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Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Bride Wore Yellow...

I'll talk about the Super 14 and English finals in a day or so. They were both good games, and I would like to think a bit before I blog about those finals.

As somebody who has spent most of his life in Minnesota and following our sports teams, I know I thing or two about disappointment. With my background, I can understand and empathize with rugby fans from the Auvergne region in France around Clermont-Ferrand-a town best known as the headquarters of Michelen Tires. In my previous posting, I talked about Clermont-Auvergne, and their role as bridesmaids in the world of French Rugby.

Yesterday, at the Stade de France, Clermont beat the holders, Perpignan, 19-6.

You have to Clermont credit. The had to do this the hard way by playing an extra playoff game and had to play a rested Toulon in Marseille, a neutral field that was right in Toulon's back yard.  The Michelen men beat Toulon to set up Saturday's drama at the Stade de France, where Clermont rode the kicking of Australian Brock James and some solid play to finally lift le Bouclier de Brennus.
I can only just imagine the partying by Clermont's long-suffering fans....

Bravo, Clermont, Bravo....

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Ablations, Rugby and Bridesmaids...

I am feeling pretty good after my cardiac ablation this past Monday. When I last had the procedure over 5 and a half years ago, my chest felt like it had been worked over with a baseball bat for the better part of a week. At that time I did not have the strength or the wind to make it halfway up my street. This time, I have actually been able to walk the mile around the entire Cooper High School complex across the street from my house. My doctor told me that even though I was on the table for 7 hours getting my heart zapped, the technique and equipment are much, much better now-so as odd as it sounds, it was not as invasive to my body as it was 5 years ago. I still have some spectacular bruising where they had the femoral lines in my groin, but you cannot even see where they had the catheter in my neck. Really-I am feeling better.

Enough about me.

There was a lot of rugby last week. My Metropolis Rugby Club went to South Carolina, and lost a close game to Norfolk RFC, 18-12 in the Division I round of 16. They won the consolation match the next day against Media RFC. Interestingly, in the quarterfinals, Norfolk got beat by Palmer College of Chiropractic-a team Metropolis has defeated twice in the past year. In a side note, Palmer's run to the Semi-finals gave a last-minute stay of execution to a rugby program that was on the chopping block. On the bright side, this means that Metropolis really does belong among the top sides in American Division I rugby. It would not be an exaggeration to say that this past year has been the most successful year ever for the Minneapolis-based club.

In Europe, Guy Noves' men in red and black beat Biarritz in an all French Heineken Cup Final at the Stade de France, Toulouse's record 4th European Crown. Toulouse was the better side on the day in a match that had a great ambiance at the Stade de France. After the match, it was announced that former French international scrum half Jean-Baptiste Ellisalde was going to retire as a player with Toulouse and will join the coaching staff. Guy Noves rested key players the week before in the French Top 14 Semi-finals, sacrificing a chance at a double when his second choice team fell to Perpignan. Toulouse's win in the Heineken Cup final vindicated his decision to go all out for European glory.

The Super 14 final this weekend will have a very South African flavor as the holders, the Blue Bulls will take on the Stormers this weekend, in what should be a fantastic match up with some interesting side stories, as former Blue Bull, and current Springbok winger Bryan Habana will take on his former mates wearing the colors of the team from Cape Town that will be making it's first ever Super 14 Final. The Stormers ground out a win at Newlands against the Waratahs, and the Bulls outscored the Crusaders.

This final will pit the two best fly halves in South Africa in Peter Grant for the Stormers, and Morne Steyn for the Bulls. One area to watch for, is if the Stormers 6 foot 11 second row, Andries Bekker,  can challenge the Bulls for supremacy in the air on the line outs-an area that the Bulls own against most opposition. If Schalk Burger can perform his terrier-like work at the break down, the Stormers just MIGHT have a chance at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto. I just think the Bulls are going to be too much for the team from Cape Town. I think the Bulls will win their 3rd Super 14 title, and second in a row today.

With the English and Magner's League titles on the line this weekend, the match that has my interest is one that I won't be able to see until the highlights are on You Tube: The battle for Le Bouclier de Brennus, the holy graal of French Rugby will be on the line as Perpignan looks to cap off a great season with a second straight French title. Standing in their path will be the Wil E Coyote of French Rugby...yes, I am talking about Clermont Auvergne. The Michelen Men will be in their 4th straight final and 11 th overall. They are THE Bridesmaid in French rugby, never lifting Le Bouclier de Brennus. At the Stade de France today, it will be an army of gold-clad fans from the Auvergne hoping that today will be the day win Clermont will finally trade in their bridesmaid dress for a bride's bouquet.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Out of Comission

Been a crazy weekend with work, my grandmother's funeral service, and on Monday Morning, I am going to be getting a cardiac ablation done to hopefully knock out my now recurrent atrial fibrillation/flutter.

I will be out for a couple of days. When I get out of the hospital, I can finally see Toulouse-Biarritz, the Super 14 Semi-finals and comment on them. Have a great week, I will just be out of blogging action for a couple of days.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

How do you say "Heineken Cup" in French?

The answer to the above question is "La Coupe d'Heineken". It's a valid question since the final on Saturday for the Holy Graal of European club rugby will be played at the Stade de France in St. Denis, outside of Paris, and the finalists are both from the Top 14: Toulouse, the 3 time champs in their 6th final will take on Biarritz, losers a couple of years ago to Munster in Cardiff. The Basques will be looking for their first ever Heineken Cup title-and only the third French club (Brive is the other) to win it.

I have to admit that I am torn as to  which French Club to support in this one. Normally I would be behind Toulouse, which is my favorite club side since  AS Beziers has now slipped to the depths of the French Federal division, after falling out the second division last year. I like the way Toulouse plays the game, and I have a great deal of respect for that former gym teacher, Guy Noves, who has been at the helm of Toulouse for the past 17 years and has provided the leadership in winning Top 14 titles as well as the 3 Heineken Cups.

That said, USA winger Taguszwa Ngwenya will seek to be the first USA Eagle to hold up the Heineken Cup since former USA Captain Dan Lyle held it aloft as an 8-man playing for Bath in the 1998 final in Bordeaux against Brive. It's tough to root against a USA Eagle if you are an American rugby fan.

Biarritz has one bit of good news in that 8 man and inspirational leader, Imanol Harinordoquy will suiting up for the Basques as his beat-up ribs have healed. In Biarritz's win against Munster in the Semifinals, Harinordoguy looked like a wounded extra in the last real of the movie Gladiator.

Toulouse is looking to win the Heineken Cup for the first time since 2005. I can only just imagine the ambiance at the Stade de France as thousands of rugby fans will make the trek from Languedoc and the Basque country of south west France.

2010 is shaping up to be quite a vintage for French rugby. France won a grand slam in the 6 Nations, the FFR is assured of having a champ in the Heineken Cup and if Toulon can beat Cardiff in the ERC final, it will mean that French rugby will have won almost everything there is to win in Europe. This is certainly something that bodes well for the French as they look forward to next year's Rugby World Cup in New Zealand...where les Bleus will be in the same group as hosts and favorites(again) New Zealand.

I think Toulouse will beat Biarritz, and I think Toulon will shake off their loss in the  French Semi-finals to Clermont-Auvergne and beat the Welsh side, who find themselves being the standard bearers of anglephone supporters in Europe.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Timely Death

In the news we often here the term "an untimely death". In the rugby community that has been true with the recent deaths of Matt Comstock of my Metropolis Rugby Club at the age of 47. A couple of weeks back, Milwaukee Harlequins player Philippe "Fiji"Leka died as a result of injuries incurred playing rugby.

My paternal Grandmother, Harriet Adams, died yesterday at the age of 93. She was a remarkable woman who had a very, very profound impact in my life. She instilled in me, a great love of animals as well as a desire to travel to places beyond my native Minnesota. She helped my insatiable desire to read by providing me with a plethora of books from her house in Richfield was an oasis of calm during some trying times when I was a kid, during the time when my mom and dad were going through their divorce. Some of my fondest memories were of going through old National Geographic magazines in her attic.

In a world filled with people who have nothing but complaints about how messed up their childhoods might have been, my grandmother would tell anybody who would listen that she had a wonderful childhood in Pepin, Wisconsin. She had a great relationship with her mother, dad and her older brother Leon.  She used tell me and my brother and sisters stories about her idyllic childhood growing up on the banks of the Mississippi river and Lake Pepin. It was a childhood filled with animals, playing in the woods, swimming, pranks such as tipping over cows or outhouses.  She told us tales of when her Swedish grandmother married her German grandfather, and how at the turn of the century in the upper midwest, that was considered a "mixed marriage."

My Grandmother went to school to be a hair dresser in Minneapolis, but met and married my grandfather instead. During the Second World War, my grandfather was away helping to build air bases in Alaska and Hawaii.Together they ended up running "Adams Doggie Shop", and raised my dad and my Aunt Kay with discipline and hardy work ethic that was very common of people who lived through the Great Depression. Back then, when you owned a pet shop or boarded dogs and cats, you did not get many days off. It was hard work, but my grandparents saved and invested well so that they left the pet shop business back in 1971, so that they could retire and have some free time.

She had two guilty pleasures: Sweets and travel. As a kid, I remember her taking me and my siblings either to the soda fountain at Snyder's Drug Store, or an ice cream sundae at Bridgeman's(Alas, both places are now closed down) When she retired, she spent the better part of the next 20 years globe trotting to places that, at the time, were unimaginable for a women in her golden years: Siberia, Mongolia, the Amazon, China, Patagonia, Australia, grandmother had a huge map of the world in her basement by the bar that had red pins of all of the places she had been to over the years. The only continent she never made it to was Antarctica-it was not for lack of wanting...she wanted to go the Antarctic, but could find nobody in her peer group who shared her passion to rough it at that level.

My grandfather died in 1978. My grandmother had no desire, nor inclination to remarry. She was a fiercely independent woman who wanted to do things her way, when and how she wanted them. She continued to be independent and sharp as a tack well into her 90th year. Not a day went by without devouring the Minneapolis Star Tribune and doing the crossword puzzles...Three and a half year's ago  she had a bad fall and head injury. It was an injury that would put my grandmother on a 3 year journey to the depths of dementia. This very proud woman eventually needed somebody to live with her 24/7. As the dementia progressed, it was obvious that it was bothering her that she was no longer in control of her life. In the past year, she started to have more issues with chronic, but severe back pain.

  When I saw her last week, the once proud and lively eyes were cloudy-Her face grimacing in pain. Her once carrot-red hair now white. Her freckled face now a ghostly white. My daughter and I both talked in the car ride back home of how tough it was seeing grandma like this.

Yesterday, my dad called me to tell me to come over to her house. She had just died. She had been awake that morning, was out in her easy chair, had a hard time getting comfortable and asked dad to bring her back to her bed. Dad noticed that she was starting to work harder to breath and stayed with her, holding her hand until she breathed no more. My son Ian, his fiancee` Andrea and my grandson Duncan went over to her house. Ian and I both went into my grandmother's room and looked at the now lifeless body of a woman who had been such a big part of our lives.  To be honest, I have not been able to cry yet. This was a woman who was so racked with pain and discomfort, it was actually a relief to see her suffering no more. In her case, it was a Timely Death.

A big part of my life is now gone. You don't always see it happen where somebody can die at home, in their own bed, with a loved one holding their hand. I don't think grandma could have scripted it any better.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A Blog on Sportsmanship?

I stumbled onto this interesting blog today:

Too often we see what is ugly and cynical these days in sport. I think about how less I watch soccer, American Football and basketball, and a lot of it is just a growing ugliness, lack of sportmanship, and just a thug element. I thought there were some great posts and links here, so I will link it with my other favorite blogs.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Metropolis: Up to #5

The 67-7 win against Miami made an impression on some people Metropolis will now play Norfolk, Virginia in the national round of 16. (How many Navy guys do you think are on THAT team?) The game will be in South Carolina Next week.
It's Thursday, today-5 days after the win against Miami. A lot of us are still trying to digest not just the win, or how thorough the beat-down was, or the huge crowd that came to watch the game, but we are trying to get used to seeing the Metropolis club name among the best Division one sides in American Club rugby.  Heady stuff, indeed.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Metropolis 67-Miami RFC 7-Sweet 16 bound

The Monster Day of Rugby yesterday in Minneapolis was a huge success.  A lot of people came to watch the matches. South Metro beat Edina for the first time ever in the high school match. The University of Minnesota beat University of Wisconsin-Stout, the 3rd match was supposed to have been Thunder Bay, Ontario against the Killer B's of Metropolis-but the Canucks were a no-show. This meant that Zach, the team manager and head athletic trainer threw together a motley bunch of Old Boys, Metropolis extras, and some college players. I got to play prop for about 50 minutes, and overall was happy with my play-even if I am pretty sore this morning.(Particularly my right thigh, which took more of a knock than I realized yesterday)

The headline match was Miami RFC's trip here to the Upper midwest was to decide who would make it to the final round of 16 teams in the national DI tournament.

Right out of the chute, Metropolis put the visitors from South Florida on their back heels. It rained down tries to the point where the Floridians were yelling at each other in English and Spanish.
It was 41-0 at halftime. Metropolis just dominated every aspect of the game, from the scrums, to the play at the breakdown and they had great results chasing down every cross field kick they made.
The final score was 67-7, which kept our young help busy who were looking after the scoreboard...
It's now off to South Carolina in two weeks for the DI side to play in the Palmetto state. One thing for sure, Metropolis made a big statement that they can be a force to be reckoned with on the national scale.