Special Projects: Bringing Rugby to Americans via The Rugby Channel

 

Brand Marinade is mostly known for printing shirts, building and managing ecommerce sites, designing cool stuff for schools, non-profits, celebrities, family reunions, plus shipping things all over the world and supporting them in the process.

But behind the scenes we do much more than that and one of the special projects we are very excited to work (every weekend) is for The Rugby Channel.

As a long time player, fan, supporter, coach, administrator of Rugby, this is an especially important project to be a part of.  When I was first introduced to the sport back in 1996/1997 while attending Occidental College, it came at the right time for me.  My football career came to an end my Freshman year when an untimely car accident made me rethink my priorities as a college student and I opted to leave the game of football.  I was a little tired of the military-esque feel and pressure Football added to my life.  The regimen, the attitude, the long days throughout the season made me shift my priorities to my studies and meeting new friends.   This also meant, I was not playing a sport for the first time in my life (basically since I was 6) and I gained 20lbs rather than the "Freshman 15".

Enter my Sophomore year at Occidental and a happenstance moment occurred in the Fall of 1996 when I was encouraged to go up to the Upper Soccer Field to watch a couple friends play this game called "Rugby".

At this stage, I had heard of Rugby a couple times before in my life.  For example - when William "Travis" Travis, found me after my last High School Football game (a loss vs Encinal at our annual Big Game) and said with a bit of a foreshadow, "You were a real good football player, but Rugby is your true calling.  You're a natural Hooker.  Now stop crying you big baby."

My response was "Travis I'm heading to Occidental in the Fall and this isn't going to be my last football game.  I'm a Football Player."

Little did, I know, that was indeed my last football game, and Rugby was to be the sport of my future when I ventured to the Upper Soccer Field that glorious morning at Oxy.  I'll save that part of the story for another day.

Back in those days (aka the 1990's through 2010's) the only way to watch International Rugby on TV was via The International Channel, sometimes Fox Soccer, a small startup called Media Zone via the Internet OR by skedaddling to your local British Pub.

Michael Godfree, my first Rugby coach and mentor, would pick me up at 5:30AM on Saturday mornings and we'd head off to the Cock'n Bull in Santa Monica or Lucky Baldwin's in Pasadena to watch a Five Nation's (now Six Nations) match.  We'd drink a pint before sunrise and eat a Full English Breakfast.  These were amazing mornings for me.  Little did I know, my world was opening up in so many ways.  The pub would be filled with 40 or 50 Internationals - all drinking a pre-sunrise pint, eating their Full English Breakfast and sitting back for a taste of home via The Rugby.

That was literally THE ONLY way to watch an International Test Match.  It was an delightful experience, but it was not easy.  Waking up at 5:30AM on a Saturday morning was a success in-of-itself.  But when learning a new culture through sport, sometimes that is what you need to do to immerse yourself in it.

Fast Forward to 2015-ish and somehow I find myself and Brand Marinade in the middle of a movement in the US when The Rugby Channel was born out of a partnership between USA Rugby and Rugby Football Union (England Rugby).  The goal was/is to get Rugby onto people's TV's, mobile devices, tablets, computers all over the US.  And as much as I love a pre-sunrise pint and a Full English Breakfast with a bunch of funny-talkers, I knew the significance this endeavor would have in making this sport more accessible to fans, players, and people that are neither yet.

I'm writing this on a Saturday morning while sitting at my desk part of the behind the scenes crew serving a live stream of England vs Argentina from Twickenham Stadium in London.  Danielle is cooking some eggs and bacon in the kitchen.  Not quite a Full English Breakfast.  I'm having a pint of coffee instead of a proper Pint of Guinness.

We had a "Technical Difficulties" moment and we missed an England Try because the transmission signal coming from London failed somewhere along the way to our servers in the the United States.  We lost about 5 minutes of match time.  The internet is amazing, but it is not yet the most stable way to transmit data without some sort of failure along it's pathway.  There is a reason Cable Networks still exist.  Satellites and dedicated transmission pathways beat the Internet on reliability still.  Not until NFL, NBA, MLB make a full time switch to Internet delivery will we have a stable Internet for the transmission of Live sporting events.

We just started the Harvard vs Dartmouth match, brought to the world Live over the Internet, which is amazing to me.  The technical challenges of delivery 1080P High Definition, fully produced matches while keeping costs manageable has been a great task to solve.  There are many people and teams behind the scenes bringing it all together.

One of the key pieces of technology comes from LiveU, which enables us to broadcast Live events without the need for hardwired Internet connections.  Which, oddly enough, is always a challenge.  No matter the venue (big stadium or remote grass field), getting reliable Internet connections to stream at ~4.0 Mbps of live audio/video without a hitch is constantly a challenge.  LiveU has enabled us to do some amazing things.

I'm gonna leave this blog on this note...

The opportunity to chase dreams is never to be taken lightly and I am luckily to be part of a couple teams that are helping me do just that.

We are getting ready to host the New Zealand All Blacks vs France match at 12PM PST, LIVE on www.therugbychannel.tv.

The DREAM is alive.

Oh yeah, at 11:11AM PST, one of our Partners En_jajaja is going to release her second tshirt on her site, www.euchapters.com.

Saturday is a RUGBY and TSHIRT day for us!

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