Here at Mike or The Don we get frustrated that some top notch sports are overlooked, and some pretty awful sports hog the spotlight.
So three of us decided to collaborate on this article detailing three of the most underrated sports going around: Rugby Union, Gymnastics, and Volleyball.
I think I will go through life not fully understanding why more people – especially Australians – do not follow rugby union. I mean, it has all the makings of sports we all love – unbelievable toughness, skill, stamina, the odd scuffle/fight/melee, slow burn periods of play mixed with high octane stages, players who should know better risking their own safety and well-being for the benefit of the team and all in a bite-sized package of 80 minutes. So I ask: why, oh why do so few take notice of the game that is played in heaven?
Maybe you think there seems to be no point to the game. Players kick the ball to the other team for no apparent reason, players burrow into a wall of opposition players for no apparent gain, the ball is passed backwards, referees award penalties so haphazardly that it seems they have ADD and you can win a game without scoring a try. What the??
It is often magnificent to watch. Watching a team go end-to-end, throwing the ball from side to side, breaking the lines and eventually crossing for 5 points is a joy to behold. Similarly, a rolling maul or continuous pick and drives is equally as fun to watch: one team slowly and agonisingly wearing down the opposition before tumbling over the try line.
The most iconic player in the game’s history, including arguably the most iconic try ever scored. Watch this and try not to get as excited as the announcer. Go ahead – I dare you.
I’m not saying it’s perfect, or easy to follow. As I mentioned penalties seem to be spontaneously awarded just so the referee can be in the spotlight to flamboyantly gesture something or other. But in fact, rugby is one of the few games where these seemingly complex rules are designed solely to keep the game moving. If you commit an infraction that prevents the flow of play, you are penalised – simple as that. And referees call it as they see it, which sounds obvious…But take another popular sport – the AFL, where the umpire must conduct psychoanalysis on each single act before they even think about blowing the whistle.
Most importantly, this game is not for the feint-hearted. It is played by supreme athletes. Before you mention the slightly tubbier front rowers, even they must run from contest to contest for at least 60 minutes before substitutes kick in. And the hits during the game are bone jarring and brutal. In rugby, blood flows as much as beer down at your local on a Friday post-5pm. Hence it is one of the few games where there is a “blood bin.”
At the end of the day, you could do far worse. So, go on – give it a try.
Note: The author wishes to apologise for the unbelievably bad pun at the conclusion of this piece.
How often do you hear, “Did you watch the footy on the weekend?” or “Did you catch the Celtics game the other night?” No one ever asks about gymnastics. No one ever says that gymnastics is their favourite sport to watch. It’s never a topic of discussion. Period. It is the most underrated, most unappreciated sport of all time and this has to change.
Gymnastics is the foundation of all our sports. Gymnasts are the definition of an athlete. Have you seen the people who do gymnastics for a living? They are basically machines with muscles. They are the healthiest, fastest, strongest, most flexible (human?) beings in the world without exaggeration. Using the word amazing to describe what they do would be a gross understatement.
Most gymnasts are trained from a very early age. This is why their discipline and body control is indescribable. How do you explain some of the performances on the balance beam? You can’t. I always find myself with my mouth open, in awe, catching flies. I’m not kidding. If you have tuned in during the Olympics, you will know what I’m talking about.
Carly Patterson 04 Olympics
Whether it be Floor, Pommel Horse, Still Rings, Vault, Parallel Bars or Giants, their bodies contort, spin, rotate in ways that seem absolutely impossible. If we tried it, we would be broken and snapped in half in an instant. It’s beautiful, dangerous and extreme all at the same time. For example, timing on the “Uneven Bars,” must be impeccable. A mistiming can result in a very severe injury or even death.
So why don’t gymnasts and the sport of gymnastics get the recognition they deserve? It can’t be the leotards could it? Only insecure men would feel uncomfortable in skin-tight attire. You’re not insecure are you?
Volleyball ticks all the boxes as a sport. You can walk through downtown Berlin, Shenzhen, Rio De Janerio, Ulan Bator and you’ll find a volleyball game somewhere. It’s a fast and furious team sport where skill and smarts matter just as much as size and physical gifts. Tactically, it’s like a chess game played at breakneck speed. And momentum matters more in volleyball than any sport I know.
You know that moment during a long tennis rally when the point takes a turn, and a player hits a drop shot, and then they’re both scrambling to-and-fro hitting cross-court shots and lobbing each other and returning smashes and the crowd has abandoned all etiquette and fans are openly screaming with every shot and applauding before the point is even finished?!? That’s what volleyball is like all the time! It’s unbelievable to watch a 6’8″ Polish dude slam a ball at the ground at 100km/h, only for some tiny Brazilian to dive full stretch to the floor and get a forearm under the ball and keep it alive for his team to slam the ball back down the throat of the opposition, only for the Polish libero to run 10m off court to track down a deflected ball and get it back into play. The desperation and self-sacrifice is awesome.
An epic rally, and a great example of everything awesome about volleyball.
I’ll always regret not playing volleyball more. I played at school and we were pretty decent. Our rivals were Mazenod College, although it wasn’t much of a rivalry – they have been Australian Indoor Champions 8 times in the last decade alone. We played them in the ACC competition, and I’m proud to say my year 9 team was one of only two teams to ever defeat a Mazenod team in an ACC final (They’re 42 Wins and only 2 Losses in Finals).
The camaraderie in volleyball is far greater than any other sport I’ve played. A point won meant huddling together for high fives, praise, and strategic talk. A point lost meant huddling together for high fives, encouragement and strategic talk. I knew the strengths and weaknesses of every player on my team, and egos were put to the side. It’s skillful, breakneck, team-oriented, and the pros are freaks of nature (they have better vertical leaps than NBA players) and no regard for their own safety.
It’s hugely underrated.
To balance the ledger, be sure to check out MoTD’s 3 Most Overrated Sports