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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.