January 26, 2004

Welcome to 2004 (the year of the rugger),

2003 was a very exciting year in USA Rugby- with the substantial improvement of the Eagles, and moderate improvement in US Rugby World Cup play. I would say that one contribution to that success is the 7-10 year swell of Youth Rugby. I sat down and re-read many of my past rants which can be found at The Rugby Reader's Review. Just reading my nonsensical ramblings, I've seen improvement of USA Rugby over the past four years. Professionalism in the US game is creeping in, much like a Saskatchewan screamer comes in and freezes the North East.

In a few, very fortunate, parts of the country, High School and Youth Rugby are starting to gear up. The still frozen parts of the country are anxiously awaiting their turn. In 2003, there was a 57% increase in Youth Rugby (Rugby Magazine.) With the new Rugby Magazine directory in the works, I'm sure that we will see that Youth Rugby continues its dramatic growth pattern. The people that are making this happen are reading this newsletter right now. We thank you for that! It is so easy to write that by 2017, the US will be winning the RWC, and it's just as easy to believe it. But, if the volunteers don't step onto the pitch and get the job done, it's not going to happen.

My 12 year old nephew is a fanatical ESPN SportsCenter watcher. He can recite back statistics and useless facts like a robot on 'roids. The one thing he knows very little about is Rugby - despite the fact that his three uncles have a combined (nearly) 60 years in the game. Whenever we get together, we toss the ball around and talk Rugby but he's busy spouting Carmello Anthony's stats from the night before. I re-discovered something floating around the internet (and most of you have probably seen this)- an on-line petition to ESPN, urging them to put Rugby on their network. I've, personally, received three emails about this petition, so if you've already gotten the link, I apologize. If you haven't, go ahead- log in and sign it- what can it hurt? Click here.

To date, at the time that this letter was written, there were 14,022 signatures - 4 of them belonging to my immediate family members. Sadly, that small number is not going to cut it. In order to stand a chance, we need to be up over 100,000 signatures. So, if you don't have the time to coach Youth Rugby, get involved in administrative work, or generally support the Youth movement, do your small part and see if we can't get Rugby shown on a major sports network. I thank the creator of this petition, Mike Holzman, for getting this started, and doing more than his share to popularize our beloved sport.

Just in case anyone out there from ESPN is listening, one of the most significant rugby events ever to take place is about to happen in Los Angeles, CA on February 14 & 15. The IRB World Sevens Series will be making a stop in LA . All of the top teams will be there - All Blacks, Springboks, England, Australia, Fiji and, of course, our beloved Eagles. If ESPN has the presence of mind to send a crew to film highlights of the event, it is extremely important for the stands to be full. It's being held at the Home Depot center, in the greater Los Angeles area which has a 27,000 seat capacity. I, myself, am trying to make that cross-coast trek to see the game. If that stadium is empty on both days, you'll be hard pressed to make the LA Local News, let alone ESPN. As I contemplate resting my carpal tunnel, keep this in mind - if you want to see the US be the number one Rugby nation in the world, the sport has to become professional, and popular with the masses. Going to practice one night a week and showing up on Saturday is not going to get it done. US Rugby players really enjoy being critical of our governing body (USA Rugby) and that right is certainly afforded to you, as long as you're doing your share to improve the sport that we all love.

Pat Laczkowski
Front Row Outfitters