Under the radar and into your gut


Nov. 8, 2004, midnight | By Lauren Finkel Dan Greene | 16 years, 7 months ago

Lauren Finkel and Dan Greene sound off on the most ultimate sport


We live in a nation where everyone else's football is our soccer, our football is no one else's game, our national pastime is baseball and our basketball team can't even hold its own anymore (thanks a lot, Argentina and France).  At the Olympics, our men's soccer team didn't medal at the Olympics, football isn't an event and our baseball team didn't even qualify.

So maybe it's time for us to move away from our sub-par national sports teams to venture out and see what the rest of the world has to offer—because contrary to popular belief, there is sporting life outside of football, baseball, basketball and backyard wrestling.

What we propose is that Americans look beyond this week's TV Guide—or maybe just a little closer at it—to sports of a more international flavor.  Whether it be base-jumping, cricket or ribbon dancing, we need a new ultimate sport in America.  But what could be so hardcore, so extreme, so mind-numbingly gnarly that it has the potential to burst into the American lexicon?  Could it be the rough-and-tumble game of Australian-rules football, or the intense, raw ferocity of Irish hurling.  Senior Sports Editors Dan Greene and Lauren Finkel want you to know, and the debate starts now.

Dan: There's only one sport that holds all the thrills any red-blooded sports fan could want: full contact, no stoppage, furious speed and judges that look like Colonel Sanders.  Australian-rules football, baby!  What sport could top that?

Lauren: How about Irish hurling?  It's been around for over 2,000 years; it's considered the fastest field game on Earth; it's a hybrid of hockey, lacrosse, rugby and soccer; and the ball is called a sliothar.

Dan: Sounds like the villain in Harry Potter.

Lauren: Sounds like your sport already isn't cool enough.

Dan: You have yet to prove that your sport is cool. You haven't even told us the rules.

Lauren: I was getting to that. Hurling is played with teams of 15, and players use a curved wooden stick (called a hurley) to smack the sliothar (a ball the size and resistance of a baseball) across a field one-and-a-half times bigger than a football field, all while tackling each other.

Dan: So what?  I hear you Irish hurling wusses are encouraged to wear helmets to protect your soft craniums.  If you want protective gear in Aussie-rules, you'd best get off the field.  Aussie-rules players try to get their bright-red football across the 185-meter long, circular field and over one of three goal lines—two for one point, one for six points—any way they can, be it kicking, spiking or bouncing it off an opposing player.  Aussie-rules is so fast and downright crazy, it looks like a game you made up with your friends. How do you score points in Irish barfing?

Lauren: By using your hands, hurley or feet to put the sliothar in an "H"-shaped goal.  If it goes in below the crossbar, which is seven feet off the ground, you get three points; above it, you get one.

Dan: Nothing's cooler than a 36-man combination soccer-basketball-all-out-brawl.  Instead of jump balls, the ref slams the ball against the ground for the players to fight over.  And throw-ins are pushovers compared to the "footie"—Aussie term for the game—version where the umpire just plain hurls the ball over his back into the fray.  That's gangster.

Lauren: Well, hurling's ultimate for a reason that goes beyond refs bouncing balls; try the speed of the balls.  The sliothar can travel at 93 miles per hour and go a distance greater than 262 feet—now that is hardcore.

Dan: Still unconvinced, Lauren.  I just haven't had a spectator sport experience that matches that of the Australian-rules football League.  The anticipation as a player takes a 'mark' on the goal—after receiving a kick, a player can take a kick without fear of being tackled—beats anything else.  And you don't truly understand the word 'scramble' until you've seen Aussie-rules players fight for the ball like their lives depended on it.  I know hurling is as Irish as the Blarney Stone, but footie is as Australian as kangaroos.  The homegrown sport has been around for over 100 years, started by a bunch of buddies in the Australian state of Victoria.

Lauren:  Dan, 100 years basically means that Aussie-rules football has been in the world for only five percent of the time that hurling has.  And really, I think it is pretty evident that if we are looking for a sport for Americans to sink their teeth into, then the fact that around 43 million Americans claim that they have Irish lineage is something that can't be overlooked.  The most Australian thing to hit America is the Crocodile Hunter, and I don't know if I support a sport from the nation that gave us Steve Irwin.

Dan: Ethnic jokes aside, hurling sounds…nice—certainly cooler than that other Irish pastime, the caber toss.  But you just can't beat a sport that combines the bone-crunching hits of football and rugby with the free-flowing speed of soccer and a little Aussie craziness.  It's a beautifully insane game to watch—something I'm sure Americans could appreciate.

Lauren: As is hurling.  The Irish national pastime is a game that is as much brute strength as it is finesse.

Dan: A fair point.  Well Lauren, I think we both know the American public well enough to know that they win with either one of these decidedly hardcore sports; and, you know, with one more sport on its plate, America would have to drop something. 

Lauren: I think we're both thinking of the same thing.

Dan: NASCAR?

Lauren: Absolutely.

For the official rules of Irish hurling and other cool information about the sport, check out the official webpage of the Gaelic Athletic Association here.
To learn more about Australian Rules football, try the official webpage of the Australian Football League here.



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Lauren Finkel. "I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love."...and I LOVE to do crafts! ps: SM, I enjoy you. More »

Dan Greene. Dan, alright fine, VJ, is proud to be a senior at Blair and a member of the best paper. Ever. He's really funny, trust him. As managing sports editor and ombudsman he enjoys sports and ombudsing. Dan also enjoys literature, soccer and crude humor. One … More »

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