There's a saying in the Silicon Valley: the main thing is to remember the main thing is the main thing.
In the Albuquerque Journal's coverage of this weekend's collegiate playoffs and a local paper's report on a Pacific Coast high school contender, there's stark contrast between pitching rugby as a mainstream sport and going for feature angles or 'strategic messaging. In New Mexico, whatever the latter approach was, it backfired.
Here's the lede from both papers:
I virtually lived in the coldest, darkest, smelliest arenas in the province of Ontario for the better part of 15 years while growing up living, breathing and playing hockey.
But little of that time adoring a sport known for toothless, foul-mouthed varmints prepared me for my first three hours observing live rugby.
Never had I heard so many F-bombs dropped in such a short period of time. And we're talking about women's rugby, by the way.
THE FIRST THING that stands out about the Marin Highlanders youth rugby club team is, well, they're pretty good.
Marin's under-19 team sports a 12-4 record heading into Saturday's game against College Park Preparatory at St. Mary's College and already has clinched a spot in next weekend's NorCal playoffs.
The team boasts two players (senior Matt Cadelago and sophomore Jake Anderson) who will participate in a tryout camp this summer in Indiana for the under-19 USA Rugby national team.
How might these stories might have been pitched? One would have been framed in a way the reporter could understand (i.e., local team makes playoffs), and one may have tried to outline union strategy (to embed women's rugby in the NCAA), causing the reporter to lose the plot and revert to stereotype.
We've seen quixotic focus on the women's game before. About a dozen years ago, Boulder was so keen on the idea that it created a whole new logo replete with a pony-tailed player. About the same time, Princeton and then Penn State were emerging as powerhouses.
The point is not women vs men. It's that the collegiate championships sell themselves because the participants are name brands that any reporter anywhere will understand: Penn State, Navy, Indiana, Florida, Tennessee, Michigan, Texas A&M, Colorado, Cal, Stanford, etc. America's best sports schools play rugby.
In Washington, longtime rugby man and media professional Jason 'Pee Wee' Maloni is successfully outlining the neophyte Maverick league the same way. By this technique, schools from the Ivy League and other well-known athletic conferences also have gained a foothold for their tournaments.
USA Rugby's media staff is diligent and courteous, and I don't know for sure how they portrayed the round of 16. Journalists are always going to write 'bad' stories -- we have a pesky way of doing that -- and it's not immediately Boulder's fault that some of the competitors have potty mouths.
Still it seems the main thing bears repeating. Administrative sanction as a stepping stone to leveraging resources may excite bureaucrats, but it's hardly the stuff that will inspire the rest of us to fall in love with rugby.
Related: Maverick league underway in DC