August 23, 2005
Murderball movie focuses on rough-and-tumble world of quad rugby
By Susan Christensen
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON—The award-winning movie “Murderball” comes to Northpark 14 in Ridgeland this Friday, offering an insider’s view of the rough-and-tumble world of quad rugby.
In conjunction with the documentary’s local debut, members of the Jackson Jags—all quadriplegic athletes—will answer questions about the fast-paced game in the theater lobby during the first matinee.
Their appearance is the brainchild of Ginny Boydston, therapeutic recreation director at Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson. Boydston coaches Mississippi’s only quad rugby team and is the force behind “Murderball” stopping here.
“When I saw Mississippi was one of five states that didn’t have the movie coming to it, I was offended,” she said. “The state has a quad rugby team—why wouldn’t we have the movie?”
After several phone calls and e-mails, Boydston convinced the movie distributors to give the Jackson market a try. Now she and her team can’t wait to view the movie that won two awards at the Sundance Film Festival and that movie critics are hailing as a must-see.
“Murderball” is the athletes’ nickname for the aggressive sport of quad rugby, which is played in heavy-duty wheelchairs on a regulation basketball court. Players score by advancing a volleyball over the goal line—a journey that’s sends them through a gauntlet of wheelchair drivers who bash each other in pursuit of the ball.
“It is a rough sport,” said Jags player Wiley Clark, 49, of Moss Point. “Last year I got knocked over and I turned a couple of guys over, too.
The movie chronicles plenty of heated action as Team USA readies for a showdown with rival Team Canada at the 2004 Paralympics in Athens, Greece.
While the movie revolves around the competition on the court, it also provides a frank look at the everyday lives of people who are disabled. “It smashes all the stereotypes,” Boydston said.
“Murderball” earned an R rating for its spicy language and adult situations. But Boydston says it also has garnered praise for its candid approach to sensitive subjects. “It answers a lot of questions for people who have new injuries and even for those who have not-so-new injuries,” she said. “They pretty much tell it all.”
Jackson Jags player Mike Blackburn, 47, of Newton said he appreciates that the movie clears up confusion about what it means to be a quadriplegic. While most people associate quadriplegia with complete paralysis from the neck down, the term actually means someone is impaired in all four limbs. Quad rugby players are rated on a scale of .5 to 3.5 based on their level of disability, and the classification of the four players on the court must total no more than eight points.
Blackburn said the movie also does a good job of showing that people who use wheelchairs don’t need to be pitied. “I will have people ask me who does your cooking or laundry and I say I do all that. They act like if you are in a wheelchair, you are helpless.”
Wheelchair rugby players quickly dispel that notion, for the game is not for the weak. “It will hurt you if you’re not in shape,” said Clark, a former Paralympian wheelchair racer who says quad rugby is now his motivation to stay fit.
One of about 40 organized rugby teams in the United States, the Jags are now readying for their October to April season. Boydston said they play in the Heartland South region, primarily competing against teams in Kentucky, Missouri and Alabama. “Fortunately, we get support from Methodist Rehabilitation Center, Ameristar Casino Vicksburg and the Mississippi Paralysis Association that helps pay for travel expenses and equipment,” she said.
Boydston said she currently has 10 players on her roster, but she would welcome more. “I hope this movie brings some people out of the woodwork to play,” she said.
Those interested in learning more about quad rugby in Mississippi can call Bodyston at 601-364-3566. For general information on the sport, visit quadrugby.com.