Game of the week: USA Rugby Sevens, today and Sunday. The USA leg of the Rugby Sevens World Series is this weekend in Las Vegas, and NBC will cover it on the NBC Sports Network at 1:00 both days, and on the flagship NBC at 3:00 Saturday and 3:30 Sunday.
Rugby - the fifteen-a-side version - tends to be mostly a war of attrition, filled with punts and charges into the line, the closest thing to actual trench warfare that the sporting world has yet to invent. Rugby sevens is played on the same size field, with eight fewer players per side, and an entire match takes 15 minutes (two seven-minute halves with a one-minute intermission). It's mostly just consistent action, and is as entertaining to watch as anything else you'll stumble across this weekend.
If nothing else, look at it this way: sevens rugby will be an Olympic sport in 2016, and the USA is the Olympic titleholder (having won the 1924 gold medal). The American team has struggled mightily so far this year, but a few wins on home soil might be just what it needs to get in gear.
What else to watch
1pm today: Gophers wrestling vs. Iowa (BTN). According to the InterMat Wrestling rankings, the Gophers should be favored at five weights today, and the Hawkeyes should be favored at five. With both teams ranked in the top five nationally, today might give fans a pretty good indication as to which of these teams might have the best chance at a national title.
6pm today: #21 Michigan at #3 Michigan State (ESPN). I have my suspicions that the Breslin Center, never sedate, will be more or less on fire during this game.
8am (or 2am) Sunday: Australian Open men's singles final (ESPN2). If you want to stay up all night, be my guest, but I suspect you may want to give it a miss until Sunday morning. Rafael Nadal is the favorite over the upset-minded Stanislas Wawrinka, and maybe this will go down in straight sets and you'll be able to go back to bed, but if the last few Australian Open finals are any indication, you will see a marathon that redefines the limits of human endurance and athleticism, and you will yelp involuntarily throughout the match, and at the end you will be exhausted even though you have not left your sofa.
What NOT, repeat NOT, to watch: Pro Bowl, 6:30pm Sunday. I won't tell you what station. Here's the thing: the Pro Bowl is awful, but every year it draws huge ratings. We will never, ever get it to go away as long as it keeps drawing viewers. I'm begging you: Do not watch this game. Watch something, anything, else. We have to band together and stop this nightmare.
What to read this weekend
Intrigued by my insistence, up top, that you watch some rugby this weekend? Both the Guardian and ESPN covered the state of American rugby this week, in the lead-up to the Las Vegas tournament. Short summary: Things are looking up.