BARBARIANS LOOSE IN MONTREAL
BARBARIANS LOOSE IN MONTREAL
By Tom Hamill
Think of Prop Sevens; a bunch of guys who usually play defensive and ball possession roles, getting to run and pass the ball in the open field, only surrounded by other lumbering behemoths. That's the idea behind Ones quad rugby. The most disabled athletes get to break free from their typical defensive and set-up roles and become scoring machines. At least that's the theory.
My My, the Chairman of the Morris Rugby Corporation (http://www.morrisrugby.com) and I have often talked about bringing quad rugby under the corporation's umbrella. I have long said that the opportunity existed in a regional team to play at ones tournaments. This year My My called my bluff, made me a corporate trustee and told me to get it done. Thus, the Morris Barbarians Quad Rugby Ones side was formed. Ones is played under regular quad rugby rules, but no player can be classified higher than 1.5 and no more than 3.5 points can be on the court. (NOTE: Every quad rugby player is classified based upon the amount of functional muscles he has, from .5 to 3.5, with 3.5 being the highest and eight total points allowed on the court. Usually, players classified from 2.0 to 3.5 carry the ball and do most of the scoring. In a tournament where there can be no more than 3.5 points on the court, the more functional players are set aside and the game revolves around the .5s, 1.0s and 1.5s; hence it is known as "Ones.") The traditional invitational side name of "Barbarians" was chosen to represent the combined nature of the side.
Our first goal: the Defi Sportif Ones Tournament, April 27-29 in Montreal. For two months I dealt with French Canadians, designed shirts, recruited players, listened to sob stories about why we weren't flying to Montreal and fought with the corporate treasurer about how much money we really needed.
The team consisted of Jerome ("Romey") Kleckley, Scott ("Involved") Davies and George ("Are you available?") Taborsky from New York; Mike ("Nacho") Nacci, Tom ("T") Hamill and Chuck ("the married guy") Interrante from Philly; and Mike ("Jr.") Herron from DC. Our coach was Christine Blake from New York. Support staff were Shawn Interrante, Mary Kleckley and Matt Herron. My dreams of getting together for several pre-tournament training sessions were dashed by New York's play in Division II Nationals and Easter.
So, we arrived in Montreal on Thursday night without any practice. We also found that our hotel didn't have any bathrooms you could get a wheelchair into. There was, at least, a bar where we met the extremely fit bartender Lydia. She thought we talked funny. Her job must have had her running 10 miles, wait, its Canada, 16 kilometers per night. Any women's team looking for a center prospect should find Lydia.
Coach Chris spent Friday morning finding us rooms at the Marriott Chateau Champlain. This would turn out to be a fortuitous move. George made the wasted move of the weekend as he tried to pick up the morning bartender:
GEORGE: Do you work anyplace else?
BARTENDER: That's the problem with you Americans. You don't think of being a bartender as a profession. Here it's a very respected profession.
GEORGE: I just wondered if you have another job. You're a very good bartender.
BARTENDER: If you're a very good lover, does that mean you have to sleep with a lot of different lovers?
She thought we talked funny.
So we had the team (actually, Romey would miss the first game waiting at the airport) and we had rooms. We just didn't have a schedule or know where the venue was. Thankfully, the rugby gods created bell hops, so that we found the tournament organizers (a loose term), the starting time for the first game and a general idea of how to find the gym at College Rosemont. If you're ever driving in Montreal, know that there is no sign for Rue St. Michel off of Rue Sherbrooke. The Olympic park is lovely, though, but not where we needed to be. At least 20 people refused to help with directions.
Finally, We arrive at College Rosemont, but none of the officials know the schedule. I find Quebec's coach, who tells me, "Yes, you play in 20 minutes on that court against the red team."
We get our stuff in, we get ready, and Scott and I go out for the Captain's meeting. I ask, "Who are you guys?" Answer: "Europe." The European All-Stars, the defending champs, half of whom have spent a season with quad rugby's version of the Gentlemen of Aspen, Tampa.
Their fast guys are fast and have offensive chairs. Their pickers (obstruction is legal in quad rugby, and, in fact, encouraged) have these truly awe-inspiring front ends that are illegal in the U.S. We were down 24-0 at the first quarter and lost something like 57-7. Instead of getting down, we worked on some things before the second game, and Mike and George started to forge a playing relationship. Our second game against Great Britain was still bad, like 53-8, but we were starting to get it and the Brits poured it on against us because they had to make up points they lost in their loss to Europe.
Saturday we opened against the Central Cannibals, who have won two Defis. These guys have either played for the U.S. national team or are in the pool for this year's Paralympic team. They had a bad loss to Quebec when Brad Mikkelson, the Godfather of USA quad rugby, was stranded at the airport, so they needed to make up total points against us as well. While we lost 44-8, you could see we were becoming comfortable with each other and developing into unfamiliar roles.
Against Switzerland, we won the tip-off and scored, getting our only lead of the tournament. We played well and hard and lost 46-23. Mike bet we wouldn't make double digits, so the first round that night was bought. We also played well in a loss to Quebec. Before the Quebec game, I pointed out to George that the penalty box keeper was kind of cute in a librarian sort of way and maybe I'd earn myself a trip to the sin bin. So George got thrown in the penalty box three times during the game.
She thought he talked funny.
Feeling good about our progress and not making it to medal play on Sunday, we headed back to the hotel where we saw… young women in evening gowns entering the hotel. It turned out to be the McGill University School of Finance graduation party. Drunken college women! As we sat at the bar, my teammates disappeared one by one. After the hotel bar closed, I wandered down to the entrance to the party (yeah, once a prop, always a prop) and found my team surrounding the lovely Ms. Martha from British Columbia. She had just been awarded "Most likely to sleep with her boss" by the McGill faculty. Cool! She was having a lovely time introducing us to all of her friends. They all thought we talked funny.
Eventually, there we were, a rugby team right in the middle of a formal party, getting free drinks. So on behalf of the women of McGill, the next time you're at a hockey game, sing O Canada! with pride.