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Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: What a Long Strange Trip It's Been....

2011 Has seen me in a variety of places: Phoenix, Dallas, Houston Minneapolis, Australia, New Zealand, Delware, Virginia, Washington DC, New Jersey, New York City,  and Pennsylvania. I have seen NHL Hockey in Dallas, New York City, and Philadelphia. I saw 5 Texas Rangers Baseball games, I saw a couple of MLS soccer games in Dallas, I saw 3 Rugby World Cup games in New Zealand and I had a chance to see the Melbourne Cricket Ground and Madison Square Garden, two of the most Iconic sports venues in the World.

As far as playing rugby, I only had a chance to play one time in 2011, but at least I had a chance to strap it on for the Metropolis Old Boys against the Old Laurentian Old Boys from Rugby, England. In a sport that is full of really, really fantastic people, the players from the OL's are some of the nicest people you can ever have a chance to meet.

During my time in New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup, I had a chance to actually speak with(and drink with) rugby fans from New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Scotland
Argentina, France, England, Uruguay, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Romania, Canada South Africa, Canada, and Italy(Got to get my picture taken with guys from the Italian National team.) I actually had a chance to glad-hand USA Eagle Players after their game against Italy in Nelson. I was also able to meet friends of mine on the rugby blogosphere.

2011 was simply an amazing experience.  As much fun as it all was, it does not matter much if you don't have somebody with whom to share it. I have been lucky to be married to a woman who loves travel and new experiences as much as I do. If 2012 is half as fun as 2011 was, it will be a great year...

Friday, December 23, 2011

Have Yourself a Rugby Little Christmas

Well, my time in Wilmington Delaware working at the VA Medical center is winding to a close. My contract will be up on January 7th. I am looking forward to getting back to Minnesota for a couple of weeks to see my kids and my grandson, along with some of my friends and hopefully some of the guys with the Metropolis Rugby Club.

With Christmas coming, I hope that your Christmas is full of friends, family and a little rugby on the side. I am going to add some rugby images I took this year from playing with the Metropolis Old Boys in the Spring against the Old Laurentians, catching some Dallas Harlequins matches to Rugby World Cup matches, along with the video from the National Anthems before Australia-USA at the 2011 Rugby World Cup at "The Cake Tin" in in Wellington, New Zealand. To be honest, this trip I took in September to Australia and New Zealand was my main Christmas present to myself. Having a great wife with whom I could share the adventure was a cherry on the cake.

Merry Christmas to all...and to all, a good ruck....

Friday, December 2, 2011

Can the US Host the Rugby World Cup in 2023?

Can USA Rugby Pull This Bid Out of Their Ass?
We know already that England will host the Rugby World Cup in 2015
And Japan will get the Oval Ball Orgy in 2019...
Japan Jersey from the 1930's
The question now will be, who where will Rugby World Cup 2023 take place?

It was announced that USA Rugby has thrown in their hat into the ring to host the tournament in 2023. (The plan would be to co-host some games with Canada) Another developing rugby nation, Russia has also thrown it's hat into the ring, as well. The third country who would like to host the RWC is the hosts from 1995, South Africa.

I think even the most vocal Eagles fan would have to say that South Africa is the clear favorite. They have a history with this game that goes way back...
An endangered species...a South Africa Jersey with a Springbok on the Chest.
South Africa is a bona fide power in the rugby world. Thanks to the FIFA World Cup in 2010, they have plenty of stadiums that would be all set to host matches. It is true that Russia will have stadiums, too, since they are hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2018, those stadiums built for that event will still have that new stadium-smell to them. Here in the US, we have no problems on the stadium front, either. I do think that the biggest road block to the Russian and American bids is the simple fact that the IRB will say that by letting Japan host in 2019, they have already thrown a bone to developing rugby nations, and that they will want to come back with the World Cup going to a traditional Rugby nation. By 2027(Shit, will I be old by then) I can see the IRB coming back to a developing rugby nation that also has economic clout. (Well, the US still might have some economic clout by then)

It's nice to see USA Rugby feeling confident enough to make such a bid, but  I think that in the end, rugby fans will probably need their Afrikaans, Zulu or Xhosa phrase books and guides to the beaches near Durban, because at this point in the game, I think it's South Africa's bid to lose.
A Bok fan waving the RSA flag in Auckland in September before RSA-Samoa

Thursday, December 1, 2011

USA Rugby Gets Some Love from the USOC

USA Prop Mike MacDonald sharing some love at the Ruby World Cup after Italy-USA
When the IOC voted to make rugby sevens a part of the Olymics in Rio in 2016, the hope of a lot of American rugby fans was that where the Olympics are, financial funding is not too far away. First, the Network NBC started showing live action from the Las Vegas Sevens last year. This year they showed some matches from Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand. They showed the USA-Ireland match on September 11th, and they showed the final between the All Blacks and France. For American rugby, this was huge just getting the sport on network TV.

Rugby sevens may not get a lot of respect in the rugby world, but it's a start for the sport as far as increasing the exposure of the sport. The other truism is that where there is TV and Sport, there is also money. Because rugby is now part of the Olympic movement, the US Olympic committee has just announced it will commence its first residency program commencing January, 2012. This will involve the placement of 15 men and 8 women into a full-time residency program at the Olympic Training Centre, Chula Vista, San Diego. Having a full time residency program for developing American players is an important step. American players like Todd Clever and Chris Wyles have been able to parlay their USA sevens experience to be able to play professionally overseas in the 15 man game.
USA-Australia: National Anthems at The Cake Tin in Wellington from RWC 2011

The US has some catch up work to do. In the last Pan-American Games in Mexico, the USA Sevens team took a Bronze medal, finishing behind the Gold-medal winning Canadians and the Silver-winning Argentinians.

No question that the best place for American players to develop is to be able to play professionally either in Europe, or in one of the SANZAR countries, but it's kind of a chicken and egg problem of which comes first, developing the skills to get noticed overseas, or getting American players good coaching and competition while they are young. The residency program care of the USOC will at least be a good start for American rugby.