From May to August 2000
The big deal was that I got the club's 501(c)(3) work done, finally, after delays from the IRS. Did I do any fitness work? No, unless climbing up and down ladders with a bucket of paint counts. I find that the daily grind of being the club secretary is beginning to wear me down; I think I will give it up at the end of the season. Besides, no one person should have a monopoly on a position. It isn't good for the club or the incumbent. So... I begin my third year of rugby.
Saturday Morning Practice, 5 August 2000
I hate Saturday morning practice for a number of reasons: 1) It's too early in the morning to be playing rugby, 2) It's usually too warm, 3) It uses up a "token" (allowance for time away from family), and 4) The fact that I'm out on a Saturday morning means it's the first practice of the season, and I hate the first practice of the season. For Fall we have a new head coach: Pete "Rover" Murphy, who quickly stamped his individuality upon the club with new drills and procedures. (The practice sessions for the month are now listed on the web site for all to see.) Whether or not this is a winning change is another matter. We shall see. We also have a new treasurer, Kevin "Archie" McCall, Tom having given it up due to household pressures.
It was warm and, as usual on a Saturday morning, we played more than 1 1/2 hours. I was in pretty bad shape, so I exited the last fifteen minutes or so. Hey, I'm an old boy, after all, and Rome, and rugby fitness, wasn't built in a day. As usual, I fretted about attending but was glad I went. P.J.'s for lunch afterwards. Kelly Watkins maintains I am now the club's "senior player." In other words, I'm the oldest guy who plays regularly, a rather dreary statistic. How on earth did this come about?
I dropped the first pass of the season. Figures.
Tuesday Evening Practice, 8 August 2000
Warm and humid; at the end my tee-shirt was almost entirely soaked with sweat. We didn't do much that was really aerobic, but we didn't have to to get a real workout. We tried a rather complex new drill from Rover that we had problems with, so in order to get on with practice he had to simplify it. Planning meets reality. Rugby drills are something like close order drill in the military, or even dance moves. It takes practice, practice, practice. Rugby is really a thinking man's game; you can't shut your brain off and learn drills.
Thursday Evening Practice, 10 August 2000
Almost as humid as Tuesday night, and another soaked tee-shirt evening. We did a whole lot of ball-passing that I understand was, by and large, unsatisfactory. One thing I've learned from all the tackle bag work we're doing is that if you tackle high, being more or less near the top of a lever, you come down harder. My jaw keeps getting banged. Tackling low on a bag means that my amply-padded center of gravity takes the brunt, which is much easier. So I need to remember the ski instructor's admonition to bend the knees. P.J.'s afterwards.
Tuesday Evening Practice, 15 August 2000
Was I ever tired for this one. This morning at 2 AM some of Ethan's lifeguard friends decided to t.p. our house and light off some firecrackers, which abruptly woke the entire household save Julie, who slept through it all. (Odd, since her bedroom window was closest to the firecrackers.) I thought we were under rocket attack or something... ain't it swell to have teenagers? So it was hard getting up this morning at 6 having lost some sleep. Anyway, this was one of those punitive practices, where the coaches play drill instructor and make us do push-ups everytime somebody drops a pass or passes forward. I don't respond well to this kind of thing - but it does have the effect of concentrating the mind wonderfully. We did some opposed work (banged heads, ankles, etc.) and had our first session with Mr. Scrum Sled, which means that it's time for Mr. Scrum Cap. Combing what is left of my hair, I found a tender area on my skull. Kep this up and i wil probabally find that my journl; entries wil begin to look like this becaus of brain damege
Thursday Evening Practice, 17 August 2000
We did some passing stuff and then Buzzzzzzzz McClain, one of our referee Old Boys, kindly gave us a primer on the new 2000 "experimental" laws for scrums and line-outs. The line-out stuff, as interpreted by him, didn't seem very different than what we have been doing. The scrum laws changes appear to mean that greater than 90 degree wheeling, in an effort to get the opposition's put in turned over, will become the norm, but we'll see. In some ruck and run I took a rather heavy blow to the shin from Forrest White's knee, and retired for the evening.
Tuesday Evening Practice, 22 August 2000
If today had a theme it would be: My Butt. 1) I went to the doctor to have a physical for the first time in years, and, Gentle Reader, a part of the routine for men age 40 and over is a rectal exam. 2) During practice Harpy had us doing these sadistic shuttle runs, one of which involved landing on your butt, getting up, sprinting forward, landing on your butt again, etc. The first time I landed it happened I fell so hard that it felt like my insides flopped downward as well. I had to rest from that one for a minute or two. 3) Getting home from practice I had to remove my kit bag from the rear seat of my car. In doing so, I fell on the lawnmower in the garage and landed hard on my rear, where a piece of metal was sticking up. I tore a little hole in my rugby shorts and a bigger hole in my rear. It was a pretty painful evening.
Today would have been my father's 88th birthday.
Thursday Evening Practice, 25 August 2000
A different sort of practice. We starting with a couple of new drills, and at one point we all sat down while Buzz explained some laws as they pertain to lineouts. I didn't like this too much; I found that during practice it's best to keep moving. Once I'm cooled down it's hard to start up again. The we did some lineout work - I actually jumped for awhile. (I can do it with sufficiently strong props.) P.J.'s afterwards. Saturday morning I go to California for nearly a week so I miss practice.
Tuesday Evening Practice, 5 September 2000
Back from vacation and where I really belong - at Dunn Loring. It was refreshingly cool and less humid today, and we had 40 guys out! We did some grunt work: lots of tackling, scrum sled, line-outs and a field drill. The best thing happened Saturday: I got a $1,000 check from Guinness in the mail. It took me months to soften up the distributor, but in the end persistance paid off. Now we can buy a new set of team jerseys. (Good thing, too. The old ones are literally shredded.) Before I started rugby I didn't even know what a Guinness was...
Thursday Evening Practice, 7 September 2000
My dear wife made dinner late today, and I ate it late, which meant that I did practice on a full stomach. I'll never do that again! Despite this, however, this seemed like the shortest practice I can recall. It was an hour and a half, as usual, but for some reason it seemed shorter. P.J.'s afterwards.
OLD BOYS MATCH AGAINST THE WEST POTOMAC OLD BOYS - 9/9/00
...and the season truly begins. It was in the mid-eighties today with high humidity, so rugby was difficult. (Especially wearing black jerserys when the sun came out of the clouds.) We easily dominated in every scrum, which is always nice, and I think I had an okay game. I made the first tackle of the game on the guy who received our kick-off. Unfortunately, later on in the play they got a try! Later, we did what amounted to a five meter pushover try, except we lost the ball somehow at the try line - but that's okay because we got it back and somebody scored. However, during the game it became obvious that we missed some of our good backs so we lost 10-24. I played two twenty minute periods; I also wanted to play b-side.
B-SIDE MATCH AGAINST THE QUANTICO HOOLIGANS - 9/9/00
I played a 46 minute (according to Harpy) half in this, which is all I really wanted. As it turned out, it was all I really had! The heat was strength-sapping. We played better than last time - or Quantico didn't play as well. One thing's for sure, the ref was a real annoyance, blowing the whistle at every little perceived infraction. It was a rare scrum we didn't have to reset once or twice - a real pain in that heat - and I learned that if the ball was across the field there was no reason to dash across for it since the whistle would inevitably be blown for something well before I got there. At the end of the half the score was 8-10, so they were only up by two points. In the second half we had five rookies from West Potomac play for us, and the final score was a loss, 10-25. We could have won this one! Anyway, at one point I took a big hit and landed on my side - it was a moment or so getting up from that one, and for the rest of the half I found it hard to run. We were planning on a c-side match, but it didn't happen (likely because of the weather). But our a-side won against West Pot by 48-8, so the day was a good start to the season!
Tuesday Evening Practice, 12 September 2000
I caught a cold last night, and so I came to practice only to watch Meredith watch Rover's daughter Kelly so he could coach, and to collect checks for jerseys. I also took some photos. I hope I feel better Thursday!
Thursday Evening Practice, 14 September 2000
A real easy practice as I was still feeling crappy from the cold I had caught. I did some laps and some lineouts and that's it. Watched Meredith watch Rover's daughter.
B-SIDE MATCH AGAINST ROCKY GORGE B - 16 SEPTEMBER 2000
I played a first half in this one, and then got out so somebody else could play. I was told I had a good game, but I was still shaking off the cold. Anyway, we got whipped 48-5 against, essentially, Gorge's recycled a-side. (Same old story, even down to seeing one of our Old Boys on their b-side.) The a-side was a narrow win for us, 21-20. We'll take it. We need it. This season is getting off to a good start!
C-SIDE MATCH AGAINST THE WASHINGTON RENEGADES - 16 SEPTEMBER 2000
Played the second half in this one, my 40th match. The first half was pretty nearly won to the final score 45-0, a Suburbs win. The Renegades played better in the second half than they did in the first - or did we play not as well as we did in the first? I'm not sure. But the scrums went well, and the lineouts went really well. Me and another guy - both 6'4" or more - hoisted a skinny 6'4" guy, Forrest Wilder. We really got him up in the air; consequently he won most of their ball as well as ours. The Washington Renegades are, by the way, gay, or mostly so. Did this make a difference? Not that I could see, except that as they began arriving we were surprised to see how many guys were standing around in their area. "Geez, big club for Division III," we thought. Then we saw that only about half of them kitted up. The rest were, well, supporters. Anyway, they played with heart and a good deal of determination, so bully for them. I hope to play them again.
B-SIDE MATCH AGAINST SEVERN RIVER B - 23 SEPTEMBER 2000
We did an away game with no less than 39 players and coaches present! In fact, we outnumbered the home side, at least at first.
The a-side match was really something to watch - I haven't seen the boys play that well and intently for quite awhile. Most of the time there was only one point in the score between us and Severn River. However, SR capitalized on our mistakes and won 16-10.
I originally wasn't supposed to go in the b-side match; presumably because I wasn't at practice at all this week (back-to-school nights). Rover also probably wanted to start a new South African lock (J.G.) who joined us. Fine with me. I play on the club's terms, not mine. But I went in after about 20 minutes due to a knock on JG's head. I was only playing for five or ten minutes when I took a blow to the chest from someone, and had the wind knocked out of me. I also immediately felt pain in my ribs more or less where they attach to the sterum. "Great," I thought, "Bruised ribs. That's gonna feel wonderful." I remained on the ground for a moment or two to normalize my breathing, then continued to play. (One thing rugby has given me is a "play on" mentality.) About a minute or two later we were doing a maul out of a lineout, and making good progress, when an opposition player lifted my arm; it was then I felt what I thought was the rib moving out of position! Nah... couldn't be... Anyway, it hurt a lot and it was clear to me that it was time to get out. (I now also have a sense of when it's wise not to play on.) So I now await painful sneezes, coughs and turnings in bed. I've been down this path before in my first season. Drat!
Fortunately, I have yet another back-to-school night on Tuesday; I can probably do some light running on Thursday - then it's a BYE weekend. I hope to play on 7 October in Richmond.
Thursday Evening Practice, 28 September 2000
We did a lot of passing drills this evening in ever-vanishing daylight - in fact, it seemed like a short practice. We're looking at going to a lit field or the South Run fieldhouse for practice. I passed out a lot of the new Guinness jerseys, and people seemed to like them. P.J.'s afterwards. It is difficult for me to lay on my left side, but other than that my bruised ribs haven't been too bad - certainly not as bad as in my first season, when Kevin Corry was tackled on me.
Tuesday Evening Practice, 3 October 2000
Tackling, scrummaging, line-outs and finally some ruck and run - most of it done in the very dusty environment of the South Run Rec Center fieldhouse. My ribs are still sensitive; in one scrum I could feel pressure being exerted on them which, once again, made it feel like a rib was being pulled out of cartilage. Not pleasant at all! In the left lock position I put pressure on my ribs when I set up. In the right lock position my left arm comes up and exerts that outward pressure on the ribs. So, I think I'll have to play the left position this weekend. Whether this is for a half or a whole game is yet to be determined.
Thursday Evening Practice, 5 October 2000
Same drills as Tuesday, except I wasn't needed for the lineouts and found myself standing around, cooling off. It pains me to write this, but practice got really boring there for awhile. I guess this is what can happen when you have 36 guys present with one coach! Anyway, I ran a lap around South Run rather than waste time merely watching, and when I got back I found that we were doing a four man passing drill, so I jumped in. I tackled bags and took part in the scrums without having rib pain, so I guess I'm fit for rugby this weekend. It's a big game with probably our toughest opponent, United of Richmond. Oh, one other thing: my doctor told me to start taking 500 mg. doses of niacin three times a day to raise my good cholesterol levels, so I've been experiencing the well-known niacin "flush." It's kind of like having an itchy sunburn and hot flashes for a half hour or so. That added a new dimension to practice! We went to Glory Days in Burke afterwards, where the service was not as good as used to from Smiley of P.J.'s.
B-SIDE MATCH AGAINST UNITED OF RICHMOND - 7 OCTOBER 2000
The a-side boys played well against United in what is probably our most important match of the season; we won 25-19. A great win as United is currently the first place team. We brought 39 guys to United's pitch, which, as it turns out, is right on a Civil War battlefield (Darbytown Road, an 1864 Grant vs. Lee Richmond/Petersburg Campaign battle), which neatly combines my interests in the Civil War and rugby! We b-siders tied 12-12. It was a disappointing match for me personally, however, as I had to go out about 20 minutes into the first half because I reinjured my rib. I was playing the #5 position (right lock) in the scrum for Archie, who couldn't play it due to a knee problem. I learned at practice earlier this week that under certain conditions the #5 position can cause my left arm to bend upwards, exerting a painful outward force on my ribcage. Anyway, at one point the scrum wheeled and that's exactly what happened, and, once again, I was lying on the ground taking little painful breaths. So... it appears that I must play #4 for the rest of the season - when I play. I haven't played an entire match yet this season.
Tuesday Evening Practice, 10 October 2000
One of Coach Rover's more aerobic practice sessions; we did a lot of running inside the fieldhouse. There was lots of contact but I tried to minimize the blows to the area where my ribs are injured. (At the end of practice I noticed that there is now a bit of movement there when I move in certain ways, like a rib is slipping in and out of place slightly. I think this is out of the original design parameters.) It was so dusty in the fieldhouse that when I got home I sneezed, and what showed up on the Kleenex suggested I could be making adobe bricks with what got into my lungs. Also, my upper legs are sore from all the short sprints I was doing in order to keep up with the backs.
Thursday Evening Practice, 12 October 2000
Took the club photo (see above) for our Guinness benefactor before practice. I'm sorry I didn't get in it, but somebody had to take the thing. (Once again, taking part but not really a part.) 35 at practice - tackling, scrums, lineouts and ruck and run. I did the scrums in the #4 position and therefore didn't cause rib problems, but when I got home I could make my rib click by moving in a certain way. A little voice in my head is whispering to me not to play this Saturday, to heal instead. Whether or not I listen to that little voice is yet to be seen.
Match with James River, 14 October 2000
I listened to that little voice and didn't play. (I checked Friday night and determined that I could still move the rib around in the cartilage.) As it turned out, I didn't have to play as we had all sorts of forwards present. In fact, we took 38 players and coaches to the match - the home team had to borrow one of ours as a b-side prop! So, what I did instead was take lots of photos, pass out water (it was a fairly warm day) and cheer. The a-side did a come-from-behind win 21-14, but the b-side lost 0-7. Anyway, we are now 3-1 in the matrix matches, with Virginia RFC to be played next week.
Thursday Evening Practice, 19 October 2000
I didn't go to Tuesday practice for a very good reason: my wife's birthday. Also, I caught a cold Monday morning and have been feeling really crummy and congested all this week. I thought practice tonight was going to be a real bear because of that, but it wasn't at all. In fact, I found myself running pretty well (for me). We did a lot of ruck and run-type stuff to prepare for the last matrix match coming up this Saturday, with Virginia RFC. We also did some one and two man scrummaging - me and Parsons teamed up and did quite well, so there's my wanna-be propping experience for the season, I guess. This Saturday the b-side plays the Washington Renegades, again. (But this time with 40 minute halves.) Turned out that Virginia is only bringing one side this weekend. Now, when we travel light the a-side recycles for another game - but that's because we have class. Anyway, the Renegades will play our b's and so we have two must-win matches coming up. (The Renegades haven't yet won their first match; we can't let them win it against us.)
The rib seems to be doing okay - no complaints during practice, and it doesn't seem to be moving around.
B-SIDE MATCH AGAINST THE WASHINGTON RENEGADES - 21 OCTOBER 2000
A great day for Suburbs collectively, a rather disappointing day for me. The a-side beat Virginia 61-0 (!) which I think put Suburbs in 2nd place in the league. It's been at least five or six years since we've had a winning season, let alone such a good one as this has been, so this has been a great fall. We b-siders beat the Washington Renegades 76-0; I played the first 40 minute half. I was kind of dragging through it. It could have been the cold I caught earlier this week, or the warmth. Or I sort of gave up mentally. The coach asked me if I wanted to go out for the second half, and I said yes. Big mistake. Usually when we play a b-side game we're playing recycled a-siders or Suburbs Old Boys, and we usually lose. This time we were beating the Renegades handily, but I was taking little satisfaction from it. No, I didn't score a try yet. The fact that I haven't in two years of active play leads me to believe I must be a pretty mediocre old player. Anyway, I was certainly in a funk when we got to the party. We went to a new place, the Firehouse Grill in Fairfax. Everyone - except the Lumberjack who is having back problems and is in a funk of his own - was in an expansive mood and I took lots of photos. When all is said and done, despite my best efforts at practice, I suppose rugby is a young man's game after all.
Tuesday Evening Practice, 25 October 2000
What a gloomy journal entry! I'm not feeling so glum right now thanks to a motivational e-mail from Neil Devaney, the team captain, who reads this journal. (Thanks, Neil!) Now I just feel congested. I was hacking and coughing all day - I still haven't shaken off whatever it is I've got - and at one point the dust which permeates the fieldhouse had me nearly throwing up. I think I'm going to do some phone calls to try to find a lit field for Spring. Last time I called the going rate was $50/hour, but I think I can get that reduced because we're a 501(c)(3). Maybe I can hit up the Guinness guy for another check to pay for it. While the fieldhouse is nice because it's so close and enclosed (although it hasn't rained since we started using it!), it's not really suitable since there's no grass.
This evening we did some passing exercises that were somewhat varied from what we normally do, and then we played rugby baseball. This involves the pitcher doing a rugby pass to the "batter," who kicks the ball. The other positions are more or less the same to baseball. I kicked and hit the fieldhouse roof, which constitutes a foul - which the coach made an out to get things moving. Grr. Anyway, it certainly was an unusual practice.
Thursday Evening Practice, 27 October 2000
We did ruck and run in the dustbin for the entire practice period, something we haven't ever done as far as I can recall. Anyway, the end came - as it must - and we hung around afterwards and drank beer as is our custom for the last practice of the season. (I, of course, drank water.) Then I joined the others at the Firehouse for something to eat. I was thinking that because my in-laws were visiting I should get back home early - but I didn't. Yes, I had two sets of blue Bilyeu eyes staring at me when I arrived home.
B-SIDE MATCH AGAINST THE ROCKY GORGE A/B - 28 OCTOBER 2000
A 7-54 loss in two forty minute halves; my first full match of the season and my last, this being the last regular game day of the season. This was billed as being a Gorge A/B mix, but I heard the number of a-siders was five, or ten or even fourteen. Anyway, I've played Gorge's b-side before and this wasn't it. They ran over us pretty easily, and things went tough for us in the scrum. They had a much more cohesive and unified scrum formation than we did, using an effective shouted cadence. (A tip-off that you're not playing a b-side, where personnel changes make such a thing difficult.) And who gets blamed for when we get pushed backwards? The locks, of course. As if I don't know how to lock out by now... actually, I think I exercised better scrummaging form in this match than in any of my others, but it didn't help. Nevertheless I enjoyed playing in the cool weather, and felt pretty fit, ribs and chest congestion not being factors. I got my hands on the ball more often than normal, and at one point, I did a major shove of a maul 20 some odd feet down towards Gorge's tryline. Breathing heavily, I unbound when we finally halted only to hear "Good shove, Aki!" from the trylines. Oh well, the life of a lock can be an unsung one, indeed. Coach Rover came in at half-time and berated us for not making tackles, which kind of added to our misery. I don't know why coaches do that - I am fully capable of making myself miserable when things aren't going well, and I have yet to just give up because of it. The a-side distinguished itself in not being present with water or support the way we are for them, which left a bad taste in my mouth, too. They played USUHS, a Division III club, and beat them handily 54-19. I do believe if our a- and b- sides switched opponents it would have provided a more matched set of games. But... I still enjoyed this match, but it was in spite of things instead of because of things. This match made it obvious why better players resent playing b-side.
* * * * * *
And so the season ends, with but a team meeting and some work hosting a MARFU collegiate tournament left. There's also an Old Boys match next Sunday against our old rivals, the Poltroons, but I won't be able to play that. My Sundays are spoken for these days since I accepted the Ward Clerk position at church. A pity, because I just haven't played as much rugby as I would have liked this season, what with that rib injury and whatever it was I caught recently. So it's been a great season for the club but a glum one for me. No try this season, either; I feel as if I may play an entire career of rugby without ever scoring one. The problem is that either I'm in the wrong position to ever score one - other forwards sometimes line up with the backs, but I was always coached to get into the rucks and mauls to get or retain possession of the ball - or I'm just too poor a player to be in the right place at the right time. Every now and then and then I wonder if I'm deluding myself with this rugby business, and this is one of those times.
Administratively, however, I have no doubt of my worth to the club, and perhaps that's where I ought to take my satifsfaction. I am an adult, after all.
1. Finally getting that $1,000 check from Guinness in the mail, and seeing that the new team set jersey purchase turned out well. The guys must like my taste: in addition to the 21 jersey team set, players purchased 57 for themselves. Oddly, I didn't get around to buying one for myself...
2. What I call "The Western Suburbs Weekend," 21/22 October. We score 201 points in three matches and only give up 14. Two guys finish the Marine Corps Marathon.
3. A winning season! I'm now sorting through old WSRFC newsletter and putting together records for past seasons. It appears that the Fall 2000 season (6-1) is the best we've had since at least Spring '96 - even further back if you only look at fall matrix match seasons.
4. Scrum cap. I should have bought one when I started.
5. I've developed the club web site to the point where we're getting 230+ hits/day average during the fall season, and it attracts great new players like Aki, Pete Tripi, etc.
1. No try yet.
2. Rib injury during the b-side match with Severn River.
3. Only played one full match.
4. Loss to the Quantico Marines. I really, really want to beat those guys.
5. A general feeling of mediocrity on the pitch.
Click here for the sixth season journal.