Who Makes Up These Laws, Anyway?

The Truth Behind the New Rugby Rules

By Buzz McClain

The Chairman of the Very Foxy Sports Network summoned the members of the International Rugby Board to his plush offices in his ivory tower. The members knelt and kissed the media mogulís diamond ring before taking their seats around a conference table.

"Gentlemen," the Chairman said in his quaint Australian accent, "the time has come to change the game again."

One of the members uttered a low moan that was cut short by a swift kick in the calf by the member sitting next to him.

"As you recall, Iím the one who came up with the meter in the line-out tunnel, and that has had spectacular success in making the game more television watchable, you have to agree," the Chairman said proudly. "Iím also the one who made a try worth five points instead of four, so the scores are higher Ė TV fans love to see big numbers on the scoreboard Ė and Iím the one who authorized substitutions so that Ďfresh legsí could keep the game full of action.

"Iím also the one who instituted professionalism, player padding and the offside line at tackle. Well, Iím here today with some new directives that I want you to implement starting this season . . ."

"This season?" one of the members uttered. "But the season has already . . ." His protest was cut short by a rap on the mouth by the member sitting next to him.

"Remember who you are addressing," the other member hissed. "This is the Chairman."

"I know, but heís never played the game in his life."

"That doesnít matter," the member admonished. "Itís his television network that provides us some of the money to keep the players on the field."

"We had no problem keeping players on the field before," the other member whispered.

"Shut up!" the member suggested helpfully.

"If I may continue," the Chairman said. "Beginning immediately rugby players will be permitted to wear this."

He clicked a PowerPoint slide onto the wall screen.

"Whatís that?!" one of the members gasped.

"Itís a helmet, of course," the Chairman said. "Thick plastic, with layers of padding inside. The players will find it helpful in eliminating concussions. Iím always thinking of new ways to protect the players.

"And that includes this."

He punched up another slide.

"Yes, gentlemen, padded plastic shoulder pads, and padded trousers that descend to the calf. No more turf-burn on their bottoms, I should think."

The members sat dumbfounded.

"While weíre at it, my alimony payments have recently increased to several hundred thousand dollars a month, American money, and we need to draw in more viewers than ever. To make the game that much more please to the U.S. audience, I want the Laws of the Game to be changed thusly."

The IRB members held their collective breath.

"I want the do away with the obstruction penalty."

"What?!" one of the members gasped, but could say nothing else because a knee sock had been stuffed into his gaping maw.

"Also," said the Chairman, "I want the Laws to be changed so that players cannot be offside in front of their own ballcarrier."

No one said a thing as their minds flooded with images of padded players in front of the ball carrier not libel to obstruction or offside.

"And, in the interest of strategy, we need to provide a moment for the team with the ball to communicate plays after each stoppage. In huddles, if you will, but very brief.

"And, the touchdown takes too long when the player scoring is not being pressured, so I want the Laws to eliminate the need for a touch down in goal."

"But sir . . .!" But the protest was cut off when the member was on the receiving end of a defenestration.

"And while weíre at it, we need more referees on the field to coordinate the action.

"Oh, and one other thing," the Chairman said. "Change the Laws to reflect the fact that the forward pass is now acceptable."
Upon hearing this, one of the members followed the other out the window, but voluntarily.

"However, the player catching the ball may not drop it," the Chairman pointed out.

"Now then, please see to it that each of these changes occurs immediately, and letís begin getting those TV ratings up."

One of the members could stand it no longer. "Why donít we just change the name of the sport to Ďgridironí while weíre at it?" he said forlornly.

"Because," said the Chairman, "that wouldnít be true to the spirit of the game!"

Harry Donovan contributed to the inspiration of this fictitious conversation. At least we think itís fiction.