For over half a decade now, since 2010, Las Vegas has been home to the largest rugby tournament in North America. Annually, the USA Sevens Rugby is played in front of an arena full of fans at the Sam Boyd Stadium. Though there's no professional team in the city yet, Las Vegas has undoubtedly made a name for itself in terms of sports. With NHL, UFC, and boxing dominating the city's sports headlines, February has brought rugby into the Las Vegas spotlight.
Many could justify that rugby is among one of the most popular sports in the world, and is quickly rising in the United States. It is often and widely compared to American football with similarities in tackles and touchdowns, to name a few. According to ESPN.com, it was announced yesterday that former Australian rugby star, Jarryd Hayne, signed with the San Francisco 49ers in hopes of securing a coveted spot on the 53-man roster as a backup running back.
Three former international professional rugby players teamed up in the city to form Downtown Rugby. Elvis Seveali'i, Tom Carter, and Herve Mazzocco joined forces here in Las Vegas to start the club, along with Noor J. who runs the administration side. It was by sheer chance that though they all have crossed paths at some point during their professional careers, they wound up in the bright lights of Las Vegas. Elvis Seveali'i stated, "I was privileged enough to get together with Tom and Herve to start the new venture of Downtown Rugby which is the Vegas team at the moment."
Though Downtown Rugby is in it's first year, it has grown at an impressive rate with many people eager to join. Within the first two months, 30 people joined the club. Within the next couple months, they now have just shy of 50 players. According to Tom Carter, "Downtown Rugby is about getting the community and kids involved. Rugby is a positive game and the first thing is safety. We see this as a new opportunity for the city to have a team sport." They are bringing a European based rugby culture to Vegas.
"My involvement is to grow the awareness of rugby and it definitely helps when the Sevens are in town. It draws a big hype and huge crowd, not just in America but all over the world. We take that opportunity and try to grow the awareness in the city." Seveali'i continued, "We welcome all walks of life. We have an open door policy, regardless of athletic background."
They accept anyone who is interested in the sport to come down to the Charlie Frias Park on Tropicana and Decatur, every Monday and Wednesday at 7pm during their 90 minute practice. They encourage everyone from beginners to advanced of all ages to stop by the field and give it a try.
For those who may be more familiar with American football, there's good news for you. "Football and rugby complement each other." Seveali'i reassures.
After only six years in transient Las Vegas, first year UNLV football coach Tony Sanchez is proud to call this city home to him, his wife and two kids. I had an opportunity to sit down with coach Sanchez and discuss how his Vegas pride reflects in his recruiting.
Meet the luckiest guy playing on Super Bowl Sunday, LeGarrette Blount.
Doubt there are many college and NFL football fans making an official first introduction, but for the sake of this entry let’s pretend we don’t know much about him.
Skipping to his most infamous incident against Boise St. September 3, 2009. Blount had to be restrained by coaches and stadium security after responding to a post game taunt with a jab to the face that sent Boise State defenseman Byron Hout down to the turf. The incident was severe enough to prompt Oregon head coach Chip Kelly to suspend his running back for the remainder of the season. A suitable warning for any collegiate athlete inclined to engage in illegal physical violence on the football field.
However, instead of ending his college football career there, Blount chose to be productive with his absence and show that this incident should not define him.
Blount showed a level of remorse for his actions that convinced coach Kelly to allow the running back to return November 14, 2009 against Arizona State. His maturity was demonstrated even further when agreeing to speak with at risk teenagers and educate them on the lessons learned which culminated such a positive comeback story. An uplifting tale if the story concluded here, but the stigma of this collegiate loose cannon followed Blount to his temporary home with the Tennessee Titians.
August, 2010. LeGarrette Blount ends practice during training camp with a punch to the helmet of defensive end Eric Bakhtiari. The type of conflict known all too well in the NFL after being documented heavily in HBO’s Hardknocks and even condoned by a Super Bowl champion head coach. Point being, a training camp fight isn’t deserving of press unless it involves an NFL Star or is coupled with video of the incident. An argument supported by simply Googling: Training Camp Fights.
As an undrafted running back Blount was far from a super star and didn’t appear to have video circulating of his training camp scuffle, so why was it worth the coverage? It's likely that observers were waiting for a similar slip up from Blount, even if it was as mundane as a training camp fight that is commonly broken up and forgotten about. Nonetheless, Blount was not condemned for his actions nor should he have been. This was an example of one’s reputation catching up to him and the exposure lasted about as long as it should have. No harm, no foul, life seemed fair enough in this case.
After a three year stint in Tampa Bay and a season with the New England Patriots, Blount found a position with the Pittsburgh Steelers. A job where his veteran status seemed to give him a competitive edge against his second year competition, especially after Blount came off a season where he matched his career high in yards per carry with 5.0 as a Patriot. However, few anticipated such an impressive break out year from Le'Veon Bell who netted over thirteen hundred yards on the ground becoming the league’s second leading rusher of 2014.
As the number two in the Pittsburgh backfield, LeGarrette Blount could see the writing on the wall and chose Monday Night Football as the setting to vent his frustration. Following…forgive me, during the Steelers’ victory over the Titans Blount demonstrated his displeasure by leaving the game early. Being dressed and ready to leave the city while his teammates were still in pads was enough for the Steelers to take swift action and release Blount the following day. A decision apparently more detrimental to the team than being charged with marijuana possession considering that incident wasn’t enough to warrant being thrown off the team. A timeless tale of cause and effect that shows just how damaging selfishness can be when one puts personal emotions of anger ahead of the team. A great lesson if this is where the story ended.
Instead, a pouty, frustrated LeGarrette Blount was rewarded for his release by beginning his road to the Super Bowl when the Patriots signed him two days later. A signing that added 281 yards to Blount’s 2014 season rushing total and put the back in the best position to be a dark horse for New England in this Sunday's Super Bowl.
What a terrible lesson for any young athlete faced with a similar decision to make when he is not getting the ball enough and feels the urge to quit. How would LaGarrette Blount be able to sell this message to the next group of at risk youths who want to be inspired by his story?
Well, from a distance the key would be to show enough contempt for your current team that they release you and wait for a Super Bowl bound squad to scoop you up because you happen to know their offense.
Tom Brady Has No Idea What Could Have Happened
Photo via: CBS Sports
Congratulations New England! Your Patriots are DeflateGate I champions!
Despite being slight underdogs (Only slight considering owner Robert Kraft’s relationship with Goodell), the Pats rolled, as they sometimes do on the actual football field. Huge plays from star quarterback Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, were dwarfed by the haymaker that was landed by Kraft on Monday afternoon.
It began, as it usually does, with the Belichick genius.
At his press conference last Thursday, Belichick did more than just deny the allegations, he actually shifted the blame to quarterback Tom Brady.
“Tom’s personal preferences, on his footballs, are something he can talk about in much better detail and information, than I could possibly provide,” said Belichick on Thursday.
Just like that, Bill threw the underinflated football in Tom Brady’s court, but as he always does, trusted his quarterback to make something happen.
Tom Brady spoke at length with the media, over 30 minutes, and answered questions to the “best of his knowledge.” He flippantly responded to questions with small chuckles, or incredulous smiles, flipping the respective bird to all who attended the press conference. As if to say, “Prove it.”
And “prove it” Belichick did, with an offensive onslaught, starting with an impromptu press conference breaking down the science that goes into underinflated footballs in acclimate weather conditions. He failed to mention how the “science” only affected 11 of 12 New England footballs, and not the Indianapolis balls in anyway, but who cares about that?
"I'm embarrassed to talk about the amount of time that I've put into this relative to the other important challenge in front of us," said Belichick “We have a huge game, a huge challenge for our football team this is where that focus is going to go. I’ve spent more than enough time on this.”
Wow. Now Belichick is a sympathetic figure in this ordeal. Using words like “embarrassed” and slamming the door on any more questions with the media.
Tom Brady added his own offensive production, appearing on WEEI’s “Dennis & Callahan” program, telling them, “I personalized a lot of things and thought this was all about me and my feelings got hurt.”
How dare we! Question Tom Brady’s integrity?! He is a saint! One of the best quarterbacks in NFL history would never compromise the integrity of the game.
All the while, the NFL sat quietly, not even planning to interview Saint Tom until after the Super Bowl.
Enter owner Robert Kraft, during yesterday’s press conference when the team landed in Glendale for Super Bowl XLIX.
“It bother me greatly, that [Tom and Bill’s] reputations and integrity, and by association that of our team has been called into question this week,” he said “If the Wells investigation is not able to definitively determine that our organization tampered with the air pressure of the footballs, I would expect and hope the league would apologize to our entire team, and in particular, coach Belichick and Tom Brady for what they have had to endure this past week.”
According to me, that was the equivalent of a dagger in the DeflateGate investigation. With that, the attention now turns to the monster that is the NFL.
Sure, they have a video of a “rogue” ball boy taking the game balls into a room before taking them to the field. The room was bathroom, and he was in there for 90 seconds. There is no video in the bathroom, of course, so what can the NFL do now?
Prove it, or apologize.
I am not privy to what the NFL knows. I know only what I can read in the media, and from what I can read, the NFL has 11 underinflated footballs, an organization demanding an apology and a video of a guy taking 90 seconds in a trip to the bathroom.
I’m too young to make a strong MacGyver reference, but I know enough to know the NFL will need similar genius to make something out of what looks like nothing if they want to stick the deed to New England.
The trio of Kraft, Belichick and Brady have done some great things for New England.