In 1982 I was in Paris with two friends for a couple days, a side trip from rugby tour in England. We saw the Jeu De Paume, the Louvre and napped in the Tuileries near an organ grinder with his monkey. The last afternoon we went through the Pigalle, the red-light district and home of some famous theatres and galleries. Even then it was much as you might expect – though sunlight reveals much that evening hides.
As we walked along, there were hawkers, like at a traveling carnival – bellowing out at every entrance, enticing us in – though we didn’t speak the language, we understood the terms. In front of one – three rough looking men saw us and exclaiming “show, show” rushed us in.
It was an old theatre, once grand, now showing wear and tear of time – and they sat us down and offered us drinks. As they went off, we realized our risk – alone in the old theatre – we quickly drew straws to see who’d drink first in case the drinks were drugged, and planned a mad dash out in case this was a robbery or worse – but the beer was just beer – and they guys kept saying – show, wait, drink – and we’d already paid.
After a while, an older lady, probably the cleaning crew hustled past us toward the stage, and then the lights went on, and the music began and the curtain opened and there was our cleaning lady, in a bright red corset and heels dancing a can-can for us.
We gave her a standing ovation, and at the end we left, poorer, entertained and wiser.
YARS – Yet Another Rugby Story
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!”
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
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