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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Running Into a Very Large Prop in Thailand

A couple of years ago, when I played against Kansas City at the Aspen Ruggerfest, I had the disquieting feeling of being lifted up during a scrum that did not go our way. When you are a prop, there is nothing like the feeling of having your feet off terra firma to make you realize that it's going to be a rough day at the office.

I was reminded of that sensation when I had a chance to go head to head with an elephant while my wife  and I were in Thailand a couple of weeks ago. He lifted me like I was nothing.

PS-If you get a chance to go to Thailand, go. It was one of the most amazing places I have ever visited. Both my wife and I were so taken with it, that we agreed to go there for our 30th wedding anniversary in 2014.

The natives were certainly very friendly and welcoming-regardless of size.
The only thing between me and a 400 pound tiger was a leash and skinny Buddhist Monk

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Surviving a Weekend Without Rugby-and 52 Candles

I did not get a chance to watch ANY rugby this past weekend. You might think that I would be as depressed as my bulldog Buddha wearing a referee shirt.
At TCF Stadium with my kids Ian and Rachel

I had a chance to get back to Minnesota this past weekend to see my kids and my grandson. There were great fall colors in the Twin Cities, and I took my kids to see a University of Minnesota football game.(Metropolis was out of town playing in Chicago)
Minnesota would lose to Northwestern 21-13

Today on my 52nd birthday, I had kind wishes and phone calls from places like Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, France, Portugal, Sri Lanka, South Korea and all over the USA. It was very humbling that so many people took time to wish an old boy prop birthday greetings.

Just got a 42 inch LED TV for our apartment, which is going to make watching rugby on TV with my bulldog a whole lot more fun.

Buddha wondering who will watch rugby with him...

Sunday, October 7, 2012

All Blacks: Help From Above?

From the Wellington Cathedral of Saint Paul..
After Watching the All Blacks spot the Springboks a lead in Soweto, and then storm back to beat the Boks 32-16 to earn a clean sweap of the inagural "Rugby Championship"( Lame name, I cannot believe somebody could not have come up with a better name or logo for this southern hemisphere tournament)

In trying to explain the All Blacks success, you can probably point to a lot of factors where Steve Hansen has made a nice transition since taking over from Graham Henry as the All Black head coach, but in the end, maybe some help from above is not a bad thing to have in your corner, either.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Happy 20th Anniversary Metropolis Rugby Football Club!

This weekend in Minneapolis will mark the XXth Anniversary of the birth of the Metropolis Rugby Football Club. It was born of the merger of the Minneapolis RFC and the Metropolitan RFC in 1992. There will be a huge celebration this weekend which I will miss, as I live in California now, and I work this weekend.

Metropolis RFC was my club from 2006, when I joined as a 45 year old to spring of this year. This group of people could not have been more supportive of me when I made the decision to play at an advanced age.

I cannot thank people enough like Ike, Tony, Dilley, Jester, Super Joe and so, so many others who were supportive of me and offered me their friendship through the Metropolis Rugby Football Club. There were a lot of highlights in my time with Metropolis. It has been amazing to see the club go from one A squad team with some extras to actually having 3 clubs playing Division I, II and now a full D III side. The participation levels are simply breathtaking. The DIII side were national champs last year and the DI side made the national semifinals. For me, my personal highlight was playing with a group of Metropolis, Old Laruentian and Omaha Goat over 35 players at the Aspen Ruggerfest two years ago. It was just a beautiful place to play rugby, and was just a great time. (What happens on tour, STAYS on tour)

Have a great XXth anniversary this weekend, Metropolis! Sorry I will have to miss it. You are just a fantastic group of people.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Hurting Wallabies...

After finishing my night shift at work on Saturday morning, I joined some other rugby-mad Los Angelenos at the Springbok Bar and Grill to catch South Africa-Australia. Kickoff was at 8 AM Los Angeles time.

The Springboks went with Goosen as their flyhalf after it seemed clear to many Springbok fans that with Morne Steyn at the helm, the Springboks had become too dependent on his boot and were missing some serious imagination.

In yesterdays game at Loftus in the rare-air of Pretoria, Goosen may not have shined with the boot, but the Springbok attack looked much more fluid and dangerous. Look for Goosen to start for the next game against New Zealand.
Barnes to miss last game in Argentina

The other thing that helped the Springboks out in their decisive 31-8 beat-down of the Wallabies was just good-fashioned physicality. The Wallabies were already missing stars to injury like O'Connor, Pocock, Will Genia and Quade Cooper, but in yesterday's loss, Berrick Barnes ended up in hospital with a punctured lung(I have had that same injury, except in my case, it took getting hit by a car to break my ribs and puncture my lung-yeah, it hurt like hell) from cracked ribs. To rub salt into the Wallaby wounds, Adam Ashley Cooper got knocked out colder than a mackerel after trying to prevent a Springbok try before half time. Robbie Deans has further concerns with Ioane, Samo and Polota-Nau being questionable for the last game in Argentina.
Australia: Gold Medal winning Wheelchair Rugby Squad from  the London Paralympics.

With the Wallaby training room looking like a Kokoda Field Hospital, there is no truth to the rumor that  Wallaby Head Coach Robbie Deans is sending a call out to the Gold Medal Winning Wheelchair Rugby Team from the London Olympics to spell his ailing troops....

If the Wallabies are looking to get healthy in Rosario, they will have a tougher task than anticipated. The Pumas played the Wallabies tough in Australia, and with something to prove in front of the home fans, the wounded Wallabies may end up with a tough day at the office against the Pumas, in what may be Robbie Deans' last game in charge of the Wallabies.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Finding a Rugby-Friendly Bar in LA

Well, I have been here in LA for about 2 1/2 months. I have now found a new rugby home with the Pasadena RFC Old Boys. That was an important step.

The other part of being a rugby fan here in the USA is trying to able to actually WATCH some rugby on TV. On the positive side, I got ATT U-verse, where I can get Fox Soccer +. It gives me access to watch Australian Rugby League, The English League, the former Magner's league, and Heineken Cup matches. On the down side, my system does not allow me to see any Currie Cup, ITM or Rugby Championship(the former Tri Nations, now with Argentina added to the mix)

One of my friends, and fellow season ticket-holder with Chivas USA, Tom Daniels, told me about a place in Van Nuys that is actually called the Springbok Bar and Grill. I had to check this place out. As luck would have it, the Springbok Bar and Grill is located very close to where my wife works. On a Tuesday night where I was actually off work, I met my wife and we went over to the Springbok Bar an Grill.
In front of the Springbok Bar and Grill in Van Nuys, California
The Springbok is run by 3 South African expats who live in LA.  They felt that the marketplace in LA very much needed a rugby-friendly bar that served large amounts of meat products. ://

Granted, it was a Tuesday night, no rugby was showing on their multiple TV's, but the quality of the food was first-rate. I had the Piri-Piri Chicken, and my wife had, I believe they were called Saotsises-grilled skewers of chicken over rice. They were delicious. The quality of the food was beyond most pub food that you run across. We both gave the food very, very high marks.
With all of the South African flags on the outside of the place, and Springbok photos inside, it does not take a lot of imagination to see how crazy this place will get during Springbok and Rugby Championship matches.
With one of the original Springboks...
I was thrilled to find a rugby friendly bar that also has really, really good food. For my rugby friends overseas and back in Minnesota, I think I will be OK out here in LA-LA land.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sun, Palm Trees and Rugby...

I was able to contact the Pasadena Rugby Club last week,( ) and they told me that they were going to send a group of Old Boys to New Port Beach for "Sharkapalooza", an old Boys rugby tournament. We were assured of at least two games.

When we pulled up, I had to say I liked the site my eyes beheld:
 Palm trees, the Pacific Ocean, a nice pitch near a beach that was in great shape on a sun-splashed Saturday Afternoon. For a Minnesota-born and raised kid, it was an amazing sight.

Pasadena had two matches: against Santa Monica RFC and the Huntington Beach RFC. Those two clubs. As I said, it was an Old Boys tournament, and on a very sunny 85 degree(30 celsius) day, 15 minute halves were the order of the day. We did play contested scrums in our matches.  It was a tough day at the office. Handling errors killed us in the first game. Our scrum started out poorly in the first game, but once "T" and Mike Arrived, it gave our forward pack some desperately needed size. I'm down to 215 pounds now, which for being a prop in old boys games makes me a bit light, but losing the 10 pounds helped with my conditioning. I'm still lifting, but I am really trying to watch the diet a bit more-cutting way back on pasta and rice has helped. Nobody is going to be offering me money to be an underwear model, but I do feel better.

I almost scored my first try in a game. Against Huntington Beach, we had the ball deep in their territory, I got the ball at the 5 meter line, and I took a couple of steps and tried to launch my still chunky body towards the try line and plant the ball down...I came up a foot short and knocked the ball on when I landed. Shit. Oh well, who knows it might happen some day.

The tournament also had Massage therapist at the game. Good thinking to keep all of these over 40 bodies a little more pain free. (She was not half-bad looking either)
"Aye, there's the rub, missy!"

During the course of the day, it was fun meeting members of the Pasadena Old Boys. After we lost our second game to Huntington Beach(Who would end up losing the final to the Back Bay Sharks in the final), it was time for guys like T and T-Shark to light up the end-of-tournament cigars....
T and T-Shark lighting one up when we were done
I had a really, really fun day. A bit sunburned on my forehead. (needed to reapply sun screen) and some nicks and scratches, but aside from some mild soreness, I feel pretty good today. I am even happier to have met a really nice group of old boys with the Pasadena RFC. It sounds like they are trying to have some more regular games scheduled with their old boys group, so I think I might have found a rugby home in SoCal.
Pasadena OWLS at Sharkapalooza, New Port Beach, CA

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Alive and Well in LA....

Have not been able to blog much since getting out here to California. My wife, Bulldog and I have settled into an apartment in the Los Feliz neighborhood of LA, close to Glendale, the LA Zoo, the I-5, and my job.
At the Santa Monica Pier in my Tasman Mako's  shirt.
The other part of settling in out here is going to be trying to get affiliated with a rugby club. The Division I Champs, Belmont Shore, out of Long Beach are a pretty far drive from where I am at. I know there is the LA Rugby Club, the LA Rebellion(IGRAB affiliated club),  and Pasadena are all probably the closest to where I am located. Once we get settled a bit more, that is going to be my next order of business.

But don't worry about Da Redhead, Buddha or me. We are hanging in there out here in LA-LA Land. I never would have imagined 6 months ago that both the Stanley Cup, and I would both be living here in Southern California....
The Stanley Cup in LA...Hell has frozen over.
I just cannot understand what people see in Southern California...

Monday, June 25, 2012

USA Eagles June Tests: Some Positives for USA Rugby

After the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, where the US was 1-3(One win against Russia, one really gutsy loss to Ireland on the 10th anniversary of 9/11), Eddie O'Sullivan stepped down as the head coach of the USA Eagles. USA Rugby felt that the time was right to hire and American-born head coach, and they felt that they had the right man in choosing Mike Tolkin.

The June Tests were a chance for Tolkin to try a new system and bring out some new faces to compliment some of the veteran USA Eagles like Mike MacDonald, Chris Wyles, Paul Emmerick and Captain Todd Clever.
Mike MacDonald and Todd Clever after USA-Italy at RWC 2011 in Nelson, NZ
The First USA Eagles game was a very competitive 28-25 loss to Canada- the Auld Enemy- in Kingston, Ontario-The Canadians have held the edge over the USA in rugby for quite some time, but in the last 4 years, the Yanks do seem to be finally closing the gap on our neighbors to the north. 

The second game against Georgia showed that the 25 points scored against the Canucks was no fluke. 

One of the criticisms leveled against O'Sullivan was that the US played it pretty close to the vest as far as the style of play. (Read: Boring) It's understandable that the more risks you take, that the more you can get punished for errors. But if USA Rugby wants to expand coverage and appeal of the sport, the time has come to open up the game and let the boys play a bit. Particularly now that NBC/Universal Sports has been telecasting USA Eagle games here in the USA.

Against the very big and physical Georgians, who have an awful lot of their top players plying their physical profession in the French Top 14, Tolkin and his troops gave a large and vocal crowd in Glendale Colorado a lot to holler about in a nice offensive display in a 36-20 win.

For the third game against Italy, the Eagles would have to go from the high altitude and low humidity of Colorado to  the low altitude, heat and humidity in Houston. The memory of Italy's 27-10 win in Nelson during the World Cup had to be fresh in the minds of a lot of the players-particularly those playing in the front row, who were going to have a tough day at the office against Martin Castrogiovanni and his front row mates. In Nelson, they have the Eagles fits in every scrum.

For Saturday's game at the new BBVA Compass Stadium, the Eagles and Italy were not going to get any break from mother nature: 92 sticky degrees at kickoff in front of 17,214 intrepid souls who braved the heat to break a record for a USA Eagles home crowd.(Not exactly feeling up Twickenham, but not bad progress, either)

Playing Italy was going to be a challenge, but the US did not help themselves by gifting the Italians an early try thanks to a poor line out on their 5 meter line, that did not come close to hitting it's target. Carlo Festuccia, the Italian hooker, was the recipient of the gift, fell on the ball and gave the Italians an early lead. (The line out proved a problem for the US most of the first half)

In the first half, the US showed that they could move the ball on the Italians and actually do well at the 
breakdown against them. Paul Emmerick would cap off some nice work by fly half Roland Suniula and touch down for the Yanks. Fullback Chris Wyles added a conversion and a Penalty, and the US was creeping back into the game. Later in the first half, just when the US was looking good and the Texas crowd was finding its voice, the Italians created a score off their vaunted scrum; The formidable push crumpled the US scrum, and the Italian scrum half Edoardo Gori left the US in his dust. 20-10 at halftime.

Any thoughts of a US fightback in the second half were dashed to smithereens when Andrew Suniula laid out Bocchino on a late, dangerous hit that had him on the turf for several minutes. He was shown the red card by French Referee Jerome Garces. The US showed a lot of heart playing Italy tough a man down. A very difficult job was made impossible by Paul Emmerick also picking up a red card for dangerous tackle, meaning the US would finish with 13 men on the field.

The second half featured some really heavy hitting from both sides. Play was halted frequently as trainers worked on banged-up and cramping players. I was really impressed by the take-no-prisoners approach of Luke Hume, and Todd Clever embodied the spirit of a Captain by running hard, tacking hard and just being a general pain in the ass to the Italians.The long-maned Captain is a very worthy public face for the sport of rugby in the USA. Between the heavy hitting and humidity, the game was not a free-flowing spectacle in the second half. While playing two men down for so long of the second half, it was a moral victory for the US that Italy only scored 10 points in the second half. 

So what to make of the 1-2 record if you are a USA Rugby fan? I saw real progress compared to what I saw in New Zealand. They were certainly a much more entertaining side to watch. I think it is still going to take American players getting picked up by European  and SANZAR clubs to help us develop  a higher level of professionalism and skill for American players. If it can happen in soccer(look at Clint Dempsey), it can happen with American Rugby Players. Todd Clever has already played in the Super 14, and Wyles and MacDonald have had good careers in England-but we need high school and college aged players getting that time learning the game at a higher level away from the US.

As an eternal optimist, I like to think the glass is looking half full for USA Rugby under Mike Tolkins watch.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Scotland: The Flag-Bearer of Northern Hemisphere Rugby?

Scotland did not have a great 2011. A poor 6 Nations followed up by not getting past the first round at RWC 2011 in New Zealand, where their inability to score tries would cost them dearly.

2012 did not start well for the Scots, who did not win a single match in the Six Nations in a Wooden Spoon performance.

The great thing about sport is that sometimes, it can throw logic and conventional wisdom on it's head.

After the second week of June Internationals taking place in the Southern Hemisphere, France, England, Wales, and Ireland have yet to win an international. Wales and Ireland came close against the Walabies and the All Blacks, and France was edged out by the Pumas in Argentina. Close, but as the saying goes, close only counts in throwing horse-shoes and hand grenades.

The unexpected standard bearer of Northern Rugby has been none other than the Scots, who shocked the Wallabies 9-6 in brutal conditions in Newcastle, and then defeated Fiji 37-25 on the strength of two Tim Visser Tries. A win next week in Samoa would give the Scots a perfect June International performance. (Samoa warmed up by beating Japan this weekend).

People can talk about luck for the Scots at catching Australia in their first game and taking advantage of appalling conditions, but the bottom line is that Scotland succeeded where Grand Slam Winners Wales have lost-twice.

Andy Robinson, the head coach of Scotland, has to be thrilled with the results, as more than a few people were surprised he kept his job after the woeful performance in the 6 Nations. The wins in Australia and Fiji have probably at least taken the heat off Coach Robinson.

All of that said, who would have guessed that at this point of the June tours, that Scotland would be the only Northern Team with not just one win, but two in test matches. Truth can be stranger than fiction.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

18 Months of Good Luck...

For a little over the past 18 months, my wife and I have been on the road, part of it related to working as a travel nurse, part of it having taken a couple of vacations.

A funny thing has been happening in most of the places my wife and I have been visiting: Good things seem to be happening to the local sports teams. Don't believe me? Consider the following:

During my 8 months working in Dallas, the Mavericks won their first-ever NBA championship. The victory parade went right by our apartment in downtown Dallas.
We went to Australia and New Zealand in September. Both Countries made it to the Semi-finals, and the All Blacks got an 800 pound monkey off their back by bringing home their first Rugby World Cup since 1987....
When we got back to the US, I worked in Delaware-the one place where our Mojo did not seem to work, nothing great happened to any significant sports team in The First State....
We then spent three months working in New Mexico, their Men's Basketball team won their conference title and made it to the NCAA Basketball tournament.
My wife and I went to Europe for 4 weeks. We stayed in Barcelona, and although Barça did not win La Liga, they did win the Copa del Rey-They are going to need a bigger trophy case.
We spent 4 days in Montpellier. Their Soccer/football team had NEVER won a French League Title. That all changed when Montpellier won their last match in Auxerre to insure that they would win their first league title. My only regret is that I missed the victory celebration at La Place de La Comédie in Montpellier...
I got to London one week AFTER Chelsea had become the first London Club to ever win The UEFA Champions League-so my wife and I could not take any credit for that.

I just moved to Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Kings, an NHL franchise for 45 years had never lifted the Stanley Cup-the grail of Professional Ice Hockey in North America. By beating the New Jersey Devils in game 6 by a score of 6-1, the #8 seed in the West became the first 8th seed to lift the Stanley Cup. This touched off a huge celebration in downtown LA, where over 200,000 people flocked today to witness the victory parade and celebration.
With my permanent job here in LA, and my depleted bank account from overseas travel (Which I would do again in a heartbeat), All I have to say that all good things have to come to an end-but it has been quite a ride!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

England: Rugby History, Friends, and Other Thoughts

It's been awhile since I was last able to post anything. In the last couple of weeks, I finished off my European trip with my wife, went back to the US, packed some belongings, and my wife and I have driven from Minneapolis to Las Vegas, in route to moving to Los Angeles. I have had so much I have wanted to write about, but simply have not had the time. Well, since my wife is at a meeting of Twilight fans and writers here in Las Vegas, I can finally sit down at the keyboard.

Going into the England leg of the trip, I really wanted to see Twickenham and its museum-mission accomplished.
Bringing out my inner child at Twickenham
I really wanted to meet Ferdy, of fame. I know Ferdy and her husband have been living and working in London, and I really wanted to meet her and introduce Ferdy and her husband to my wife, like I was able to do in New Zealand during the RWC when I was able to meet Slugso and Scotty, two other rugby-centric bloggers whose work I enjoy a great deal. Well, Ferdy and her  husband Jay met us at a great pub called The Prospect of Whitby. Not surprisingly, we all hit it off really well, and we are able to have not one, but two very pleasant evenings together.
Nursedude and Ferdy, together after all of these years!Add caption
As much fun as the travel has been, I cannot begin to express how great it has been to meet my fellow rugby bloggers and find out that they are even nicer in person than you even imagined. There really are nice people involved with the sport. Luckily, my wife is very sociable, and enjoys meeting new people, as well. My one regret on the trip is that I was not able to get together with Total Flanker. Well, hopefully in 2015, we'll be able to share a fine English-made beverage together and talk about some rugby....
So much beer to sample in the UK, so little time...
The other thing I really wanted to do was to hit the Webb Ellis Museum in town town of Rugby, and to see the Rugby School. Again, mission accomplished. I really enjoyed touring through their museum as well-who said a sports fan cannot get some history and culture while on vacation?
The Shard-soon to be the tallest building in Western Europe
During this trip, I spent 3 weeks on the continent, and one week in England. The thing that really struck me on this trip, was that as nice as people were in France, Italy and Spain, it seemed like there was a lot of uncertainty and fear and loathing in the air. Even in France-where people have an attitude that they live better than anybody else, there was a lot of apprehension in speaking with people. A lot of people are worried about the economy and if the Euro  crisis is going to drag a lot of people down with it. Contrast this with the vibe in England. I know they are concerned about economic matters as well, but I think between the sunny weather, Chelsea winning the Champions League, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the upcoming Summer Olympic Games, London just exuded a very positive and up-beat vibe. I saw construction going up everywhere in London. The mood in the pubs seemed to be an almost party atmosphere. My wife and I just had a blast, and we are very much looking forward to getting back to England for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Da Redhead and I WILL make it back to London in 2015.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Twickenham: An American Rugby Fan Finds His Mecca

When you are a rugby fan, regardless of your country of Origin, you know enough about the sport to know that William Webb Ellis was kind enough to give birth to this sport in England.

I have been traveling with my wife on vacation in Europe since May 3rd. Our travels have led us to Barcelona, Naples, Rome, Pisa, Florence, Cannes, Marseille, Montpellier, Aix en Provence, Chalon-sur Saone, Paris and now, London. The excuse for this entire trip was my wife wanting to go to England for her 50th Birthday. Well, the trip kind of escalated, and took on a life of it's own.

The trip has been immense fun, but aside from going to a rugby-centric bar in Puisserguier, France and watching the final of the Amlin Challenge Cup between Biarritz and Toulon while in Aix en Provence(Glad that Biarritz won, since USA Eagle winger Ngwenya plays for the Basques), there has been very little rugby-related news that I have been able to relate on this trip.

Well, being in London, I just had to make it to Twickenham. My wife, decided that of 3 days in London, doing an afternoon in Twickenham would be an OK Compromise. We picked up the train at Waterloo station in London, and about 30 minutes later, we got off at the Twickenham railway station.(See photo above) There was no need for asking for directions, as soon as you step out of the train station, and you look towards the right, you can JUST catch the massive upper part of the stadium, the towers over a residential neighborhood-in some ways, Twickenham reminded me of Eden Park, in Auckalnd, New Zealand, as that is another iconic stadium that is right in the middle of a residential neighborhood.

I did the rugby fan equivalent of having desert first: I hit the fan store, and THEN I went and had a tour of the World Rugby Museum that is on the southwest corner of Twickenham.

The Museum at Twickenham has some simply amazing artifacts, dating from the latter part of the 19th century-but the bad side is that because some of those items are so sensitive to light, a good part of the early exhibits are in a type of darkness that I have not even seen at art museums in Florence, Paris or Barcelona. There were fantastic audio visual displays, like BBC commentary on an England-Wales  match from the late 1920's. They recreated an old-school style lockeroom and medical area, as well.

It was just fantastic to finally make it to one of the most iconic rugby grounds in the World. I was glad that I made it. For me it was one of the highlights of the trip.

The other thing I noticed when leaving Twickenham was a glimpse at the future. As the orgy of the oval ball known as the Rugby World Cup, 2015 edition will take place in England,  I could not help but notice an office right across the street from Twickenham:
My only regrets are that I won't be able to catch any rugby this weekend at Twickenham, as I will be in the West Midlands with my friend Jonathan in Birmingham. I will have to watch the Quins-Leicester final and the England-Barbarians match on TV. On the bright side, at least in England, I will at least be able to do that.