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ABC's Rugby Debut: Delay of Game

It’s safe to say that nearly all members of the small but forceful community of American rugby players were beyond psyched to see actual rugby on ABC yesterday, and the U.S. team, known as the Eagles, to boot. It meant we didn’t have to shell out dough for pay-per-view, or call up a match on our laptops, or even schlep out to one of a handful of pubs nationwide that show international rugby matches.

ABC, with an assist from sporting cousin ESPN, was to broadcast the highlights of the international rugby tournament held at San Diego’s Petco Park over the weekend. The rugby blogosphere was abuzz (yes, there is such a thing), viewing parties were planned, and everyone was curious to see how what certainly seemed to be rugby’s U.S. broadcast debut would fare.

“American Rugby Fans!” bellowed a mass email to enthusiasts from the tourney organizer, USA Sevens Rugby, giving them a heads-up about the “historic national broadcast” of the 2009 USA Sevens Highlight Show. “The wait is over!”

Alas, the wait was not over at the broadcast’s scheduled 5 p.m. start time. Some long-since-decided NBA game between the Celtics and the Suns went long (a 128-108 nailbiter for the Bostonians), and the 5 p.m. rugby kickoff took place in progress at 5:27. Just 33 minutes later, rugby’s hour-long broadcast was over, with Argentina stunning the English with a 19-14.

The Americans, meanwhile, barely lost in the semifinals to Argentina. Blink, and you missed it on ABC.