FOR HE TODAY THAT SHEDS HIS BLOOD WITH ME SHALL BE MY BROTHER (William Shakespeare)
Whazzah Fellow Ruggers,
Have you ever gotten five miles to the gallon? Well, this past weekend, the Hooker Rugby Supply caravan found it's way to that Oasis of the desert; Las Vegas, Nevada. With our new, but slightly used tournament trailer, our voyage was arduous, strenuous, monotonous, tedious, and any other "ouses" that you can think of. Lucky for us, the end destination was the place that made sin famous. On that long lonesome highway West of Omaha, you have a lot of time to reflect. After paying OPEC their gas ransom on the way to Las Vegas, we were left with little money to hand over to Joey Bag-o-donuts & Co. so, I'll get right to the rugby.
Las Vegas, RFC hosts two tournaments a year that rank in the top 10 best in the US. It's a pleasure and an honor to be invited back every year. Congrats to the following winners: San Mateo in the Men's Premiere Division; Santa Rosa in the Men's Club Division; Love Vegas (NYC Women's) in the Women's Division and, Sacramento State in the College Division.
As the Midnight hour came and went, something happened that shocked me to my rugby core. In a closely contested semi-final match in the Men's Premiere Division, four members of the losing team walked off the field without the customary three cheers, or shaking of hands with the other team. Of the three remaining members, only one clapped for the other team, and showed any interest in wishing his fellow combatants luck in the finals.
As I drove down the highway, not getting any kicks on Route 66, and as the little zebra striped lizards jumped through my windshield, my over-tired, sleep-deprived brain kept returning to the appalling actions of that losing team. The question lingered - why would a team behave this way? Is it part of their culture or tradition? Or, were they just plain SOB's? I've got a few theories (as always) as to why poor sportsmanship like this is becoming more frequent. As any old boy rugger will attest, the older we get, the better we were. Ask him or not, an Old Boy will happily sit you down, and tell you about the way it was (just like Grandpa's War Stories). Having heard these stories over and over for 14 years, either these guys are telling the truth, or they are participating in a conspiracy that rivals that of JFK's assassination. Now, mind you, I'm not advocating a return to the "good old days" where the post match party would last until sun-up. I'm all for increasing the professionalism of our game to gain the respect and support of the US public. I'm also for cleaning up our sport so that we can start to foster that "Soccer Mom" mentality in youth rugby. On the other hand, it's incredibly important to hold on to the post-match camaraderie that has always been shared by opposing teams. I'm hard-pressed to think of any other sport that has this unique feature present in the foundation of the sport itself. While most post-match Kool-Aid drink ups are filled with friendly co-existence, cases of "poor sportsmanship" (which are historically foreign to rugby) are dramatically on the rise.
This problem could be rectified rather easily. The captain, coach, and president of each club have to make it clear that any bad feelings need to be put aside when the final whistle blows. If any player walks off of the field without cheering or shaking hands, they have no business playing in the next game. (I realize that this is unlikely to happen) Additionally, it is the responsibility of the host team to show their visitors the best time that they can afford. To reminisce like an old boy for a second, I have some very fond memories of being a young player with the Buffalo Old Boys. They always made enough food to feed three small armies, which meant that my little brother and I ate so many chicken wings that we would often bleed hot sauce. Even though I wasn't old enough to drink (wink-wink), I remember the empty bottles of Steinlager cascading from the bar and tables. The Old Boys didn't sing as much as the Von Trapp Family, but when they did sing, it was usually different, creative, and had some class! Finally, another possible way to maintain the close ties of the rugby brotherhood (or sisterhood) would be for local rugby teams to get together once a year for a non-rugby event (family picnic, day at the Ball Park, combined team tours, joint team fund raisers, golf tournaments, etc.)
In closing, I would like to say, let's take it to each other on the field with all of our might and fury, AND let's proudly and sincerely shake hands when injury time is used up and the final whistle blows.
Hooker Rugby Supply