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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Adieu, Jean-Paul Sirat.....

Me with Jean Paul and his son Léo in Puisserguier, France last year.

Today I got the news that my very dear friend, Jean-Paul Sirat, died. Fabienne, his former wife, and the mother of his two sons Charlie and Léo, sent me the message today. Jean-Paul was only 50 years old.

I first met Jean-Paul back in the 1981-82 school year. I was studying in Montpellier, France. I met him through Bernard Massé, a mutual friend. He was amused to run into an American who loved soccer(football) and rugby. I would get together with some friends and we would play pick-up games of soccer at L'Université Paul Valéry, on the grounds by the student cafeteria. When the FIFA World Cup started that year, we would get together at his apartment or Bernard's apartment to watch soccer and talk about it. Being very politically involved,he also wanted to talk politics, but his other passion, besides soccer and rugby, was music-and he was a huge, huge Bruce Springsteen fan. (He would get a chance to see him perform in France)

When I left Montpellier, he gave me his address and told me to keep in touch. The funny thing was, we kept on writing each other and keeping up with what was going on in our lives. I would send him post cards, shirts of American sports teams and different CD's. Jean-Paul would send me books, CD's and articles on what was going on in soccer and rugby. Remember, that in the 80's and early 90's, there was no internet to keep up with results. I would get these clippings that were weeks and months old, and that was how I kept up with European soccer and rugby for a long, long time.

We followed each other as we went through different stages in our lives. For me, it meant getting married, being in the US Air Force in Texas, going to nursing school. becoming a parent of a son and a daughter and hosting exchange students. During those years, money was tight-I so desperately wanted to go back to Southern France and see my friends. For Jean-Paul, he got his degree, worked as a teacher near Valenciennes, in the north of France for two miserable years, and then he would marry Fabienne, and then move back to near Béziers, his home town in Languedoc. He was very involved as a teacher, and then after his boys Charlie and Léo were born, he would be very involved as a volunteer coach for Midi-Lirou, a youth soccer club in the Puisserguier and Capestang area.

In 2004, my wife Rebekah and I went to France for our 20th wedding anniversary. We were able to see  Jean Paul, and all of us just hit it off. We had a wonderful late afternoon and evening eating great food and drinking some great local wines from Languedoc.

I was able to introduce the Sirat family to my family when we went to France for the 2007 Rugby World Cup. Jean Paul and Fabienne were very, very gracious hosts. While we rented a house for 3 days in Puisserguier, they made sure we were over at their house for dinner every night. My kids discovered the joys of wild boar paté(made by Fabienne's dad) and Jean-Paul personally arranged for our family to do a vineyard tour and private wine tasting. (We neglected to tell our poor daughter Rachel that she did not have to empty each glass-by the time she finished her fourth glass, my 16 year old daughter said, "Dad, do I HAVE to finish every glass..I think I am getting drunk")

Jean-Paul went to the two World Cup games that my son Ian and I saw, Samoa-Tonga and Tonga-USA. After both games, my son and I both enjoyed a "third half" with Jean Paul and some of his friends. A few days later, Jean-Paul introduced my son Ian to the joys of Pastis. (We both ended up crashing the night at his place)

After 2007, my friend's life took a turn for the worse. He struggled with depression and his marriage fell apart. When I saw him last year, while I was in Europe, I was shocked how much he had aged in 5 years. Still, it sounded like he was getting his life back in order-he was very involved in local politics in Puissierguer and trying to be an involved dad.

I guess when you get to be over 50, it should not be a total shock that you start losing some friends. Jean-Paul is my first really close friend to die since my high school wrestling team mate Steve Briggs got killed in a car accident in 1988, when he was only 27 years old.

As I sit here at my computer in Los Angeles, I am just stunned. I had really hoped to one day show him around the USA, or at least offer him some good meals while he stayed at my place. I so wanted to return the favor to him that he showed me back in 2004 and 2007. Thanks to Jean-Paul Sirat, and his kindness, my kids, Ian and Rachel, got to see and experience France in an entirely different way than most kids, who have to see France in the back of a crowded tour bus. My kids were able to see that there are really nice people in France....that they enjoy eating a really good meal and having conversation, and that, although French and American politicians may spar and have spats, French and American cultures each have aspects to be admired and appreciated.

I am going to miss a friend who was funny, blunt, curious who actually enjoyed writing post cards and letters as much as I do-even with the internet available-and had a passion for sports. I feel like a big part of my life is just gone...I hope that I can still maintain contact with Fabienne, Charlie and Léo. I hope that I can express to them just what a good friend Jean-Paul Sirat was.

Adieu mon pote. Tu me manques déja`....(Good bye, old buddy, I miss you already)

I will give Jean-Paul the final word. When he gave me a book for Christmas a couple of years ago called "Rugby Au Centre", a book on the art of inside center play in rugby. He wrote the following inscription:
 A` Steve
un ami pour la vie, malgré la distance, tu restes proche dan mon coeur, amicalement-Jean Paul
(To Steve, a friend for life, in spite of the distance, you stay close to my heart, your friend, Jean-Paul Sirat)

Monday, August 12, 2013

Rugby World Cup Qualifying: USA against Canada this weekend.

It is hard to believe that with the orgy of rugby that will be Rugby World Cup 2015 in England
, qualifying is well under way for those of us in the minnow nations-which includes the USA Eagles.

This Saturday, the Eagles will host Canada in the first of a two-legged, total points series of game at Charleston, South Carolina.

It's obvious that the Yanks picked hot, humid, Charleston to try to gain any type of advantage against the Canucks. To be honest, I was surprised-and a little bit disappointed that USA rugby picked Charleston over Houston, Texas.
Houston, Texas has shown to be big supporters of the USA Eagles
If USA rugby was hoping to make the Canadians suffer in heat and humidity, Houston in August is one of the most uncomfortable American cities that I have ever been in. The other reason it was a disappointing move by the suits with USA rugby is that the city of Houston has shown great support in two friendly matches between the Eagles and Italy last year, and the Eagles and Ireland(Well, Ireland's B squad since the best Irish players were on the Lions tour of Australia) that was played in the new home of MLS's Houston Dynamo, the BBVA Compass Stadium.

It also seems to me that if USA Rugby wants to be more big time, going with a legitimate stadium in a city that has supported USA rugby-particularly if you want the game played in hot, uncomfortable conditions for the visiting team.

The Eagles will have to go against the Canucks without center Paul Emerick, who just announced his retirement from rugby. The 33 year old played in 3 Rugby World Cup's for the USA. He played professionally over 8 years in Italy, England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

4 years ago, the USA got a win in South Carolina, only for the Canadians to run rough-shod over the USA in the return match.

The Eagles were hoping to get some confidence in a recent game against Japan, but the Japanese continue to show that they have passed the USA in a big way, as they build towards building a team for  the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

It would make life a lot easier for the Eagles if they can somehow beat Canada, but will this be another episode of just having caught a tiger by the tail?

Dickie's Nurse's Scrub Review....

Dickie's one-pocket scrub top
It's not often when I am asked to review nurse or medical scrubs, but I had a chance to try out the one pocket men's scrub top from Dickies.

Being a guy, I have a lot of blue or scrub pants that go with navy blue, so I did like the color. The shoulders on it were plenty big for a wide-bodied propnurse like me. The fabric was durable, and the scrub top came out well in the wash. My only complaints were that I prefer scrub tops with the two side pockets-handy to place alcohol wipes, pens and all manner of other things nurses seem to gather during the course of a shift. I also think that if Dickies can come out with a tapered scrub top for men-particularly weightlifter-types like me-it would be roomy enough in the shoulders, but not boxy-looking.  That said, it was plenty comfortable when I wore it to work.
And a side view of the Blue Dickie's Medical Scrub

If you are interested in ordering this style of scrub top, readers of my blog can save some $ by using the coupon code: "trueblue" which is 15% off until Aug 31st 2013