira Gandhi

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Politics is very similar to rugby. Weird, I know, but let me explain. To call America’s political climate “divided,” would be similar to calling the sport of rugby, “friendly.” The blatant one-sided rhetoric of both sides, coupled with the constant bombardment of slander, has caused a deep seeded division in America that has polarized even the most modest minds, and put others in the hospital. Political uproar has flooded social media, classrooms, workplaces, and the streets. Friends have been lost, families divided, and 65 year old men beaten unconscious by college students with sticks. In fact, according to a 2014 study done by the Pew Research Center, “Partisan antipathy is deeper and more extensive than at any point in the past two decades.” But maybe, just maybe, it isn’t about who’s right, or wrong.

Fact is, there is plenty of finger pointing to go around. Plenty of fact-checking to be done. Plenty of unfettered debate to be had. And PLENTY of blame to be placed on both sides of the isle for the cesspool our country has become. But at the end of the day, its about shaking hands. Free speech is ugly, debate can be bitter, but if there is one thing that we can learn from the sport of rugby, it’s that we can all learn to fight another day.

So no matter what kind of fight you get into, whether physical, intellectual, or otherwise, do what rugby players do. Take a deep breath, shake hands, grab a beer, and get the hell over it.

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