YARS, Yet Another Rugby Story – inspired by the Soccer World Cup…
We were a new team ( The Forest City Rugby Club ) playing Sciotto Valley, one of the top rugby clubs in Ohio. It was a cold day, and Buddy our fiesty scrum half was so chilled he was wearing a bright orange stocking cap in the match. Sciotto had an eight-man, a massive stocky fellow, Kaiser I think the name was. We had no answer for him, he left us bruised and battered every time we tried to run past him. Once I helped Buddy up after a smashing tackle by Kaiser, and the portly scrum half muttered “I think I’m paralyzed” as he staggered back to postion. Another time Buddy confided, “I punched him last time and he didn’t even notice!”
But by the second half, Buddy had had enough. There was a ruck, a massive pileup of men struggling for the ball and Kaiser with his big number 8 on the back of his jersey lay exposed with his arms pinned down on our side. I saw Buddy run up and clench his fist, ready to strike a blow for retribution, when Buddy paused leaned over and bit Kaiser right on top of the number eight. Kaiser bellowed like a gelded bull, and thrashed around trying to peer around and spy the culprit.
In a panic, Buddy ripped off his hat and threw it on the ground and ran out to stand in the defensive line, leaving the enraged Kaiser searching in vain for the person to pulverize.
So when I saw the bite on the World Cup, first I was horrified then I laughed thinking “If Luis Suarez had bitten Kaiser, he’d be paralyzed!”
We got tickets from a vendor to see a hockey game, Chicago Blackhawks vs the New York Rangers. As the merger winds down, this might be the last of the perks. The suites are a long way from the ice…
But when the ‘Hawks score, there’s more room to dance around and sing the celebration song with twenty-thousand other people.
And while the food in the booth was good, ( I had four bratwursts with carmelized onions ), the dessert cart was outstanding.
Alas, the ‘Hawks lost, but it was a great night to be a hockey fan.
I stopped to see the chiropracter the other day. I always feel guilty waiting for the Dr to see me, but I can’t suppress a wry smile. I think back to the Savanah Rugby Tournament where I played for the Atlanta Anglers traveling team that battled Life Chiropractic College in the semi-finals. As we charged up and down the field resulting in many subluxation worthy collisions, the Angler’s B-team danced up and down the sidelines chanting a cheer: “Chiropracter, Chiropracter, Quack, Quack, Quack!”
YARS – yet another Rugby Story
We started a foundation 2wheels2kids
and so far it’s a 100% success. We budgeted for three bikes and we have one purchased and two checks sent off. We are even international, with one off to the great north of Canada. Maybe next year we can do better, but we will always do our best.
Wishing everyone a great holidays coming up.
I remember being eight years old and coming down to see a big red Schwinn bicycle, there is nothing like it.
I have this tiger-fork.
Not much use in a gun fight. It requires lots of space to swing an seven foot trident about. I suppose a police report might read, both the chandelier and the burglar were rendered inoperable, but a properly trained martial artist can use a tiger fork to disarm a swordsman. Catch the sword in the down stroke, one twist sends the sword flying, the other end of the trident sweeps his feet out from under him and a quick flip of the giant spear and the downed adversary can consider the point of rising, or not.
When Sifu Mohr drilled us over and over on its use like so many martial artists I would imagine fighting a real tiger. But there are no tigers in the US. Instead I imagined fighting a mountain lion in Wyoming. I studied them and their habits. Mountain lions prefer stealth, and if my blood didn’t turn to water seven feet of spinning steel might just send one deciding on a different venue for lunch. I never saw a mountain lion near our cabin and in fact I never took the tiger fork anywhere but class and the back yard. Still I had many battles, some of which I won and others….
The tiger fork has spent many years tucked in a corner of the attic. In fact when I hefted it, I was surprised how heavy it is now. It’s really just a possession, one that I care about, but it owns me as much as I own it.
We are moving to a smaller place. One where a tiger fork would be an encumbrance. I’ll keep it to the last day then we will both be free.
I rescued a woman the other day. She wandered pushing her bicycle on the path where others jogged and pedaled robustly by. She was sure she would be all-right when I asked, just a bit of nausea and the wind was blowing so hard. There was a breeze I agreed, and walked my bike along the path with her- just until she felt better.
I could stop someone – call 911, but she insisted was just a bit dizzy, nothing serious. I understand about ER’s – how about I call your doctor. She had a doctor, she just couldn’t recall his name. She was sure her house was nearby – somehow the street name was just beyond reach. We got her home, and she let me call 911 and watch the fire-truck roll up lights flashing with the ambulance right behind. As I rode my bike home in those last rays of sun that are harbingers of darkness I though of how fragile we are.
I thought of rugby as I pedaled through the dusk. Only teammates can hide your weakness. When you’ve hit your opposite time and time again until it hurts you just to drive your shoulder into him and in spite of it he runs through you – you depend upon teammates to bring him down. Or when you’re vulnerable, defenseless waiting for the high kick to settle into your arms as two or three tacklers charge down upon you, the first hit you take, or the fifth or sixth. Eventually, without a teammate to cover or support the eyes will wander, the arms flinch just before the blow strikes, leaving the ball bouncing freely, possession lost. Pushed to our limits, we break.
Sometimes I think it would be good to be a machine.
YARS – yet another rugby story
The silence of rugby always intrigued me. In games only the captain could address the referee without incurring a penalty. Save your breath for running my teammates advised. They challenged us to play like the Welsh National Team – silently, even the captain only addressing the referee in a whisper. It didn’t make sense to trash talk ( an outlandish idea back then ) since everyone was only one tackle away from being unprotected at the bottom of a pile.
So we talked, but it was always of strategy, or “with you”, “on your left.”
For our last rugby match in England, five games in ten days with no snap left in our legs, we were a step slow. Our opponent was tough, they had seen us beat their two local rivals and they came out hard. Just a few minutes into the match their fullback sucker punched me in the jaw when I ran by, the lone referee looking away.
I gingerly made it over to the sidelines where the doctor ( who had bet heavily on us ) popped it back in, patted me on the butt and said cheerily “Now get back in there and keep tackling!”
Our legs were heavy, they were fierce tacklers, and I was pissed. “Bruce – kick up and unders, we’ll get it.” Pauly, built like a five-foot-eight inch incredible hulk, and hulk like impervious to pain nodded. Time and time again Bruce kicked the ball forty yards high and twenty yards down the middle of the field where only their fullback could field it with Pauly and I racing down. To let it drop meant we picked it up at speed, to catch it was to let one or both of us drive him into the turf.
If I hit him with my shoulder as hard as I could and drove him earthward, Pauly’s hits smashed him. Still he was brave and took the beating and they held the lead with just moments remaining. Once more Bruce lofted a high arching kick, the brown Gilbert ball floating against the September sky as Pauly and I sprinted toward their fullback who stood waiting, one eye on us, one on the gently descending ball.
Maybe it was the sun, but the ball floated down, bounced off the fullback’s chest and Pauly scooped it up in stride and stormed over the goal with the winning score.
Through the whole match, their fullback and I never exchanged a single word.
The Moral: Sometimes words are unnecessary
YARS – yet another rugby story
I crashed my bike the other day. Maybe at nearly sixty it’s time to stop jumping curbs at high speed. I scraped my leg up a bit, washed it at Mcdonald’s then rode over to Target and bought some hydrogen peroxide and poured a couple doses over the cuts. The feeling one gets when they pour the hydrogen peroxide into an open cut is a tax. My family calls it stupid-tax, the price we pay for doing something dumb. Still after the taxes were paid, my friend and I rode forty miles at the lovely Indiana Dunes Park.
We started at the Calumet trail, and rode through mud and puddles and ruts until we could cut toward the lake.
As my wheel spun and surfed I tensed, grasped the bars tightly and nearly caused additional crashes. I had lost faith in my balance. It made me tense, reluctant to savor the moment for whatever good or ill it might bring. I think that when we lose our faith in our balance, we begin to shrink. We don’t dare much, and our world becomes confined to a smaller and smaller environment we trust. On my bicycle I was doing it, shrinking my enjoyment of the moment.
Emotionally we can lose our balance. The world becomes a fearful place where trust is foreign. We shape ourselves by fear and slowly, slowly disappear into a safe but empty place.
It doesn’t have to be that way. We can crash and still ride on. We can strengthen our balance and trust it. New roads lead to surprises, even on a bicycle.
Each Thursday night we would hold stances, the foundation of lower body strength and footwork in Kung Fu. With military elocution Sifu Mohr would bark out each stance, hold to the right, then hold to the left and then rotate from side to side on his count. Once we had class outside, and as we held the stances, thighs parallel to the ground, a minute per side the heat and sweat rose from us like steam into evening’s air.
Some classes he would call out hundreds of side to side rotations. Staying low, tennis shoes squawking in the pools of sweat collecting beneath us, we would rotate in place again and again until the world was merely the fire, the agony in our legs and Sifu Mohr’s voice. More than once I was among those whose legs collapsed, or cramped forcing us to stand, stretch and then drop back into the stances.
Once after a grueling session as we shared hot tea Sifu mentioned perseverance. Improvement is not incremental and steady. Plateaus are part of the learning process. We plateau when we have not fully assimilated the techniques necessary for the next level which might be footwork, or strength, or mental understanding. So we practice over and over feeling like a failure. In fact most people quit when they hit a plateau, and it is often just before a breakthrough to the next level would occur. That practice is not wasted, it is part of the assimilation of new abilities. The thought proceeds the action, but after a thousand repetitions the thought becomes the action.
May you always persevere, a thousand times if need be.
My wife Jan and I are big Tour de France fans. From the onset, the tour has been beset with scandal and scoundrels, but I count the two thousand mile race across France as the most arduous sporting accomplishment possible. To complete this race that climbs mountains on will power and descends at sixty miles an hour on two wheels requires embracing suffering.
An online friend recommended “Hell on Wheels” a movie about the tour, and features two riders from the Telecom team who are past their prime. One a great sprinter trying to remain relevant, and another a climber as they face the hardship of this twenty-one day test.
Near the end, one gentlemen, probably a coach presents a soliloquy on the commitment to succeed from a small chapel in France that has been converted to a cycling shrine:
For me, suffering has two meanings.
Suffering can be negative.
If you try to suffer for its own sake,
that’s bad. That’s unhealthy.
There’s something wrong in your head.
But when you talk about suffering that
you must get through and you can
survive through enormous effort,
that is something else. That is positive,
good and beautiful. Beautiful because you
think of courage, of stamina, loyalty,
the willingness to make sacrifices, modesty and love.
From this perspective, the suffering during training,
during sporting competitions, while doing one’s job,
which all require great effort, is the same as religious
suffering. It is love. It is beautiful, I like that.
Delivered in French of course – so it is full of passion.
May you sacrifice and suffer with passion for a higher goal.