December 5, 2001

Feliz Navidad Fellow Ruggers,

My eyes have seen the light. I have been to the mountain top and the view has led me to the promise land. Can I get an AMEN!? My rugby brothers and sisters, a miracle has fallen upon us and if we choose to follow that path to righteousness, we will walk through that blessed valley together. Can I get an AMEN? The Eagle has risen to heights, never before seen. With the largest flock ever assembled to praise the Eagle, that Eagle responded in almost biblical proportions. What was once a valley of death has become the valley of HOPE.

OK, enough already. Mother Rugger, it is time to get off your pulpit and stop speaking in tongues. Last weekend I had the most rare pleasure of attending the Eagle/Springbok match in Houston, Texas. By some accounts, the Springboks (the obvious favorite) were favored by as many as 60 points. Fortunately, they only managed to win by 23. Just minutes into the match, the Eagle fly half easily slotted a 45 meter kick to give the Eagles an early 3-0 lead. The entire 13,000 people, including the Springbok fans, were pretty excited. When the celebration died down, I jumped up, shouting with glee, "Yay, we didn't get shut out!" I'm not going to go through a detailed match report. That can be found elsewhere. What I can tell you, that the match reports won't, is that the Eagles had a real, legitimate chance to win that game. This is the first Eagle match in my 16 years of rugby, which I can nitpick and say, "if this knockon, or that play hadn't happened," etc. If you do that 3 or 4 times, the Eagles could have won that game.

You know what? I think I'm going to take some credit for what the Eagles were able to accomplish. I'll tell you what else I'm going to do. I'm going to share the credit with my 13,000 friends who were at Robinson Stadium. We shouted, cheered, and cried together and a couple of us even zoolooed across the pitch in an obvious attempt to distract the Springboks long enough for the Eagles to score. I also give credit to the organizers that brought the Eagles and Springboks to Texas - probably the most logical place in the US, due to the large population of Springbok patriots who live in Texas. I was truly amazed at what they were able to pull off. In the short time that I've lived in Texas, I can tell you that they take a tremendous amount of pride in showing people how wonderful their state is. Great job, Paul Mabry (one of the few organizers that I know personally). Even yours truly had a small (but important) part in pulling off the success of the day. Yes, the cheapest hooker in the business was able to help avert an international incident.

A couple of months ago the Eagles put me in cahoots with a representative of Nike South Africa. He requested that I put the Springboks' names on the backs of the jerseys once the line-up was finalized. I was honored to do so. But wait - there WERE no names on the backs of those jerseys! Did Hooker Rugby drop the ball? Not on your life. Through the magic of inner-state commerce, and our newfound friends at UPS, the jerseys were shipped next day air on Tuesday and did not arrive at our offices until Friday morning. In those two days, UPS tortured us in every conceivable manner.

I'm not going to tell you not to use UPS, since some of you reading this probably work there, but I will say that it is such a large company with so many packages that they do not have the ability to find a 70 lb duffle bag when it's lost. I was able to get the jerseys hand delivered to the extremely grateful Nike rep, who may very well have lost his job if those jerseys hadn't turned up. No big deal; we had about 19 hours to spare. I did have an elaborate plan all set up, to put itching powder in the armpits of all of the 'boks' jerseys. I figured they would look like funny little monkeys. But, of course, with the whole anthrax thing, I decided that it wouldn't be wise.

The after-match party included a tractor-trailer of Castle Lager shipped over from SA especially for this match. The cans were specially printed with the test-match logo - a great souvenir if you were sober enough to smuggle one out. While I plodded through the large and joyous crowd, whether I ran into a 'bok fan, or an Eagle fan, elation was to be had by all. When the South Africans weren't mumbling in Afrikaans, I enjoyed my conversations with them the most. 100% of my conversations with them were exactly the same. First, one of us would apologize for spilling a beer on the other and then the 'bok fan would spill into what, almost, seemed to be a rehearsed congratulations to the Eagles. They were amazingly impressed with the level of play and the heart displayed throughout the match, by a group of mostly amateurs.

Here's the "Leave it to Beaver" part. The Eagles have to play the likes of South Africa, New Zealand, Australia. Whether we get killed or keep it close, like this weekend, we have to play the best to become the best. The Eagles management should also try to have more home games throughout different parts of the country. Somebody told me that Texas hosted an Eagles' match back in the 80s, but that was before my time and much too long ago. Even without the Springbok fans, the Texas crowd still would have become very close to being the largest Eagle crowd ever.

I will admit that I had some real problems with how some of this event was organized. Along with my wishful outlook of the game, I also had a wishful outlook for the attendance. I think it could have been even greater. It was clear that the Eagle players were very pumped up by the large crowd and their involvement. From this match forward, it should be priority one, for every home game, to find a way to get butts in the seats of the biggest venue that they can fill. Message to Eagle organizers - go big or stay home. My last wish, of course, would be for the Eagles to play better and that's just a Pandora's box that can't be opened because this rant is already too long. You can bet that I have some suggestions though!

I would like to take this moment to wish you and yours the most wonderful and joyous of Holiday seasons. There are millions of Americans that are going to have, probably, their most painful Christmas ever. Let's keep them in our thoughts and prayers.

Pat Laczkowski
Hooker Rugby Supply