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Netflix is running past episodes of the hour long, political series, “The West Wing,” which debuted in 1999. In the show, actor Martin Sheen plays the role of Jeb Bartlet, President of the United States. His fictitious biography narrates an undergraduate degree from Notre Dame, a Nobel Prize in Economics, and a governorship of New Hampshire.
Nowhere does it indicate he played rugby nor expressed any interest in the sport. Then why is he watching an international rugby match on television?
The episode is entitled “The Midterms” that aired October 18, 2000, during the second season. (This hour is best remembered for the president “schooling” a homophobic right wing, call-in radio personality on what draconian behavior the Bible demands.)
At one point, Bartlet retires to his bedroom in the Residence. He’s clothed and sitting in bed, reviewing the briefing book. Opposite, is a television set and for a few minutes, a rugby match plays out on the TV without sound.
The captured photo above is of White House Press Secretary, C.J. Cregg (Allison Janney) talking to the President while the rugby game continues. No one makes any mention of the sporting event.
The assumption is that this episode was shot a few weeks or a month earlier, which would set the shooting schedule in autumn, a time of no international matches being played. The teams’ uniforms shed no light as to their identity, but the conjecture is that these are international fifteens. The unanswered question is why is the match on American television? It cannot be a Rugby World Cup since that event occurred a year earlier in 1999.
And, certainly, it was not the live airing of an Eagle match, as the USA played no autumn Tests in 2000.
Another assumption is that the match was taped, as were all television shows on “The West Wing.” These were mainly news programs witnessed on the many TV monitors seen in and around the Press Room.
So, finally, why did a rugby match become the televised sport of choice, and used as uncited background for the President of the United States?