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Monday, December 20, 2010

Out of the Dome and Into the Snow...

Living in Minnesota, people may not always know where we are in the USA, but as of last week, they know Minneapolis as being the home of the collapsed dome stadium.
Believe it or not, once upon a time, The Minnesota Vikings played American Football at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington-a suburb south of Minneapolis. Today, the Mall of America sits on the former site of "The Met".

Since 1982, the Minnesota Vikings have called the Metrodome home. It's a sterile, unappealing white mushroom in downtown Minneapolis. When it's full of 65,000 purple-clad, intoxicated fans, it is one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL, but it's a different experience than what I experienced growing up and going to games at the Met. It was an era where the bitterly cold conditions meant that you dressed for the cold-fashion be damned. (The snowmobilie suit worked the best)

I found the above clip which does a nice job of showing how football used to be here in Minneapolis for the Vikings from 1961-81.

Tonight's Vikings-Bears game will be outside at the University of Minnesota's new TCF Stadium(Also called "The Bank" here in the Twin Cities) Already, there has been a lot of whining about playing outside by the players. The temperatures should be well into the single-digits Farenheit, about -12 Celsius at kickoff time. Oh yeah, we are in the midst of another snowstorm which stands to drop 8 more inches of the fluffy white stuff on Minneapolis-this on the heels of last weeks 18 inch (43 cm)
snowfall. This clip shows the job of removing all of this snow from the stadium....

My favorite Met Stadium memory was my brother Bill and I watching with thermometer just above zero Farenheit, as the Vikings beat the Los Angeles (now St. Louis) Rams for the NFC title in 1976. The ended up losing to the Oakland Raiders in that Super Bowl...the last time the men in purple have been the Super Bowl.

Tonight's game with the woeful Vikings(Huge disappointment after the team made it to the NFC title game last year before losing to eventual Super Bowl Champs, the New Orleans Saints) and the Chicago Bears will be a throwback to a bygone era. I know I have been feeling very nostalgic. For younger fans, this game will show younger fans how the game was meant to be played-outdoors, conditions be damned.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Rugby Making Better Fathers

On a very snowy Saturday here in Minneapolis, I had a little time before trying to evacuate the foot of drifting snow on my driveway. While catching up on some rugby news, I followed this link from a blogger's guest writer, who wrote about how rugby gave him a lot of practical application to be a better father. (By the way, I think the applications work well for mom's too) Here is the link for the article: .

My kids were older when I started to play rugby. My son was 18, my daughter was 15. My parenting was formed a lot of what NOT to do from my parent's divorce and also lessons I learned from wrestling, American Football and my maternal grandfather-a man who had a great deal of impact in my life when I did not get to see my own father on a regular basis. That said, I think the author of the above article makes some very valid comparisons on how rugby lessons learned are valid ones for anybody who calls themselves "Dad".

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Got My RWC Tickets for USA-Italy!

Knowing that the folks in charge of selling tickets for the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand were going to release more tickets today for purchase, I just had to try to get tickets to see a USA Eagles Match.

I already had purchased tickets for Australia-Russia to be played in Christchurch on 10/1, so I had my eyes on either Australia-USA in Wellington, or USA-Italy in Nelson. The few tickets left for the match against the Wallabies were just a bit more expensive than I wanted to spend, whereas there were some General Admission tickets left for the Italy game, so I just pulled the trigger and bought two tickets for the match to be played on Tuesday, September 27th at Trafalgar Park.

My wife is looking forward to the trip. Now I really have to start saving money and planning in earnest..but like Romania from this past weekend, I just punched my ticket for RWC 2011.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Last Ticket for RWC 2011: Uruguay, or Romania?

Like the proverbial Golden Ticket from Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, there is one last ticket left for the Rugby World Cup to be held in New Zealand next year.

It will all come down to Romania or Uruguay to figure out who will join the 19 other teams in New Zealand. The winner of this playoff will be in the same group as England, Argentina, Scotland and The Republic of Georgia.

A couple of weeks ago, they played out a tense, 20-20 draw in sunny Montevideo(highlights above). This means that today's match in Bucharest will amount to a winner-take-all affair. Both teams have had to play a lot of rugby to get to this point-particularly the Romanians, who at first did not look like they would be able to get out of qualifying out of Europe, but qualify they did, and then they beat Tunisia to have a shot at Uruguay, who dispatched Kazakhstan to get to this point.

Romania has been to every Rugby World Cup since 1987.  They are bigger and more physical than Uruguay, and also have more players playing professionally in Europe-Uruguay only has one, all of the rest of the Teros play on clubs in Argentina. Like Georgia, the Romanians play is dominated by their forwards. Uruguay is going to have to depend on pace and kicking to have a shot at upsetting Romania today. The Romanians probably were hoping for poor weather conditions that would favor their big pack, but the forecast for today is for  12 degrees Celsius, or 54 degrees with partly cloudy skies and minimal wind at kickoff time.

Romania has to be the favorite, but you have to admire the plucky Uruguayans. Can their rugby team shock the rugby world like Diego Forlan and his Uruguayan team mates did at this past summer's FIFA World Cup in South Africa? Much to the shock of everyone, Uruguay won it's group, then made it to the semi-finals-the ONLY South American team to make it to the final four (Much to the chagrin of one Diego Maradona) Romania had plenty of chances to put the Teros away in Montevideo, but Uruguay was able to hang on for the draw. Will Uruguay make the Romanian's pay for a lack of killer instinct? A final, Golden Ticket awaits the winner that will allow them join the party at Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand.

Friday, November 26, 2010

England v Australia Ashton try

Of the November Internationals played so far, Chris Ashton's try against the Wallabies was the most impressive. Great work by England stealing the ball when it looked like Australia was going to score...then England, instead of kicking the ball deep out of harm's way, showed a swashbuckling flair getting the ball out wide to Chris Ashton, who showed blistering pace in outrunning several Wallabies...simply great stuff.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Rugby World Cup 2011: New Zealand or Bust!

A couple of days ago, I went onto the Rugby World Cup 2011 web site check into buying match tickets. I missed the phase II of ticket purchases, as I was hoping to get some tickets for some USA Eagle games in New Zealand.  I totally spaced out on when the second phase was going to stop. That was the bad news.

The good news was that the World Cup organizers opened up some tickets for matches in earthquake-hit Christchurch. Not having much money to work with at the moment, I bought tickets for the October 1st match between the Wallabies and Russia. 

It's not a sure thing that I will be able to A-get the time off from work, or B-save enough money for my wife and I to afford to fly to New Zealand and have a good time while we are there. That said, I felt that if I at least got a match ticket, that would at least got the process rolling. It's not different from Rugby World Cup 2007 in France. I bought my tickets for USA-Tonga, Tonga-Samoa and Argentina-Namibia even before I had the time off from work or plane tickets for me and my family. In the end, it worked. I saw some matches, and my family and I had a great time in France.

I am hoping that there will be some unsold tickets for the USA matches late in September for matches against Australia in Wellington, and against Italy in Nelson.  

They say that the trip of a thousand miles starts with the first step.  For me and my wife, this purchase of our tickets for Australia-Russia was the first step of a trip that will be several thousand miles.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Jason Jaftha: President Obama's Alter Ego is a Rugby Referee...

Superman had Clark Kent. Batman had Bruce Wayne. Spiderman had Peter Parker. These were all individuals who had super-hero alter-egos.

I never thought that President Obama might be part of this group. Except instead of wearing tights, his alter-ego wears rugby kit. At least that's what I discovered when I saw Currie Cup matches with a young referee and touch judge who bore a striking resemblance to the American President.

A couple of months ago, my friend Jacques was over at the house so we could watch a Currie Cup match between the Lions and the Sharks.  Like the current American President, his South African look-alike has also found himself being second-guessed in the press-and if the President thinks that the people at Fox News are rough on him, they have nothing on the South African sporting press if you are a sub-standard rugby referee.

I know the President had gotten around in his younger years: Hawaii, Indonesia, and Chicago. His Father was Kenyan, but I never knew that the Obama clan also had made it to Southern Africa and had an interest in the oval ball.

In all seriousness, Jason Jaftha is a trail-blazer of sorts. As a "coloured" man blowing whistle at SARU matches, he has been very carefully groomed for his job. Time will tell if Jason Jaftha will be able to be a top flight IRB referee like the retired Andre Watson, or Mark Lawrence or Craig Joubert.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Spare a Thought for the Fallen Military Rugger...

Most years, November is a very gray, and cold season. This year has been unusually warm and sunny, above 60 degrees F, or 15 degrees C-and with brilliant sunshine...It's still, I think, a time for reflection in my part of the Midwest. I think add to that, I am in the middle of reading a book on the Battle of the Somme from WWI-where thousands of British, German and French troops perished.

Add to that, November 11th is Veteran's Day. For military Veterans like my wife and I(Shot above with both of us wearing our Air Force uniforms), we think a lot of the sacrifices made by men and women in uniform. For me, I cannot get away from it, as I work as a nurse in the VA Medical Center here in Minneapolis, where we provide medical care for vets from WWII to Afghanistan and Iraq. The thing that is strange now, is that even though there are American, British, Canadian and Australian troops in some very unpleasant places, life here in the USA is not very different since the fall of 2001. There is no rationing of gas, sugar or other items like during WWII. After 9 years in Afghanistan, the dead and dying troops don't seem to merit much air time in the media. I cannot speak for other countries, but it almost seems like the American military has become an almost "warrior class"-separate from the rest of American society. Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors come home and seem to have a harder time coping and mixing with society. For many, it seems that life in "The Sand Box" has a more simple code of covering your buddy's back-and you know that they will do the same for you.       

I ran into a site on Facebook today for Fallen Military Rugby players. I cannot help but to have very conflicting feelings. It still hurts me that the Army medically boarded me out because I have sleep apnea. I still miss the soldiers in my Army Reserve unit. On the other hand, rugby gave me a chance to cope with my depression and anger after being boarded out. Belonging to the Metropolis RFC in Minneapolis  literally kept me from losing my mind, and it has been a carrot on the stick to keep me going to the gym so I don't get killed in the Old Boys games. It's a different kind of band of brothers, but it's been a very valuable one for me.

So this Veteran's Day, spare a thought for the fallen...but also the Veteran's who are still alive, and trying to deal with some very, very dark thoughts after being what they have been through. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010


At both rugby games I attended last weekend, first the Metropolis-Chicago Lions game, then the University of Minnesota-Nebraska mens rugby game at the TCF Stadium(Good article on the game here )

 There was one person at both games who is a very regular fixture in the rugby scene here in Minnesota: Rob Wagner, otherwise known as "Wags". He and his camera are at various club, college, and high school matches in this region, always ready for that perfect shot...

Wags' main job has been in law enforcement for30 years.

As for the rugby, Wags started playing in 1975 for Albert Lea, back when summer 15's was still being played, and into the mid-80's, then refereed for many years in Wisconsin and Iowa, mostly. Wags came back to the Cities in 1990 and coached for most of the next 10 years, and then picked up a camera in 2002 and has been taking pictures ever since. He is also a former Minnesota RFU President, Secretary, and Youth Director, and " enjoyed all of it (mostly).".

 I think because of that, Wags anticipates action better than most photographers. He also has a keen eye for looking at good crowd shots.
Wags puts in a lot of miles shooting rugby matches. His pictures at
give players and fans a chance to see and purchase his work. I am very, very grateful that Wags was able to get some of the best game shots of me that I own. I know that many other local rugby players and their families are very, very grateful for this retired cop with the sharp eye. We may never end up in Sports Illustrated or Rugbymag, but at least we have professional-quality pictures playing this wonderful game.

I wanted to give Wags a shout-out, thanking him for what he does for the sport of rugby. He's an unsung here of the game here in the Upper Midwest.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Turning 50: Growing Old is Not for Sissies

Yesterday, October 18th marked a half-century ago that  I came into this world at almost 10 pounds at Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

I have lived in a lot of places in 50 years: Minneapolis, Boston, Northern Virginia, Chicago, Iowa, San Antonio, and have studied in Paris and Montpellier, France. I have been married to a fantastic woman for 26 years...

I have two great kids who are now 23 and 19. I can honestly say that even if they were not my kids, I would enjoy being around them.

I have a two year old grandson who is just a joy to be around...

We have had 12 exchange students over the years from Italy, Paraguay, Armenia, France, Brazil, Japan, Thailand, Germany, Chile, Norway, Finland and Portugal...

I got involved in rugby back in 2006 at the ripe old age of 45. I also got involved in doing a rugby-centric blog around the same time. Through playing rugby, I discovered a sport that gave a middle aged guy his smile back...

Being involved with the Metropolis Rugby Football club in Minneapolis has allowed me to meet and play with some fantastic people.  I even had a chance to play a couple of seasons with my son. While nobody is going to ask me to model swimsuits,  Rugby has also given me an excuse to still hit the gym, because even in Old Boys games, you can still get hurt.

Yesterday on  my 50th Birthday, I had cards, e-mails and Facebook messages from Australia, the UK, France, Portugal, Armenia, Africa, South America...and South Florida. It's pretty humbling that so many people took time out in their day to wish a chunky, greying grandfather a happy birthday. Thanks everybody, from the bottom of my heart, for your love and friendship.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Meat, Rugby, More Meat, More Rugby...

As luck would have it, I have a few days off work before I have my 50th birthday on Monday.

The first part of my half-century birthday weekend was spent with my lovely, red-headed wife on Friday night. She made reservations at Murray's Steak House-an institution in my home town of Minneapolis.  Every aspect of the meal was top flight: Great Australian wines, a "butter-knife" steak that was expertly grilled with sauteed onions, mushrooms and au gratin potatoes. It was fine way to start the weekend out.

On Saturday, my brother Bill, my son Ian and my grand son Duncan accompanied me to Columbia Park in North East Minneapolis to catch a key rugby match between Metropolis and the Chicago Lions. It was a match that Metropolis had to win to keep it's slim play-off hopes alive. The match was played on a gorgeous fall afternoon in Minneapolis. Brilliant sunshine, leaves at their peak color and temps in the low 60's put a tone of optimism in the air...
Metropolis put themselves into a 14-0 hole. They were able to score a converted try to make it 14-7, but then Chicago put it into overdrive to go up 31-7 at half time. Metropolis did not help their cause with some poor tacking and some missed passes. They played a much better second half, but were not able to overcome their poor first half, losing 36-24. Metropolis was able to match up well in the scrum, but you just cannot spot any team that kind of lead and hope to overcome a 24 point deficit against a decent team.

After the game, we were all pretty hungry. It had been quite some time since I had eaten a White Castle Hamburger, and some comfort food seemed to be just the ticket.
White Castle burgers are small, square and grilled with onions. They go by the nickname of "Sliders". They are not located in all parts of the US, but you can find them in places like New Jersey, New York, Chicago, Ohio...and the Twin Cities. I have fond memories of my mom taking me to the White Castle in North East Minneapolis when I was a kid. All of us were pretty hungry, so that meant making sure we had enough food after working up an appetite(my grandson Duncan and my son Ian) watching other people being physically active...
After our refueling at White Castle. It was time to let Duncan try to have a nap, then we were joined by Ian's friend Travis, and we took the bus(My brother Bill with Ian and Duncan) from near Ian's place in Saint Paul over to the TCF stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota to catch the University of Minnesota Men's Rugby team take on the University of Nebraska Rugby Club...

The rugby match between Minnesota and Nebraska was a fundraiser for the U of M rugby club. There was a nice crowd already in place. We just got to our seats and settled in to watch the match.

The University of Minnesota(in the gold) simply put a beat-down on the Cornhuskers. The beat the huskers in the forward play of scrums and line-outs...
As good as the forward play was by the Gopher's, their back play was sublime-particularly their scrum half and their inside halves. I got a shot of their 8 man dishing to the scrum half just as he was taking off on what would be a 60 yard scamper for a try...
The 68-19 win by the Gophers was a tonic for long-suffering Minnesota sports fans this fall, who have seen the Twins(baseball) eliminated by the Yankees, the Vikings(American Football) at 1-3, the Minnesota Wild (Ice Hockey) at 1-3 and the University of Minnesota football team at 1-5(Losing to 1-AA University of South Dakota)

The win by Minnesota in front of a nice crowd would get some much needed funds for the rugby program, and put a smile on everybody's face, on what is shaking up to be a great weekend.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Random Rugby Thoughts for 10-10-10

We have had gorgeous weather in Minneapolis the past week. I have been able to take a boat cruise with my wife on the Mississippi River to see the fall colors and I have been able to walk my dogs Basil and Buddha to enjoy the fall foliage...
Yesterday, my brother Bill and I went and watched the Metropolis DIII side play the Minneapolis Mayhem-the local gay-centric rugby club. It was going to figure to be Christians Vs. lions stuff, and it was. 110-0 for Metropolis. To be honest, when you see a match that is that one-sided, you really feel bad for the other team. It's one thing to lose, but when you are thoroughly and utterly humiliated, it's tough to get anything out of a game like that. The Mayhem did not have the athletes or many people who knew how to play. Metropolis did take a lot of it's top players out of the game 10 minutes in and also half time. I felt bad that I did not get a chance to go to the social. I had a chance to meet some of the Mayhem players when I volunteered at the Bingham Cup back in June. Nice guys...I certainly did not wish that kind of a beat-down on them.

The Metropolis DI side lost a second game in a month to Palmer down in Davenport, Iowa. Metropolis is set to host the Upper Midwest Division I rugby championship during the first weekend in November. If we don't win our last couple of games, we may be hosting a tournament in which we won't be playing.    Augie and his guys have their work cut out for them.

Two big wins on Sunday for French sides in the Heineken Cup. Biarritz showed that their trip to the Heineken Cup finals last June was no fluke by going to Bath to get a 12-11 win. The match that everybody was waiting for all weekend was a good one. Toulouse just ground out a tough 19-18 win at home against London Wasps. The London side actually had a shot to go ahead in the 78th minute, but the penalty attempt sailed wide, and Guy Noves' men held on for the win. Still, Wasps had to feel good about almost snatching a win, and a bonus point loss was not bad. London will have to fancy their chances when they get Toulouse in London. I am curious to see if such a high profile match will make Wasps think about hosting the match at Twickenham.

I have to head off to work. Hope your 10-10-10 goes well-have a favorite beer and enjoy the fall (or the spring for those of you in the Southern Hemisphere).

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Last Thoughts on Aspen Ruggerfest-Really

In the television comedy Cheers, there was a character named Cliff Clavin, who was an insufferable know-it-all. Cliff could usually be found at the bar drinking beers(While still in his US Postal worker uniform) with Norm. One of the standing jokes in the show is that after a trip to Florida, Cliff spent many episodes trying to share tales of his Sunshine-State trip-that nobody really wanted to hear.
With that in mind, this will be my last posting about the Aspen Ruggerfest-it's been a couple of weeks since I came back from Colorado, and it's time to move on, and here are my Aspen-related FINAL thoughts:

 Aspen may be the most dog friendly city I have seen in the US. Many of the outdoor cafes and bars had dog bowls to give your dog a drink, and you could chain your dog up and socialize with Fido at your feet. There was everything from purse dogs to really huge dogs like St. Bernard's and Newfoundlands.

Metropolis Old Boy Thor may be the most gifted American-born fly half I have ever seen. He may be pushing 50, but his sleight of hand and no-look passes would make Magic Johnson jealous. It's true that Joe Kiley put in a man of the match performance in the over 45 final for the combined Cardinals/Metropolis?OL's team, but Thor was just able to do ridiculous things with the ball-both in hand and his kicking game to help put them in a position to win.
There is something about a bunch of guys wearing cow suits that just make people smile and makes them want to have their picture taken-and in some cases, tweek the teets of the Holstein-clad ruggers..

You have to hand it to the English. Even by rugby standards, when you have a party, nobody knows as many good rugby songs as English Ruggers. We were lucky to have several members of the Old Laurentian Rugby Club from Rugby England us in Aspen. They are just a great bunch of guys, and on Saturday, they were in fine voice, as witnessed by Deano....

One of the things that strikes me about the children of rugby players, is that they seem very precocious. They seem very comfortable in the company of adults. I've noticed that with the kids of some of my Metropolis teammates, but I had a good conversation with some kids whose dad/uncle played for Aspen. I really liked the jaunty fedora that the one little guy wore...
As great as the rugby action was...

It was tough to beat the great vistas of the mountains out in Colorado....

All in all, a good time was had by all.

I cannot thank my wife and daughter enough for this early 50th Birthday present. It was simply a fantastic trip and experience.