Thursday, June 8, 2017
Rugby Season 7
Yes, that's big fat ol' me with the black scrumcap. The opposition are the Lancaster Roses.
Don't be misled by the swishy club name or this image, which suggests we're about to do something enterprising with the ball - they beat us badly.
From June to August 2001: Well, I took it easy. Did no running. Hung out at the pool. Yes, I know: I kvetch about not getting my first try in these journal entries and yes, I'm aware of my lack of planning and conditioning to do it. But hey, I'm a happily-married man with three kids, a challenging job and other interests. So if it happens, it happens. If not... then I go back to writing pitiful, self-hating journal entries. Actually, playing as much rugby and attending as much practice as I normally do is going to be a challenge this season. I accepted a calling in my church as the elder's quorum president - which brings with it all sorts of work - and my daughter Julie, age 14, is starting high school field hockey for the fall season.
I seem to have retained a problem with my left ankle and Achilles' tendon (I think) from the match with the RAF in early June: when I squat down it kind of hurts getting back up. Well, not running didn't help the situation - perhaps running will, when I attend practice again.
We started early this year: July 17th. Normally we begin on the first Tuesday of August. The coaches' rationale is that we'll need the extra time to prepare for a difficult schedule - our b-side is in competitive games as "the Fairfax Reds." But doing practice in July heat is beyond my interests and abilities. August may be hot, but at least there's the promise of cooler weather ahead. Besides, I always get some construction job on the house this time of the year that has to be done before I commit to rugby- this time it's replacing a bathroom in the house. So my first practice date will be August 14th, when I get back from a business trip to California. In the meantime I am trying to resolve the jersey order from hell with Ruggers.com, hitting up Guinness for more money, updating the website at my usual frenetic pace and sending out nearly-daily informational e-mails. So even when I'm not present, I'm contributing. Call me The Virtual Rugger.
Tuesday evening practice - 14 August 2001
Do I ever dread and hate the first day of practice. Virtuality goes by the wayside and sweat, discomfort, physical effort and, occasionally, pain, becomes the reality. Especially on this session - Suburbs have been at practice since July, and are now doing full contact tackling at pace. These guys are now noticeably fitter, faster and harder than any of my previous seasons this early in the season. We did some forward play where I got tackled - it felt like my world caved in on me. Obviously, I have some ways to go before I toughen up again to play! We also did some sessions with our pal the scrum sled - that certainly signaled the end of vacation! At the end we did some scrimmaging (rugby, really, since it was full contact and at pace), which I declined. I wussed out and ran laps instead. No sense in killing myself on the first day. Besides, I did a home move on Saturday night. My legs hurt and my foot is still sore from when a guy dropped a dryer on it.
I have a feeling that this season may be my last. Last week at Disneyland, I was riding one of those "dark house" rides, the kind where you sit in a car and travel through various black-lit rooms, painted with images from Disney animated features (Alice in Wonderland, Snow White, Peter Pan, etc.). It was nearly midnight and, after 16 hectic hours at the park, I began to get a little woozy. It suddenly occurred to me that my life thus far has been a lot like one of those rides. I travel into a room, enjoy what's there and move on. Just when it looks like there's no escape or exit, a door appears somewhere and I continue on to an entirely different set of circumstances. Sometimes it looks like I'm traveling into a hazard - like a crate to be shipped to the salt mines in "Pinocchio" - only to make a quick jog, avert disaster and continue on my way. So far, I have traveled through High School, Marine Corps, Mormon Church, Marriage and Family, Scouting, Civil War Reenacting, Film Noir and Rugby rooms. (Obviously there is no end to the church and family rooms - maybe that's the name of the particular dark house ride I'm on.) I now feel like another door is about to appear.
Thursday evening practice - 16 August 2001
57 guys out to practice tonight! At the start it was announced that one could either run "suicides" (repeated sprints, then a Harpold Fitness Salon) or receive Touch Judge 101 from Rob Sanders. Guess which I chose? I still don't want to be a touch judge, but at least I'm now a little more knowledgeable about it. We started out with some line out work - we actually had four packs. I had intended to do whatever scrimmaging we would do tonight, but the particular pack I was in had three second rows, so one of us had to leave. Since the other two intended to play this weekend, I backed out and ran ten laps instead. After practice we went to Phillip's. It's nice to be back!
Tuesday evening practice - 21 August 2001
A better work ethic out of me tonight, despite the fact that I had to leave early. We did some passing drills and especially some forward drills emphasizing rolling mauls. (They're hard to get right, but when done right they're unstoppable, as I learned in my first season in a b-side match with James River.) Also, we did that four man "try to rip the ball out from my arms" drill that is always a warm weather favorite. In the group I was in at one point, four of the stoutest guys in the club and I were ripping at poor Kermit's arms in the drill. (Kermit is all of about 150 pounds.) It looked like rape.
Tuesday evening practice - 28 August 2001
I'm sure I have worked harder in other practice sessions, but I don't recall when. It was very warm and humid, and we did an entire session of forwards drills. What really wore me down was a three-man scrum sled push drill. My upper legs felt like jelly, and I was quite worn out. I soaked a tee-shirt in sweat, but then, so did a lot of other guys. This time we did a new style ruck technique that I didn't like. It involves ramming into a defender with the upper shoulders - it's supposed to make it harder for him to reach over and get the ball. I've never had this happen to me; with my weight, I can slam into a guy more or less sideways and push him back. One of the coaches admitted that this is more for the backs. New lineout codes to learn, too, as we apparently had a security breach of some kind in the last game!
A fellow named John "Mickey" Pancini has come to play this season, and tried being a lineout jumper towards the end of practice. (It was welcome to me after all the heavy pushing and shoving we were doing.) Well, the first time me and the other hoister got him up in the air he had this terrified look on his face and quickly grabbed my shoulders. There is still much entertainment value in rugby...
Thursday evening practice - 30 August 2001
I did very little in this practice, maybe four or five laps, and watched others practice. Why? I don't know. Got to talking to Kelly, who was a little depressed, and lost my interest to do much. I guess it was one of those "Old Boys practice" sessions - except the Old Boys, planning to complete in the Aspen RuggerFest, were actually out there running around. Phillip's afterwards.
Matches against Severn River RFC - 1 September 2001
I drove out to Annapolis to watch and take photos, but didn't play. Why not? It was really too warm, too early in the season, and I really wasn't needed. We brought 50 guys out for two matches, and about five of us didn't play. The "A" side whomped Severn River 49-0, though - it was really nice to see.
Thursday Evening Practice – 6 September 2001
I missed Tuesday practice due to Julie's field hockey game.
I intended to scrimmage and do everything at practice tonight – but, we had 69 people total show up! That's three solid forward packs + onlookers. So, uncalled out for drills, I ran laps instead. This new growth in Suburbs is really great to see – and yet, I feel unneeded, which is difficult. The end of my playing days is fast approaching, I fear.
Afterwards, Phillip’s – where 30 were present. Two (hard) drinking sides.
SATURDAY MATCHES AGAINST THE ASPEN RUGGERFESTERS AND GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY - 8 SEPTEMBER 2001
Oh, yeah: at first Coach Rover appointed me as captain, citing a belief that I was the only guy who wouldn't get a whole lot of flak from the players about decisions on the pitch. Yeah, right. The first time the ref asked me, "Lineout or scrum, Captain?", with my peerless tactical sense of a game I'd reply, "I dunno. What's in it for us?" So, I passed the heavy mantle of leadership on to Dave Lyster, the previous head coach. To be honest, the little incident reminded me of that episode of Star Trek wherein Bones gets a Roman sword tossed to him in a gladiator's arena, and he grabs with a look as if to say, "What am I supposed to do with this?", followed by a variation of the famous "I'm a doctor, not a (fill in the blank)" line.
My next match was a 20 minute period against George Mason. We won this, too (26-10), and I played tighthead prop, so I can now legally call myself a sometime prop. I made the mistake of going into this match assuming college kids would be something of a pushover physically, like wrestling with my son Ethan. I was disabused of that notion in the first scrum, when I encountered an aggressive push from a stocky Asian kid who was playing loosehead. However, the subsequent scrums went okay, when I seemed to be able to get a bit lower.
It was quite hot at Dunn Loring, and I couldn't play much, not being in real shape good fitness-wise, but I am happy to have played some. It helps my sense of self worth, and I feel like I got something done!
Afterwards we had our party at the City Tavern, which certainly beats the Clubhouse... and a number of times I made certain that the GMU guys understood that we wanted them to join our club after graduation.
Tuesday Evening Practice – 11 September 2001
We cancelled it because of the events concerning the cowardly attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon from Arab terrorists. The civil authorities requested people to stay home to lessen traffic, and so we complied. A horrible day in American history. It's very hard to think about rugby when the images flashing through my mind's eye are orange fireballs and humans jumping to their deaths.
Thursday Evening Practice – 13 September 2001
...and life goes on after dreary, disheartening days of TV footage of disaster and death, and so does rugby. We decided to hold practice tonight and our matches with Roanoke after all, out of respect to those who died. We want to convince others and ourselves as well that the basics of American life haven't changed. But it was a distracted session we did tonight, and the usual spirit wasn't there despite the presence of 59 players. We did some forwards drill, in which Crazy Eddie ran his head into my upper leg, bruising it. (It is sore now, and I'm kind of limping.) I refrained from doing the full-pace, full tackle twilight ruck and run; I'm too old for it. This sort of practice is good to prepare for a match, but one stands a good chance of getting injured in it and not being able to play on Saturday. (Which is what happened to a fellow last Thursday.) Also, I got my nose out of joint over some trivial little slight and nearly went home. But, my attitude that "somebody has to be the adult here, it might as well be me" carried me through, kind of. (I guess I'm still resentful.) I'm slated to play the Division II "B" side match this weekend, but right now my heart isn't in it. That will change as soon as the whistle is blown.
I played a 30 minute half in the c-side "Blues" match against Roanoke "B", who were really Roanoke "A" because they only traveled north with about 20 guys. It was a pretty good and close match, but we lost 5-11. I played okay - had a couple of good tackles. I can never understand why some forwards slow down just before contact. (The backs don't seem to do it.) One Roanoke prop had the ball, and was running down the pitch at me and made the fatal mistake of slowing. As he was a fairly big guy he might have been able to blow by me, but instead I took him down with a thud.
This weekend was a triumph for Suburbs: the a-side beat Roanoke "A" 22-0 in the first of our four division II competition matches, we had more than enough guys for a b-side match, and the Fairfax Reds played (and beat) West Potomac "B" in D.C. (and this was a match quickly put together for us by Elvis after PAC canceled). So we did well in play and with logistics! I am proud of the role I have played with growing Western Suburbs; many guys tell me and others that the web site attracted them to the club. And I think my efforts as secretary help keep them in.
The party was at the City Tavern in Manassas, and was odd in that the usual rugby merriment went on while tragic images of the wreckage from last Tuesday's terrorist bombing flashed on the televisions. But we had decided that we should play on, to demonstrate that the basics of American life (rugby included) cannot be halted.
A pretty minimal effort by me. In fact, all I really did was to run three laps and do a few minutes of a passing drill. This was partly because I wasn't specifically called out by name to form a side, and partly because my back was still a little sore from last Thursday. (It hurts my upper back to turn my head left.) Anyway, one of the results of our being able to get 50+ guys out to practice is that I don't do much anymore. I did, however, spend a lot of the practice chatting with a fellow who came out to observe, prior to getting involved. (I hope.) He's a force recon Marine sergeant who looks like he'll play well. It was also good to see our resident South African, Larry Wollach, out again. But I left the pitch feeling fairly useless.
Thursday Evening Practice – 20 September 2001
We had 50 guys out, so, unneeded, I ran laps. The memorable thing about this was at Phillip's afterwards: Iceman showed us his photos from his work in the NYC rubble, and we tried to hear President Bush's war speech to the nation. Interesting times.
SATURDAY C-SIDE MATCH AGAINST ROCKY GORGE "B" - 22 SEPTEMBER 2001
This was not one of my better matches, it being hot, but we made a good account for ourselves, winning 43-17. I played a half of about 30 minutes. I have always said that if our second side can play somebody else's legitimate second side (and not recycled a-siders, or Suburbs Old Boys filling in), we would do well. So, Gorge brought a second side and we beat 'em. We had no less than 54 Suburbs guys show up for this; we outnumbered the home side! All week long I had been billing this one as "Operation Deep Bench" in club e-mails, and apparently it paid off. The a-side match was torturous to watch - the ref was awful, and wasn't in position to see two of our tries. We tied Rocky Gorge 12-12, but this score doesn't show that we dominated them. (They knew it. At the end of the match they were cheering their tie and we were quiet. They knew they got away easy with a tie.) Very frustrating, as this was probably our major game this season Division II competition-wise. We should be able to take care of United and Virginia... but who knows? Suburbs is a club that has often snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
Thursday Evening Practice – 27 September 2001
Tuesday was Back to School night, so I spent the evening talking to Ethan's teachers rather than attend practice.
This was one of the very few real practice sessions I have done this season - in other words, I did all the drills and ruck and run rather than simply run laps (which really isn't feasible, now that we're back in the South Run Rec Center "Dustbin"). Anyway, it was a good workout, but now, the morning after, I feel pretty haggard. I'm catching a cold, I think, and doing forwards drills and breathing all that dust and dirt didn't do anything special for me. We did an extended session of four corners, some battering forwards ruck and maul drills, some scrummaging and three sides ruck and run (we had 50 present). Once again I committed a fatal mistake during play - I got in the way of the scrum-half and tthe backline - and good old Jim Borrell, seeing this, immediately yelled at us. When am I going to learn? There are times I feel like such a boob that I wonder why I continue.
Afterwards we went to Glory Days; not as nice as Phillip's. Certainly not as good price-wise for the drinkers!
Matches against West Potomac RFC and United RFC - 29 September 2001
I just attended these to take photos and socialize; I wasn't feeling well, getting over (or through) a cold. The Reds lost to West Potomac, the Division III champions, 0-10, but Suburbs won both United "A" and "B" matches. Now we just have to beat Virginia RFC next weekend and see what kinds of scores the other clubs rack up against each other. We are getting closer to the playoffs!
Thursday Evening Practice – 4 October 2001
Scrummaging, lineouts, some "combinations" (a ruck and run, except with tackling) and ball passing drills made up this practice session. Nothing really special about it. It looks like I'm playing two 40 minute halves with the Fairfax Reds, who play the Renegades this week.
SATURDAY B-SIDE MATCH AGAINST THE WASHINGTON RENEGADES - 6 OCTOBER 2001
Probably the best match I have ever played in that it was a cool day and I had two regulation 40 minute halves of play, and got the ball far more often than I normally do. A big part of that was because when we got close to the tryline I faded back and called for it in order to make my first try. But... it didn't happen. At one point we had a lineout set up about five meters from the tryline that was intended to get me the ball so's I could run it in and touch it down (the lineout call was, "Wes Clark! Wes Clark!" - which I found somewhat embarrassing). But the ref ruled that the ball wasn't thrown in straight, and the opportunity was missed. I tried again a couple of times from the 22 meter line but was tackled after making some distance.
The conditions were perfect and I still wasn't able to score my first try; I now believe it simply won't happen.
Oh, well. The game was a decidedly unbalanced 97-0 win for the Fairfax Reds - the biggest points margin in recorded Suburbs history, and I was proud to have played a part in a couple of good pack tries. (One of them was simply ramming Pat Herrity forward.) News from Charlottesville was good, too: the a-side scored 85-0 against Virginia RFC, which may be good enough to get us into the playoffs. It all depends upon what second place Rocky Gorge does in their last two matches.
Tuesday Evening Practice – 9 October 2001
I didn't go to practice tonight because at 3 PM I got the phone call every parent dreads: "Dad? This is Ethan. I just got into a car accident." He was fine, but we're not sure whether or not the van is going to be totaled. So... the evening was spent in waiting for a call from the tow truck, to haul the car from the accident site near Lee High School to a body shop. What joy.
Tuesday Evening Practice – 16 October 2001
Didn't go to practice last Thursday because Julie had a field hockey game. These aren't as traumatic for me as watching Ethan's lacrosse games were, because Julie gets plenty of playing time! True... the junior varsity "Lady Lancers" haven't yet won a game, but they are certainly getting better.
Tonight I did about thirty/forty minutes of passing drills before jamming my ankle hard into one of the Dustbin's nefarious unseen dips. These things are really evil: you're running down the length of the field house when the ground seems to drop out from under a foot slightly. Carrying as much weight as my poor ankles are obliged to carry, this isn't a good thing to have happen. Anyway, knowing that I wasn't going to play this Saturday (Busch Gardens with the family), I stood off and became a watcher/chatter for awhile. (And left practice feeling like a lazy coward.) Either I have got to relax a little about playing rugby or become much more resolute. Being middle-aged and distracted with other stuff, the first option is probably a better idea.
Passed out the commemorative polo shirts, which came out nice.
Thursday Evening Practice – 18 October 2001
It wasn't much of a practice for me. Mostly stood around and watched the Blacks and Reds practice. Only about 40 guys present, too. I may play on Saturday or I may not.
SATURDAY C-SIDE MATCH AGAINST THE WASHINGTON IRISH - 20 OCTOBER 2001
The most disappointing match I have ever played. It had nothing to do with the score - we lost 5-45 - but everything to do with an almost total lack of support or interest from the first side, who were apparently sitting around with beers congratulating themselves about their 38-23 win against the Irish "A" side. I wrote an e-mail about it to send, but then decided not to. At the same time I learned from MARFU that we had become the Territorial South Division, so I didn't want to rain on the club's parade. (But this incident certainly rained on mine.) Besides, I pretty much made my opinion known on the pitch during half-time. Anyway, it was a disgrace and a real affront to all my organizational efforts in building up the club for the last three years. The Irish showed up with about 50 guys or more to this away game (for them), and provided constant sideline support for their players, at all levels. We were left out on the pitch by ourselves on a very warm day, without water, coaches or apparent interest.
I played a dispirited 40 minute half, then a 30 minute half (by my estimate). Somehow or another I charley-horsed my calf, but kind of limped and walked the remaining ten minutes or so of the game. Oh, well... at least I didn't go out. And I got an especially good tackle in: I got low and, unknown to me, Jason Berg got the fellow high, so between the two of us we laid this fellow down hard. I took a great group photo of the first XV after their win, but right now I can't look at it without gritting my teeth.
Thursday Evening Practice – 25 October 2001
Didn't attend practice Tuesday because of Julie's last field hockey match - and the fact that my left leg still hurt a little from the match. However, Cari and I stopped by and unloaded a couple of polo shirts. Thursday's practice was mostly ball-passing with opposition drills. At one point I was brought to the ground and kicked right below the kneecap - ouch. That pretty much took me out of running for the rest of practice, which was okay because we then did lineouts. For some reason the dustbin was especially dusty on this night, and I had to go out into the clean air and make horrible dry-heaving sounds. Whew. I'm really turning into a physical wreck. Anyway, the night was still worthwhile. A new fellow came out - it's nice to have new guys this late in the season - and afterwards some of us went to Glory Days. I may try to sneak away between Sunday church meetings to make the Old Boys match against the Poltroons.
It's obvious the season is winding down. There were only about 27 guys out tonight, and for a time practice looked like it wasn't going anywhere - nothing was happening. Certainly a change from the very aggressive, physical start the season had.
B-side match against Quantico RFC - 27 October 2001
The Fairfax Reds won their match with the Marines 11-5. Quantico, being deployed all over the place because of the war in Afghanistan, only brought 17 guys, so we didn't have a third period or second match. This was a disappointment to me, as I'm not getting enough game time this season. (True, the idea was floated to have an inter-squad match, but that didn't happen. I don't like those, anyway.) I was seriously considering playing the Sunday Old Boys match against the Poltroons, but church stuff kept me too busy to go. There's also a little spiritual issue about the Elder's Quorum President profaning the Sabbath. The Poltroons won, for the first time in about four years. A bummer all around.
This may have been a championship season for Suburbs, but it is shaping up to be a disappointment to me, personally. Sure, it's nice that I was able to help things along administratively - but I could do that in any endeavor: reenacting, Scouting or model railroading, for that matter. What makes being in a rugby club unique is actually playing rugby. And if you're not playing much rugby, why bother?
Thursday Evening Practice – 1 November 2001
We started out with some simple passing exercises and then moved on to full contact rugby wearing padded vests. Running around in those and a scrum cap is like wearing a sauna suit. Anyway, I hung in there until Rover pulled guys out to turn it into something looking suspiciously like 7's - then I backed away, nodding and smiling. A really dusty session. Some guys had so much dustbin dirt on their faces they looked like clowns! Someone stepped on my foot, and now I have a big purple bruise from the stud. It's not sore, however.
The general opinion was to cancel the trip up to Reading, PA to play their 17 guys or so. The rationale was that it wasn't worth a 3 1/2 hour drive to get guys a second match with 20 minute halves, and I kinda sorta agree - although I would have liked to have played some more rugby before the season is out. I'm sure that out of the seven seasons I have played, this one had the least actual game time.
Thursday Evening Practice, 8 November 2001
We started out with "four corners" and then did some lineouts, where I was mostly inert. Then we did some of the usual full contact dirt ground rugby - ooof. Anyway, I held up until somebody stepped on my ankle, which put me out of commission for the rest of the evening. After some milling around, some of us decided to drive all the way to Phillip's, and I met there with Aki, Kelly, Kevin Corry, Jesse and Shamrock. End of practice; now I get my Tuesdays and Thursdays back!
SATURDAY C-SIDE MATCH AGAINST GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY - 10 NOVEMBER 2001
The Fairfax Reds won their match against PAC "C", so it was a good day; they are now in the playoffs (I think). So that's two teams Suburbs has gotten into the playoffs this season, the Division II Blacks and the Division III Reds. Jeff Harpold said, "I've been in this club for seventeen years; this is the proudest day of my life."
Most of the Reds took off after their match for a bar in D.C. - Mackey's - and the rest of us stayed to play GMU. Between that, however, West Potomac had their alumni match, which featured a color guard - very classy! We Blues played our match and lost 22-12; it was pretty competitive, except something kept going wrong after the scrums. We'd easily win the scrums, and when I came unbound I'd find GMU had somehow gotten possession of the ball - it was very frustrating. But the most frustrating thing was my getting the ball on a penalty play about 7 meters in front of the try line, only to not being able to touch it down for a try. A former Suburbs player - Keith "Cutie" Webb, managed to tackle me, but I hit him about as hard as I could, and wound up falling on him (which he said was worse). Drat, drat, drat.
Anyway, about six or seven of us repaired to West Pot's bar in D.C., and after my usual Coke and a burger I bid my teammates adieu. And another season ends. This was a longer-than-usual one (it began early and ended late) and I am happy to get my Saturdays and Tuesday and Thursday evenings back for home maintenance and repairs.
Oh, yeah, spending time with the family is kind of nice, too.
Next up - the "We Are The Champions" end of the season party at club president Paul Jenkins' house. On Sunday there's an Old Boys match with the Irish Wild Geese - I may play it or I may not.
Some time passes...
The party at Paul Jenkins' house was fine, but I only stayed for a couple of hours. I arrived at 8 PM and left at 10:40 - when some people were arriving! I understand there were about a dozen guys crashed there overnight, the last one left at about 11 AM the next day - whew... that's a rugby celebration, all right.
Like me, they missed the Old Boys match against the Wild Geese. I didn't play because all sorts of church stuff came up that day.
The annual business meeting was held on 11/20/01.
And so, this long season is finally over. It was a notable one for Western Suburbs: 22-7-1 overall in all matches. It was my worst for a number of different reasons, main among them is the sneaking suspicion that I'm growing too old or too tired of rugby. I do believe burnout is setting in.
1. Taking full part in the all-time highest scoring Suburbs match: 97-0 against the Renegades.
2. 69 guys out to practice one evening.
3. Getting the logistics of this difficult Reds debut season right. We sent guys all across the region on some Saturdays to play matches - and usually won them.
4. Finally figuring out, more or less, where I'm supposed to be in open play during a match. (Others may beg to differ.)
5. No injuries.
6. A peak of 1,949 individual hits on the website in early October, just after I posted Iceman's NYC disaster photos. It averaged out to about 600 hits from unique viewers per day. For a rugby website, that's really good.
1. No try. Again. I am now convinced it won't happen.
2. Not much playing time for various reasons.
3. No fall Guinness donation.
4. Didn't play any old boys matches.
5. Various dissatisfactions and falling outs with other Suburbs members.
6. "JerseyGate" - doing business with Ruggers. They couldn't seem to get an order right.
Click here to go to the next season, season eight.