April 28, 2003

Happy Spring Fellow Ruggers,

Long ago, in a Rugby galaxy far, far away (17 years ago in Buffalo, NY), before the age of lifting in the lineouts, poaching in the rucks, kicking tees, headgear, shoulder pads….. When large behemoth-like forwards were the order of the day, and there was no such thing as a blood stoppage or even, for that matter, a blood sub, I was introduced to the world's greatest sport, while still in High School (an extreme rarity in those days.)

The only outlet for play back then was with the local men's club, which I, gleefully, did for 2 years while still in High School. I've been fortunate enough, after moving around the country and playing several other teams, to return and end my Rugby career where it started. I had dinner at good ol' Mom's yesterday and we slipped into a discussion/ argument on the demerits of scheduling the Sweet 16 on Mother's Day Weekend. Being a Mother of 5 (3 of whom are active rugby players) she was a little more irritated than most might be.

To those teams that qualified for the Sweet 16s, Congratulations! (Especially Buffalo) Let me give you some stout, stern advice- make sure you take care of dear sweet Mom (either your own, or the mother of your children) before your team leaves!

So, why do we disappoint mom and continue to play this game? And why have I dragged myself out to practice the same skills every Tuesday and Thursday night for the past 17 years, doing that endless loop of inane running, taping the ankles, bandaging the wounds, etc? There are countless Rugby wives/girlfriends/Moms/widows out there who, without fail, accept our commitment so we need to persuade our significant others that are not as pro-rugby, that we are not in dire need of a 12-step program. Some of the reasons that could give would lend themselves to any sport that people participate in. As a matter of fact, you can use the same arguments for any hobby that requires large amounts of one's time. So, the reason we play the game, and that we appear to have an addiction is that Rugby is really a microcosm of life. (Mom- stop shaking your head.)

I played in a small social tournament last weekend. I played 3 games and, sadly, lost in the finals. The outcome, certainly, is not important but each of the 3 games held small affirmations of why I subject myself to the rigors of this sport. As an example, on a beautiful sunny day with lots of fans enjoying themselves on a Saturday afternoon (the sideline easily had over 200 people.) **I have been fortunate enough to take up kicking again (my former team held the mantra that FORWARDS DON'T KICK- what a load of doo doo kaka).**

Back to the story… We weren't playing a very good team, but in the first half we were going uphill, which felt like a 12 degree grade. The second half, we started to roll up some points and my fourth conversion kick was about two meters off the sideline. The only thing I remember about the crowd being there was that I had to ask them to back up a few paces, as I had to take my approach from out of bounds. It may sound cheesy, but I felt a bit like Kevin Costner in that silly baseball movie, For the Love Of the Game, where he constantly (ad nauseum) said, "Clear the Mechanism" while trying to drown out the crowd noise. I didn't say it out loud, but I was thinking the same thing. The kick sailed through the uprights with the height and beauty of an Andrew Merhtens conversion. I was 4 for 4 at that point, and I finished the game with 7 of 8 conversions- 4 of them straight on, and 4 from the sidelines. After that particular kick, the second it went through the uprights, I was fully aware of everyone around me- a few “attaboys”, “wows”, “great kicks”, and I believe I heard "you're the shiznit" and right then, I felt it- There was nothing else I would rather have been doing at that moment.

It doesn't really matter whether you're a kicker, hooker, or scrumhalf. When you step out on to the pitch and do your job well, that warm tingling feeling of success is hard to duplicate. Another angle that I hope Mothers worldwide can relate to is that your teammates (in many respects) become a part of your family. We work so hard together; sweating, hurting, and sacrificing, all trying to achieve the same goal. The harder a team works together, the more like family they become. When this happens, each link in the chain feels that it's more and more important NOT to let their teammates down. I'm doubly blessed- I have 14 brothers on the field, and 2 of them are my blood brothers. When I'm committed to playing for a team, I can't fathom letting them down.

So, let's remember two things for Mother's Day (MAY 11th); 1. Never ever forget Mom on this day- she brought you into this world and she can, most certainly, take you back out. 2. If, by chance, you have to play Rugby on Mother's Day (lucky you) PLEASE take care of that significant Mother BEFORE you leave- and make it extra special. Hopefully, that sweet Mother that's near and dear to your heart will understand and embrace your love of rugby.


Pat Laczkowski
Front Row Outfitters