Sunday, August 10, 2008

Not Just Another Saturday

Our boy, Reggie, plays rugby, and he plays the game well. He'll be 15 next week, and he's already 5'11" and 89kg (about 195lbs.), so he plays with kids older than him on the under 18 year old, open weight team at his high school. He's built like a brick with very little body fat, and he's strong as an ox. On top of that he's quite a fast runner, turning in 40 meter sprints under 5 seconds. He plays all "loose forward" positions (#6, #7, #8), but his specialty is #7, open side flanker, which means he's "in the thick of the shit" most of the time. He gets bashed about quite a bit, but he gives as good as he gets. He's everything you would want at that position. He rarely loses his cool, which is a bonus for his team; he just waits to make a legal tackle or a power run with the ball and usually leaves the other guy laid out.

Yesterday began like most other Saturdays this time of year. We woke up at 7:00 and got ready to go to his rugby game. It was a typical, cold, grey winter morning - about 10 deg. C. (50 deg F.) and raining. I dropped Reg off for team warm-up at 8:30 and stopped at the Wild Bean Cafe at the BP gas station to get Mae and I our mochas (using real, moo-cow fuck milk; no soy juice in our house). I returned home to get Mae and we were off to the game. That's where any similarity with other Saturdays ended.

With our team having only 14 (instead of 15) players, we were down by two "tries" at halftime.
At the beginning of the second half our winger, Tyler, took a late hit after he had kicked the ball down-field. It wasn't two minutes before he set his sights on the opposition player that laid him out, and it was on, an all-in "punch-up." Reggie's mate, Arden (our usual #8 playing #6 today), a big, strong Maori boy nailed one of their players (the one who laid Tyler out) with a solid elbow, knocking him right the fuck out, leaving him in a gusher of blood from what was only seconds earlier a properly positioned nose. Arden got a yellow card, which results in 10 minutes in the "sin bin" (the penalty box in ice hockey terms). Our boys, despite being now down TWO players, had managed to get a try with a phase of play that began with Reg making about a 40 meter sprint down the sideline to within 5 meters of scoring, ultimately with our center going in for the score on the other side. Things were looking up; apparently the head coach's pep-talk at half-time put a fire in their asses. When Arden came back on, we scored again and were now within one try of taking the lead; a win was actually on the table. Things looked really good. Then it went to custard. Arden put a solid, legal tackle on one of the other boys, and another brawl ensued.

Let me stop here and say that while I do not encourage fights, I realize boys will be boys, and rugby is a tough game; it ain't soccer or chess. Shit happens, and when it's on, it's on. There is a point of no return, and, regardless of who starts what, you just gotta get on with it. When the fists start flying, reason and discussion are out the door. It's survival of the fittest.

A lot of this could have been avoided were it not for the touch judge on the other side of the field. There is one referee from the union, who is usually an impartial enforcer of the rules of the game. At this level, however, the touch judges - one on each side-line - are usually a members of the coaching or manager staff, one from each team. They are there solely to mark where the ball goes out of bounds (or "into touch"). Unlike in professional rugby, they are not "assistant" refs from the same sanctioning organization. The other team's touch judge, however, was lobbying the ref, getting in his ear, reporting what he saw as violations (only by our boys, of course). I was on our side of the field when the brawl broke out, but Mae had wandered over there just prior to the melee to investigate what this guy was doing.

I just stood there and watched; the boys will sort themselves out. The ref and, if necessary, the coaches will try to break things up. I didn't see all that went on, but according to Mae and others on that side of the field, including Reg and some of his team mates, the touch judge and some of the parents and supporters of the other team were actually striking our players; not trying to separate players - hitting them. That is unacceptable. Had I been on that side of the field, I would probably not be here tonight writing this. I would probably be in jail because I would have put at least one person in the hospital with some very serious, probably permanent injuries. Those of you from back in the States who know me personally know that.

Like I said, regardless of what is going on out on the field, I don't get involved. I have watched Reg take a lot of hits - legal and cheap shots (hell, he took a head stomp earlier in the game) - and I tell him (and he knows it already) that it's part of the game; he shakes it off and gets on with business. But when parents get involved by hitting kids, that is just wrong. There a few folks from the other team's supporters who should consider themselves very lucky people tonight.

Anyway, the game was called with about 20 minutes left to go, and, as a result, we lost by 3 points. Ricky, our halfback (#9) will probably be banned for the rest of the season for coming in from the rear of the pack and throwing what I have to admit was an impressive haymaker - right in front of the ref. Reg got in a few good licks (on the guy who head-stomped him earlier in the game) and is otherwise no worse for wear. One of his team mates, Danny, got an ambulance ride to the hospital for a possible concussion he received when a punch that was meant for Reg hit Danny when Reg ducked. Good for Reg. Bad for Danny, but he was conscious and knew where he was afterward; so I'm sure he'll be fine.

Not just another Saturday, indeed.



Blogger Oldcatman said...

Because of all the damn professionalism run amuck
HERE, I have lost interest
in sports.

(I use to umpire Little League Baseball and play fast pitch softball.

Rugby has always looked like a tough sport---don't get soccer at all!

3:54 AM GMT+12  

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