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Embarrassment of Rugby Riches on the Tube

A long thread on our site based on the story “Fox Soccer Plus Adds Rugby Rights” chastises the cable channel for not showing more rugby. But this past Saturday offered fans of the Brit-born game more viewing options than any day in U.S. TV history, I’d have to believe.

It started at 11:30 a.m. on BBC America, which showed Scotland versus Wales from Edinburgh in the elite Six Nations championship. (It was a sloppy but entertainment match from muddy Murrayfield, if you’re scoring at home, with Wales a bit better than the home side.)

It then continued at 2 p.m. on NBC’s Universal Sports, which showed 90 minutes worth of action from the USA 7s tournament in Vegas, one of the worldwide stops for a global seven-per-side tournament (as opposed to rugby’s traditional 15) featuring world powers. If you could find Universal Sports on your dial (it was just north of Siberia, on 464, for us FiOS’ers), the action was very good, finding the right balance between explaining the nuances and rules for the neophytes, and not dumbing it down for fans of the game, and flavored with some fun player profiles. (South Africa beat Fiji for the title in Vegas over the weekend, while the U.S. “Eagles” topped Japan to win the second-tier “Shield” final.)

At 3:30, NBC picked up the action from Vegas, and went for a full 2 1/2 hours. The human interest player profiles seemed like the classic Dick Ebersol touch. One stood out, on U.S. national player Miles Craigwell, a former college football guy who picked up the game after watching the same Vegas action on NBC last year. (Perhaps it was a bit of self-promotion for NBC to point out that it was responsible for bringing Craigwell into the game, and the national team, but no blood, no foul.)

Many, many years ago, I got my first real writing gig at a little rugby magazine, published out of an apartment suite on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. (I wrote about the game better than I played it, though I didn’t do either particularly well back then.)

I recall my editor and boss at the time, Ed Hagerty, telling me there’d been an “embarrassment of riches” regarding the sport in the U.S. media around then (it was ‘93)–a profile of one of the U.S. players in Sports Illustrated, and something else in some other mainstream media outlet.

It certainly was another embarrassment of riches for rugby Saturday.

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.