Thursday, June 8, 2017
Rugby Season 6
From November 2000 to March 2001
Lots of things going on, rugby and otherwise. We sponsored a tournament for MARFU in November. Had some socials at the Firehouse and collected toys for kids in December. January we thrashed around with planning the banquet, which we had in February, where I gave my most ambitious slide show. I was awarded with the club's "Greg Gregory" award at the banquet - something I feel I really don't merit because there needs to be a "minimum-time-in-club" requirement for it. But I am highly honored, nonetheless. (I refrained from quoting Sally Field, when she got her Oscar: "You love me. You really love me.") Did zero running in preparation for the season, partly due to laziness, partly due to weather, partly due to an aching left ankle. Somehow or another I injured it in a non-rugby context back in June, and the joint has been variously sore ever since - proving once again that aging isn't for sissies. Nobody but an Old Boy knows what it's like to be an Old Boy. O Lordy Nobody Knows The Troubles I Have Seen.
Saturday Morning Practice, 3 March 2001
Ah, spring. The flowers bloom and the weather moderates. Tender young blades of grass rise up from the earth - only be to trodden upon by the unyielding studded boots of rugby players. Let the rucking and mauling begin!
Actually, I lie on two accounts: 1) There are very few blades of grass at Dunn Loring, and 2) I never really look forward to the season beginning anew. In fact, I hate the first day of practice. Just thinking about it makes my tummy go flippity-flop in the days prior to it.
After dreading this practice for weeks before its arrival, I learned, once again, that it isn't bad at all once you get warmed up and running, and that I was, once again, glad I attended. Life, too, is like this, Gentle Reader. I can't recall how many times I've dreaded something only to find that it was no big deal and was over with rather quickly. We spend a good deal of time in fretting about things of no importance - while the truly fearful things often come up unexpectedly.
We showed up at Dunn Loring at just after 9 AM, only to find that a men's soccer team was playing on the pitch, with a girl's lacosse team to follow. So we moved practice over to the Thoreau Middle School fields and tore their turf up a bit. I was somewhat late because I was directing traffic to Thoreau.
Anyway, we had a great turnout - I counted 58 in all! We did some passing and tackling drills, and some ruck and maul drills. Just to sort of limber us up and help the new guys, of which there were many. How many will still be available at the end of the season? We shall see.
But it seems that my primary use to the club is becoming more and more managing growth rather than playing. It might be another season of halfs rather than full matches for me... we have to get the new players game time. The future of Western Suburbs is with those in their twenties, not I.
Monday Evening Practice, 5 March 2001
Wow, was it cold waiting outside the dustbin to start! The windchill must have been in the teens. Anyway, we got the South Run guy to open up the fieldhouse and ran around in there for an hour and a half; it was snug and toasty. Okay, perhaps those words don't really describe the place. Perhaps "cold" and "dusty" do. But it was better than running around in the wind.
We did passing, rucking and mauling - tomorrow night we do set pieces and 15's to get ready for scrimmaging this seekend with the Renegades. We couldn't do a Tuesday-Thursday practice week because of the availability of the dustbin; I'm pretty sure I'm not going to like two consecutive practice nights. (My wife certainly doesn't.)
Anyway, I took a big hit from Parsons in a mauling drill that caused me to come down hard on my sore left ankle. I figured I would be in real pain the following morning, but this didn't happen. The ankle feels fine, and the soreness in my upper legs went away. Rugby is weird.
Tuesday Evening Practice, 6 March 2001
I wore my ankle brace this evening, which helped things. It was, if anything, even windier and colder tonight that it was last night - but we had 57 guys show up nonetheless. Amazing! I'm sure Suburbs hasn't seen that in a Tuesday night practice in quite a few years. Schnauzer, Trip and Kramer have gotten a college line established, and we're getting young players from Radford, Virginia Polytech and Mary Washington.
This evening I sort of took on an unaccustomed role, that of mentor. We have a lot of big new forwards who have never played before, and I helped one of them learn the scrum and lineouts. Interesting experience - now I sort of know how Kelly Watkins feels.
Anyway, it was a good practice. I can feel my fitness beginning to return, and I'm not as sore as I was a few days ago. Bring on the Renegades this Saturday!
SCRIMMAGE WITH THE WASHINGTON RENEGADES, SATURDAY 10 MARCH 2001
We had four twenty-minute periods with the Renegades at Haines Point; the weather was sunny, breezy and cool - perfect rugby weather. (Well, for forwards, anyway.) Scrums were unopposed by order of the refs, which was a disappointment. I played the third period; by then the Renegades were augmented by the likes of Parsons, Loesel, Jon Carter, Jimmy Tackles and Pat Herrity - so it was a rather nasty surprise. I played well anyway, and got the ball for a couple of breaks before being tackled. At one point, not far from the Renegades' tryline, I was stopped by Tom Loesel - which was a major kick in the pants. Oh, well. I also made four or five good tackles - one with my head and neck on Herrity. I'm missing my newly-IRB outlawed (black) scrumcap already! 60+ Suburbs guys showed up for this, which made for an interesting group photo. Afterwards we went to a place not far from Dupont Circle - I had my usual burger and went home. Interesting experience, an after-match social with three or four other temple-recommend holding Mormons (Doug Allison, Ben Edgell and girls)... All in all it was a great way to shake the cobwebs loose, and many new guys had their first real playing experience on this day.
Monday Evening Practice, 12 March 2001
Did passing and tackling, naturally, plus some five man scrum binding. Then did as much of Harpold's Fitness Salon as we could do in an enclosed space. Finally, did ruck and run. Three squads - 50 guys out to practice! I felt oddly unneeded as we have players galore - and tonight we added yet another second row, a big fellow from Newcastle, England. I'm beginning to feel like the shrimp in the club!
Tuesday Evening Practice, 13 March 2001
51 guys out to practice tonight, and we broke off into three squads again for an extended ruck and run - defenders with pads, attackers without. Given the rucking drills we led off with, I really banged myself up good for this one. My upper arms are very sore. I had to quit a little early because I came down hard on my bum left ankle in an insidious small ditch at the end of the fieldhouse, doing passing drills. The ditch isn't obvious until you're on it - then you feel the ground drop a little under your feet; a nasty surprise. Anyway, after about 30 minutes of ruck and run my ankle was really talking to me. What's more, my fitness is wanting this early in the season. Ruck and run drills are always more exhausting than normal play because penalties aren't called and there are few set pieces with which to catch your breath.
However, I have lost four pounds in the last two weeks and am certainly feeling fitter.
At the end of practice, the a-side Powers That Be declared that this was a lousy practice - and I suppose it might have been for them - but it was a real learning experience for me. Up until this point, during open play, unless I was actually in the ruck I wasn't entirely sure where to be. Nobody ever told me. And every now and then, when I found myself dangerously near the direct line between the scrum-half and the fly-half (where the ball is supposed to go) someone would yell at me about it - but wouldn't provide alternatives or coaching. But last night Rover suggested that I get behind the inside center to prepare to support the next phase. Now, I had seen other locks doing this before, but I always supposed this was "being out of position" and simply a prima-donna-ish way to get more of the ball instead of supporting play, which is what I had always been coached to do before. Apparently under the new regime this is okay. So, I'll give it a try. It certainly gets my hands on the ball a lot more often.
Tuesday Evening Practice, 20 March 2001
I was feeling crappy all day due to a cold I've gotten. Sore throat and sneezing - so what's the cure for that? Chicken soup and rest? No. Rrrrrrugby! We were broken up into new guys and veterans, and did practice separately. It was the first practice Kelly Watkins attended so far this season - nice to see him again. We did a lot of passing drills, including one that was a little hard to undertand and involved us passing in fours going up and down the fieldhouse ground like a breaking wave (or a breaking wind). Actually, this practice was fairly easy, as rugby practice goes. 45 guys attended.
Thursday Evening Practice, 22 March 2001
I actually felt worse today than Tuesday - sore throat and sneezing, etc. But... I went to practice anyway. Once we start running around, the cold symptoms that bedevil me at my desk at work mysteriously disappear. Such is the amazing curative powers of rugby! I wish I could have said that this was a good practice for me, but it wasn't. After some running and tackle bag work we did some scrummaging - and it was nice to do, since I always feel like I've accomplished something with the hard work - but there was a lot of instructional talking with scrums and lineouts. Consequently, I got cooled down. Once I cool down I become really disinclined to heat up again. (I've always been this way - it's not exclusively an age thing.) The other thing that bums me out is that I have to redevelop my second wind. So, after a defending and attacking ruck and run session where I once again got in the path between the scrum-half and the fly-half (which prompted more angry words from Matt Clark), I quit for the evening. Besides, this session was lasting until nearly 8:30; after awhile I figure enough is enough. Well, I have a game on Saturday. 40 minute halves b-side, from what I understand. That's okay, I'm ready. And I'm anxious to see what a match is like using my newfound open play tactics. By the way, West Potomac is Western Suburbs' oldest opponent club that still survives under its original name - our first match against each other was in Fall 1977. I was a sergeant in the Marines then; many of our players weren't even born.
I may not be at practice next week: Ethan has a varsity lacrosse match on Tuesday, and Thursday is Meredith's 11th birthday. I got Ethan's schedule today and it appears I'll be missing a few practices because of it.
B-SIDE MATCH AGAINST WEST POTOMAC, 24 MARCH 2001
The a-side won its match pretty convincingly at 19-3, although they seemed to be on the defense for a great deal of the time.
We were told that West Potomac had all sorts of new members and two full sides - but we've heard that before with other clubs. So we didn't get two forty minute halves - we got two thirties. And the half I was in - the second half - clocked in at about 16 minutes due to a ref who couldn't use his chronograph properly. I didn't like standing around in the cold for three hours for a 16 minute game, especially since I had a sore throat and a cold in general. But... as short as the half was, it was pretty bumptious. Jimmy Ibach hurt his ankle, and Aki got sent to the hospital with a possible cracked rib. We lost 10-5. So... not an especially good rugby day.
Tuesday Evening Practice, 27 March 2001
One of those practice session where, at the beginning, I was really disinclined to take part. By the end I was happy I had. Simply running about and shoving for an hour and a half has a redeeming virtue about it, like you've gotten something accomplished.
Some practice session are mainly running, some are mainly grunt work. This was a grunt work one. I didn't run out of breath often, but now I feel sore all over. We're doing a new thing with our scrums that cause us to move from side to side instead of simply rotating, and we worked on this tonight. I can't say as how I'm a big fan of it as it causes a lot of twisting motions on my ribcage. I'm not exactly sure if this is a necessary by-product of the technique or if I'm doing something wrong, but it adds complex forces where, before, the scrum was mainly and front and back (hopefully, front) thing.
I counted 45 at practice. Thursday is Meredith's 11th birthday, so no practice.
B SIDE MATCH AGAINST SOUTH JERSEY, 31 MARCH 2001
I drove Tom "the Colonel" Loesel and Neil "Not Really Sure of His Nickname" Devaney three hours north to the South Jersey pitch, site of my tearing two tendons two years ago. The a-side lost their match, which was a real blow because we should have been able to beat these guys fairly easily. Their whole backline seemed to be limping at one point, and their forwards were mightily tired in loose play. The scrummaging was pretty bad - they were barging and doing all sort of funny stuff, with the result that the scrums were wheeling and causing us to lose possession of the ball on the next scrum. (I hate that law.) The reffing was pretty awful - there were these long, unaccountable delays every time we were building momentum - but that shouldn't have mattered. Final score: 19-32. To add injury to insult, Princess had back problems he had to be taken to the hospital for muscle spasms in this back.
We brought 38 guys, they brought about half that! We lost our b-side match, but I certainly had one of my better games. We put up with no nonsense in the scrums, and I had the ball a number of times. Did a lot of good tackling, too. The first half was great, a good forwards game. They started scoring on us at end of the second half, mainly because of a lack of fitness, I guess. (Which is inexcusable since we were only playing 25 minute halves...) This match was more fun than the usual b-side match, however. A good experience.
Tuesday Evening Practice, 3 April 2001
I had to do some club-related errands (buy field marking paint, jerseys and red, white and blue balls for future visiting sides from Toronto and the U.K.), so I arrived late at this - too late to kit up and run around, really. Too bad, as it was a nice evening and Suburbs seemed to be doing interesting drills. So no aerobic benefit to me this evening. The day was organizationally hectic - I spent a lot of time dealing with club administrative issues. I see now why the model in the U.K. and other major rugby nations is old boys administer and players play. Helping to run a rugby club is a lot of work!
Thursday Evening Practice, 5 April 2001
A good, vigorous practice, which is what I needed. We don't seem to be doing our initial two laps before stretching anymore; we do a three on two passing drill, which is probably a better idea. Overall, I see that the style of Rover's coaching is to work smarter, not necessarily harder. Anyway, we did some lineout work and three squad ruck and runs, each squad rotating in and out. Three squads! We had 52 guys out to practice, only 6 less than the first day of practice. Very nice. Anyway, I got a hard bang in the knee and had to go out, but went back in for the next round. No soreness the next morning, which is good. However, I went to the doctor's to find out what's wrong with my left ear. It is plugged and I can't hear a thing except my breathing and the sound of my voice resonating through my skull - it is very uncomfortable. It's "Eustachian Tube Disorder," and was probably caused by a cold I had. He prescribed Claritin to get rid of it by drying up nasal passages - but it's not gone yet. Afterwards everyone but four of us went to Phillip's at Tyson's for heavily-discounted beer - we went to P.J.'s, as usual. I suppose next Thursday I'll move with the crowd.
B-SIDE MATCH AGAINST SEVERN RIVER, 7 APRIL 2001
There was a French and Indian War encampment held on the property next to the pitch - which I found to be an interesting juxtaposition of my current interests. (Sort of like playing on a Civil War battlefield last season.) I didn't visit, however, but prepared for my game. After Suburbs A got beaten something like 13-35 by Severn River, I played a rather poor B side half of 30 minutes. My problem was breathing and dry-heaving! I had a cold a few weeks ago which I am now getting over, which led to a lot of crud in the back of my throat - this closed up my left ear. I found that the Claritin the doctor gave me dried my throat. So during the match, when breathing hard, I found myself gasping and making these weird noises, like a vomiting reflex without the vomiting. (Bushy was wondering if I was having a heart attack.) It was very annoying...
Anyway, I got some good tackles in, and a couple of times prop Jon Carter and I ran the SR scrum pretty much where we wanted to, but my level of play in this match wasn't really anything I'm especially proud of! We b's got beaten, but I don't know the score.
We had between 50 and 60 Suburbs guys show up for this match, which was great. Now all we need to do is win some matches...
Tuesday Evening Practice, 10 April 2001
A pretty bruising evening; we did rucking and tackling drills for the entire session. Somebody kicked me on the lower leg with a stud, giving me a scrape and a black and blue bump, and I got banged hard on a little finger joint. (My finger joints have only now been feeling normal from injuries in past seasons. I have to admit, however, rugby has caused me to redefine what "normal" is - especially in regard to how my ankles feel.) Parsons got a bloodied forehead but returned to play with fashionable white tape wrapped 'round his noggin. At one point, playing defender in a goofy red samurai-looking protective suit, I kept putting myself offsides and getting yelled at by Jim Borrell. It was due to my stupidity, of course, but the thought did pass through my mind that there were less humiliating things a man of my age could be doing that evening...
This season is wearing on, and war-weariness is setting in. This Saturday will be my fourth consecutive Saturday away from home, and things on that front are beginning to fray. There's a lot of house and yard work to be done. Cari works on Saturdays, now, meaning that my kids are essentially managing themselves all day while I'm gone - a situation I'm not really comfortable with. I'm a club member who has an a-side committment as far as attendance at practice and matches is concerned (Dave Lyster once called me a "practice fanatic"), but plays at a b-side (or c-side!) level of play. Perhaps it's time to be more of a b-sider.
47 at practice tonight.
Thursday Evening Practice, 12 April 2001
We did some stuff with the rucking pads and then played what was about a 3/4-power match, with liberal substitutions. I propped against Parsons. I sensed that he wasn't quite putting his all into it, but for the most part I gave as good as I got. A warm, sweaty muddy evening at Dunn Loring with an even 50 total showing up; just 8 less than the first day of practice. The numbers are great, now we could do with some wins. Had a burger at Phillips tonight, and stayed out late enough to earn a resentful glance or two from Cari.
C-SIDE MATCH WITH NORTH BAY, 14 APRIL 2001
It was kind of a different Saturday for rugby as I had to take my daughter Meredith with me; I didn't really want to, but Ethan and Julie were doing a service project this morning and so there was nobody to watch her. I planned to show up a bit late as I needed to, play a couple of short halves and then return home. Anyway, this was a three club mini tournament we put on with the North Bay RFC and the Quantico Marines. I got there in time to watch a little of the North Bay vs. Suburbs B match (we lost), and was gratified to see our A's beat Quantico. Rover assembled a motley c-side for twenty minute halves - yeah, I can do that. Anyway, we didn't even get to the point where I normally get my second wind (maybe ten minutes into the match) before I found myself bowled over somehow in a ruck. My head hit the ground first (there's muddy spot on my scrum cap indicating where), alarmingly followed by the weight of my body on my neck and upper back, then, as my legs were flopping over, something landed on me and pressed me into something resembling a folding jackknife. At this point I could feel the air get driven out of my chest and a sharp pain in my ribcage as a rib came loose. So I lay there on my back making some horrible wheezing sounds, and feeling pain in my neck, upper back and chest all at once. I heard one player say, "He landed on his head. He's not moving his arms." So I moved my arms. When I caught my breath I talked to Harpy, who was staring down at me, and slowly let some guys help me up. I walked off the pitch on pretty much my own locomotion, and began probing my chest. After the pain subsided somewhat - after popping some ibuprofen - it dawned on me that I must have reinjured my rib by tearing some cartilage about where it was damaged last season. Now, as I write this, I can hunch over a little and press the rib, and feel it pop in and out of place - an odd feeling! Not a lot of pain - that may come later - but a distinctly uncomfortable feeling. I felt it last season.
The advantage of keeping a journal like this is that it lets you gauge recovery times from similar injuries. Last season I hurt myself in a 9/23 match with Severn River, and by 19 Oct the rib had stabilized enough for me to play a half against the Renegades. This was after a couple of painful incidents in scrums playing matches before I had fully healed. (It's not a pleasant experience at all. With the twistings in the scrum on my ribcage I felt like I was being internally deboned.) So that's about four weeks. I figure if I take it easy I can be back by the alumni game on 12 May - certainly by the time we play the RAF Vultures on 2 June.
So... I have gone from being a rugby mediocrity to being an injured rugby mediocrity. I guess I should be grateful, however, as landing on my neck could have been a lot worse than it was. My rugby guardian angel must have been keeping pace with me. (Not an especially difficult thing to do.)
Tuesday Evening Practice, 17 April 2001
I was supposed to be at Ethan's lacrosse game tonight, but it was cancelled due to a flooded field, so I came to practice instead. I didn't take part and wasn't in kit. So I watched other guys run around until it got dark, and then left. It was very cold this evening. In fact, when I arrived it started snowing! Ethan has another game on Thursday, so I'll miss practice then, too. And I'm not going to the match in Harrisburg, PA this weekend. (Family and home pressures - I can't be away on five Saturdays in a row while Cari is working.)
Thursday Evening 19 April 2001
Probing around my ribs with my fingers, it appears that I may have torn cartilage in two places: where I am able to deflect the rib and closer to the sterum, where it also hurts and where I am able to move the rib. Anyway, this injury seems worse than the one I got last season, although the great majority of the time it curiously doesn't hurt. (Except when I sneeze.)
Instead of going to practice with a bum ribcage I attended Ethan's lacrosse game against W.T. Woodson High in Fairfax, and reflected upon the injustices of a disappointing high school athletics system. Woodson has a champion lacrosse program - Ethan tells me they're very close to being divisional champs of some kind - and the score was lopsided win for them of 25-0. During the great part of the game I watched Ethan waiting to play on the sidelines, which happens most of the time and always makes me irritable. The kid wants to play so badly. But in this game the coach put my son in during the last half, and he got to bang some opposition players in the chest with this stick, which I was gratified to see. Lacrosse needs to be more aggressive and could use more contact, in my opinion! Anyway, I call high school sports disappointing because comparitively few of the players get much playing time - which is just the opposite for me in rugby. Uninjured, I can get more playing time than I really want! Life is terribly unfair and backwards that way.
Back to the game: here we are at the last minute or so of play, and Woodson is killing the ball behind Lee's goal - which I thought was a remarkable display of poor sportsmanship. What, were they afraid that Lee might possibly make the score 25-1? (I started yelling, "Play the game!") So, to his credit, Ethan ran up to challenge the players with the ball - I'm sorry he didn't just provoke a penalty and flatten one of them. That incident made me more pissed off than I already was... I have yet to see that in rugby, where the overriding ethic seems to be "play on, play the game."
I told Ethan that if he wanted to play rugby with the local high school side - West End RFC - instead of lacrosse he'd be plenty active, but rugby doesn't appeal to him much. And the only seaosn they play is spring, which conflicts with Lee High lacrosse. Maybe he'll take it up in college, maybe not. But there's a part of me that gets extremely annoyed that a 44 year old is experiencing more action with sports than is his 17 year old son. (Despite the fact that I haven't yet scored my first try.)
Tuesday Evening 24 April 2001
A light practice session tonight - I did some passing drills and then some laps, and that was about it. Sold some hats, too. Then we had a team meeting to propose the creation of the Fairfax Reds as competitors in Division III play. I have my doubts about this but will try to make it work. I've been taking glucosamine MSM in an effort to rebuild cartilage - my rib stopped moving around, so it seems to help. Maybe I can play in the Lancaster match...
Thursday Evening 26 April 2001
I started off taking part in the tackle bag work - carefully, taking care not to land on the injured side of my ribcage - and then did laps for the rest of the practice session. We had 50 guys out tonight, total, a far cry from Tuesday night when we had fifty, but about half were walking wounded. Makes it difficult to predict turnout at matches!
Match with PAC B/C, Saturday 28 April 2001
I didn't play in this one, but watched and took photos. Had a burger and a Coke afterwards. Despite the fact that we officers were vacillating about canceling this match (based upon a gloomy prospect after Tuesday's practice), we had all sorts of people turn up - 52 players, coaches, walking wounded and boozers. This teaches me a lesson - under no circumstances will I ever again advocate cancelling a match. Rugby clubs are best used when used hard, I guess. Anyway, we lost, but were competitive: 11-15 in the first two periods (supposed to be 40's but were actually about 33 minutes) and 10-17 in the final 31 minute period. I won't be going to practice this week because of Ethan's lacrosse matches, but I plan to make the drive up to Lancaster this Saturday and will try to play. I hope I'm healed!
B-SIDE MATCH WITH LANCASTER, 5 MAY 2001
Thursday morning before the match, I woke up after sleeping on my stomach and noticed that I could still click the rib in and out of place. The ability went away during the day, however, but I decided that I wouldn't play if I wasn't needed, but would try to play if I was. This being an away game three hours north, I was. (Drove up there with Kermit, Podo and his girlfriend Julie and Greg Mull.) The a-side match started badly for us, continued badly and ended badly: 0-85! The b-side match (two 20 minute periods, sort of) was almost as bad, 0-44. The 28 players or so we took up there were badly outclassed by Lancaster; there seems to be a higher level of play with the Eastern Pennsy RFU than there is around where we play. Anyway, I played, but cautiously - it wasn't my best performance, and at one point I had to tackle a fellow about my size, who came charging down the pitch. Rather than get low and do a normal tackle I just sort of blocked him, and another fellow took him down. I wasn't real proud of it, but the ref didn't call obstruction and I wasn't laying on the ground making "hee-hee" sounds, either. We played a true Lancaster b-side, where some old boys formed the pack - they were quite good, and could certainly give our own old boys a challenge. The hooker was 50, and the others were in their 40's. At one point in the play I got the ball and was held up and prevented from going to ground to ruck. I was able to turn around and hand the ball to the scrum-half, however, to keep possession. That doesn't happen very often! Another time I got the ball with a clear 20 m run to the tryline with only a full back in the way, but then the ref blew the whistle for something or another. It seems to be the pattern this season: there have been a number of times that I had a shot at a try only to see it not happen for some reason.
Anyway, the best that could be said for this day was that I played and didn't reinjure myself!
Thursday Evening 10 May 2001
Unlike all the other seasons, this one just sort of frittered away and disappeared at the end. I didn't go to practice Tuesday because, considering it, every single night this entire week was spoken for and I had other things to catch up on. So I boldly decided to do those things and go out to dinner with Ethan instead. And, to be honest, I am now mentally burned-out with rugby. Too many (lost) games, too much practice, too much administrative work as the secretary and webmaster - I am looking forward very much to this season's end. Although I played very little, when I count how many actual minutes I spent playing, this season has been a real grind.
Anyway, tonight the club was playing touch rugby - I had an idea we had reverted (descended) to this, so I only showed up to drop off the jerseys so somebody can bring them early to the alumni match. (I dislike touch rugby. Backs always insist upon it being great to "create space" and "work out open play," but in actuality, very little of my experience playing second row in games requires this. Most of the stuff I do is close in with a lot of impact and contact.) I also gave Rover some hat money and went out to Phillip's afterwards for dinner. With a rib injury causing me to do lighter practices and lacrosse matches causing me to miss some practice, I had pretty much gotten out of the habit.
Cari leaves for a trip to Utah tomorrow, which makes this Saturday a logistical problem, getting kids and myself here and there. Also, this Friday is the annual church fathers and sons campout, where I always get a rotten night's sleep. So... I am planning to play some in the alumni match, but I don't know when I'll show up and I don't know how long I'll be able to stay. And you know what? If I missed it entirely I wouldn't use up two hankies crying about it.
Alumni match, Saturday 12 May 2001
Well, I wanted to play in this, but I woke up after a crummy night "sleeping" in the minivan Saturday morning with a nasty chest cold, so I didn't. Another problem was that I was running around taking kids to this and that because Cari - the other taxi driver in the family - is out of state visiting parents. So I spent an hour taking photos at the match and about an hour at the Clubhouse afterwards. A pretty forgettable rugby event for me, really, and a disappointment. Which kind of sums up the season. I didn't play any old boys, the two full matches I played were less than 30 minute halves and, once again, no try. The only thing left is the RAF Vultures match on 1 June - and getting everyone their jerseys when they come in.
MATCH WITH THE RAF VULTURES 2 JUNE 2001
My fiftieth match, and the end of the spring season. It was very warm and humid for this one, and since I hadn't been out to practice for about a month, I played a pretty unremarkable game - except for the scrummaging. Stax and I were paired at lock, and in the quarter we played the scrum quit moving in the direction of the Suburbs try line and instead moved in the direction of the RAF's! The final score, however, was 0-17, Suburbs losing another one. Still, it's better than the 0-29 defeat we had the last time we played the Brits. I only played about 15 minutes of the 20 minute quarter - I hurt my ankle somehow, and found it hard to run. The day after the match my ankle hurt more, as do my upper legs. (I don't know how Old Boys go out and play rugby without going to practice; it seems hard on the muscles.) I suppose I could have played out the last five minutes or so, but... Stax went out, too, with a rib injury.
We went to Broo's - a pub I don't especially care for - and had a good time with the Brits. They're fun guys - I drove out to their quarters at the Bethesda Naval Hospital and led them to the pitch, and answered some of their questions about American rugby. They presented me with a cool RAF tie for my efforts in coordinating this match, which is a side benefit of being a secretary.
And so the season finally comes to a close! And, is my tradition, here are the highlights and lowlights:
1. Playing the Brits is always great! It lends some of the British traditions to local American play.
2. The match against South Jersey was one of my better ones; the weather was pleasantly cool, and I seemed to have a better sense of where to be on the field in open play. Harpy said it was a good game on my part.
3. Realizing, from coaching at practice, that I shouldn't try to make every ruck and maul, but, rather, fade back to support in the next phase of play. Until this season this has never been directly spelled out to me. It makes it possible for me to get the ball more often. And you can't score your first try without possessing the ball.
4. Continued recognition of my efforts with the web site - Suburb's public face to the world (literally). NOVA Women's Jane gave me a memorable bit of praise: "Wes, is there anyone who doesn't look at rugbyfootball.com regularly?"
5. The scrimmage with the Washington Renegades. Just good vibes all around and 60+ guys turned out!
6. The high attendance at practice in general (for most of the season) - it was a rare practice when we didn't have at least 45 guys out. But see Lowlight #5 for the other side of the coin.
7. Jimmy Dum-Dum discovered Phillip's for the Thursday after-match socials Everyone likes the place (Guinness at $1.50 per glass), and I like the place, too. Nice ambiance, relatively quiet so I can hear conversations.
8. Speaking of Guinness: $1,000 from them in March, and possibly more in July. I am now the biggest fund-raiser in the club.
9. Sending out the club e-mails has been a good outlet for my writing. It now goes out to over 200 people, and I have managed to include Dante's Inferno, Mark Twain's quotes about onanism, film noir and many other off-topic things in them.
1. Still no first try. But I'm getting smarter about open play, which should put this closer to happening.
2. Rib injury. I hope this doesn't become a chronic thing.
3. The 0-85 loss to Lancaster, possibly the worst in Suburbs history. (Certainly recorded Suburbs history.) My part in the weekend was a 0-44 loss in the b-side match. At least I didn't get injured.
4. Continuing screw-ups on jersey orders with ruggers.com. It has now been about ten weeks since I placed the orders, and I still do not have the commemorative jerseys or the "Fairfax Reds" style jerseys. Time to find another vendor, maybe.
5. Having plenty of guys out means having to find game time for plenty of guys - which means I didn't play much this season. (And a lot of other guys can say that, too.) In fact, this was the first season that I didn't play a whole match of at least two 30 minute halves. I had far less game time this season than in the others. If one didn't go to practice for practice's sake, one might say, "Why attend practice at all?" We hope to fix this problem in the fall season with the creation of "the Fairfax Reds," our b-side in competitive Division III play. No telling how well this will go...
6. A continued feeling of malaise regarding my rugby goals in general. I excel in the administrative stuff - but I've done that before in other contexts (reenacting, scouting, work...). The real reason I play rugby is to excel athletically, but, at age 45, I seem to be past it. Even my metabolism has played me a dirty trick: normally I lose weight during the season, but that didn't happen this time. Oh, I lost a few pounds at the beginning of the season, shedding winter weight, but that was about it.
7. I would have liked to have seen my fellow-Mormons Ben Edgell and Doug Allison make more games and practice, but hey, they have their own agendas.
8. I didn't play any Old Boys matches this season. Sunday play is a problem, and while I meant to play in the alumni match, it didn't happen.
So... I look forward to a relaxed, family-based summer for the next two months. Rover says practice shall begin on July 17th, but with my first game probably taking place in early September, there's no way. I'll start practice in August, as I normally do. Balance in activities is a necessity, I think.
Click here for my season seven journal.