The best part of the Olympics is watching TV for 12 hours straight and discovering sports, athletes, and drama you barely knew existed. The worst part of the Olympics is getting sucked into the drama you barely knew existed, and subsequently having your heart broken.
So it was I found myself casually watching the end of the second half of the U.S. versus Argentina rugby sevens match, when I saw injustice occur. Up 5-0, an Argentine player went for a try but put the ball just short of the try zone, and sort of skidded it in for a score. That’s a knock-on, and should be disallowed, or so the aggravated commentator told me. He was confident it would get overturned—video replay exists for just this purpose—but it wasn’t. I was outraged!
Argentina converted the kick after for a seemingly unassailable 12-0 lead, and I mistakenly doubted American grit and ingenuity.
Shortly afterwards, an American was thrown headfirst into the ground. It was pretty sweet, but also pretty illegal, and the Argentine was showed a yellow card and a two-minute penalty.
This man advantage allowed the Americans to break to the try zone, where an Argentine made a try-line tackle. But wait! The tackle was high, around the shoulders. The Americans were awarded the try, converted an easy kick after for two more points, and the Argentina was penalized with a yellow card.
Suddenly the United States was down just 12-7 and had a two-man advantage.
From the kick-off the Americans swarmed the Argentines who, remember, were down two men. Eventually, inevitably, they threw the ball away. The Americans worked harder than they probably should have had to, but eventually broke through for the try and conversion. 14-12. USA! USA! USA!
But after getting hyped about a sport I’ve never watched five consecutive minutes of in my life and swelling my breast with pride in my country, the Americans shot themselves in the dick.
The ensuing kick-off didn’t go the requisite 10 meters, giving Argentina a free kick. Their two yellow carded players were back. And in Olympic rugby sevens, when the clock hits 0:00 the game continues until a try or a change of possession—sort of like a desperate last-second, lateral-filled return in American football. At one point, 20 meters outside of the try zone, an Argentinian pass went awry, and the ball was bouncing enticingly free. But the nearest American didn’t see it and got out of position, the U.S. lost their line, and the Argentines walked in for a try, 21 seconds after the clock struck zeroes.
17-14, Argentina. America, the defending gold medalist, is off to a bad start. But at least now I know why rugby wasn’t included in the Olympics for the past 92 years: because it is too goddamn heartbreaking.