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By Staff | Mar 5, 2010

My wife and I were recently visited by aliens. They landed in our driveway and climbed out of their gleaming white craft. Oxygen must be important to them as they wore garments imprinted with the characters “O2.”

The pair of aliens were soon at our door, making a request. And no, it had nothing to do with taking them to our leader.

Though their speech was somewhat difficult to understand, we got the message that they desired to watch something called “rugby.” Thankfully, we get BBC America and were able to accommodate their request and avoid being vaporized by any possible ray guns.

The aliens — resident aliens, actually – are in fact friends of ours whom we had invited over to watch the Six Nations Championship rugby match between England and Ireland. Which was fitting, as one of the aliens is Irish, while the other is English.

The aliens are bilingual, that is, they can speak English and American, although both have heavy accents. One of them sounds like Daniel Craig, while the other sounds like Liam Neeson. Listening to them talk was like a night at the movies.

We settled in our living room as the game began. I know nothing about rugby aside from the fact that it involves two teams and an oblong ball.

I was hoping to receive insights about the subtle nuances of rugby, but that didn’t really happen. The aliens were too busy shouting at the TV, saying such things as “Yes!!” and “NO!!” and “You idiot!” and “Off the floor! Keep it off the floor!!”

It took a while, but I finally figured out that “the floor” is what rugby fans call the grass playing field.

There are many similarities between rugby and football, which I was only too glad to point out to the Englishman and the Irishman.

“I see you guys stole our idea of having goal posts,” I said. “And your rugby ball looks a lot like our football. But I see you guys haven’t yet discovered pads for the players.”

This got their attention. I was informed that most of what we call “football” was actually stolen from rugby and that what we call “soccer” is, in fact, football.

“Soccer,” they explained, “Is a gentleman’s game played by hooligans. Rugby is a hooligan’s game played by gentlemen.”

Let me get this straight: no matter what the game, some level of hooliganism is involved? Correct, they said.

The English team took the field wearing sparkling white uniforms while the Irish wore their traditional green. There wasn’t much point to having different colored uniforms as far as I could see; within minutes of taking the field, every single player had been transformed into a walking human-shaped grass stain.

There is some strange terminology associated with rugby. For instance, there’s “blood replacement,” which is not a form of artificial plasma. There’s also the “sin bin,” which is remarkably self-explanatory.

Rugby appears to be a tough sport, very much like our football, but without even the slightest hint of padding. The players run nonstop and smash against each other in a game that really should have been named “kill the carrier.”

As with most manly games, watching rugby traditionally involves malt beverages. In keeping with tradition, we partook of that substance known as Guinness. I don’t know how Guinness is produced, but its color seems to suggest that tar is involved.

But that’s where I drew the line, vittles-wise. “We’re in America, by gee,” I said, “And we’re going to eat American food!” So we fed them pizza.

After the rugby game was over, there was a spirited discussion that included the topic of “the old days.” The trouble is, for these aliens, the old days can reach back to Medieval times and beyond. It was the kind of discussion where a phrase such as “No, I believe that happened in 1215” might be heard.

Both men agreed that what attracted them to America was our pervasive attitude of optimism. Our nation’s energy and enthusiasm are imprinted in our collective DNA and stands in stark contrast to their experiences in Europe.

They don’t miss the gloomy, “no, I don’t dare” mind-set of the Old Country. They didn’t miss being shoved into a stifling little pigeonhole and being told to be glad for it because this is as good as it will ever get. Both expressed a deep affection for their adopted homeland.

During the rugby game I noticed that the players received no coaching from the sidelines. It was up to each individual team member to determine the best course of action and grab the initiative whenever possible.

This parallels the path our two aliens took when they left their home countries. How entrepreneurial, how utterly American!

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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