I've got a bunch of thoughts going, and while my initial one this past misty and cool Saturday morning was just how perfect it would have been to watch (participation is not really an option) some ruggers put a lick on each other, my opinion about potential Bowl Championship Series bids is not going to change between now and the beginning of January, so I'll lay it out there now.
If you are a team like Univ. of South Florida (which put a beating on Florida State in Tallahasee), Utah, or Boise State, and you've previously complained about not getting the proper respect for your program when major bowl bids (meaning Orange, Sugar, Fiesta, Rose) went out, this is your year to put up or shut up.
After last weeks dynamic games, and at the risk of trivializing what our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq face far too often, a couple bombs went off in college football Saturday, and LOTS of teams now have an opportunity that might not have existed before. Read the comments of ANY pollster, and outside of the top three of Florida-Alabama-Texas, its a total crap shoot about where one places teams moving up or down the ladder. Boise State is at #5, and they now control their own fate--no crying if you lose and voters think you were lucky to get considered. Now North Carolina, that's another story--I have to believe the 2 points received after a disheartening (but not out of character) 24-7 loss to Georgia Tech put them at 3-1 were from a local writer. For the record, and relative to last weeks comment about my USF-grad brother, he can't stop telling people how WE beat Bowden's Boys...
Taunting is something that gets called periodically at both the professional and collegiate level, and while I'm usually willing to let some 19-year old put on the dog a little after an electrifying run or game-breaking play against a special team before 90,000 or similar circumstances, there was an incident here is Charlotte recently that showed how such examples often get copied. Near the end of what was a hard-fought game between Providence Day and Concord First Assembly on Sept. 18, CFA intercepted a Providence pass and ran in it for the sealing TD. At the end of the run, the player essentially showed the ball to a chasing opponent, who punched him in the back and precipitated a bench clearing brawl; Thursday the NC Independent Schools Athletic Association suspended both coaches (the highly regarded Bruce Hardin of Providence, former Carolina Panther safety Mike Minter of First Assembly) from this past week's game.
The rationale was that *someone* had to be held accountable, and the ideals of sportsmanship had to be upheld. I offer a split opinion, and I look to the Oregon-Boise St. brawl that started the current college season for obvious similarities. The Oregon player who sucker-punched the Boise player was suspended for the year, a harsh but realistic punishment under the circumstances. This HS game though, well, there was an article in the Charlotte Observer about how the Providence Day players apologized to their coach at their Saturday morning meeting because they recognized how their actions reflected on him, and while I didn't see anything from Mike Minter about punishing the original taunter, I believe justice was done over a heat-of-the-moment incident. Suspending the coaches, I guess its legitimate, but I am seldom in favor of putting the blame on anyone but the specific parties, meaning those two players whose actions began things.
As for rugby, it wouldn't have made a difference if I'd had the day off because the top local group, Charlotte Rugby Club (see www.charlotterugby.com ) was in Washington, DC, where the First and Second XV both registered victories. I do have exceptionally fond memories of being a Schenectady Red and having at it in weather like Saturday's in the Upstate (NY) Rugby Union. I played for 12 seasons, beginning on the wing and ending my career as a flyhalf (most would equate it with quarterback, though scrumhalfs might argue), but watching while quaffing a few will hopefully be a possibility in the near future.
Coincidentially, that aspect of my athletic career ended in the Fall of 1986. I lacked what might be called a 'good foot' as a flyhalf; most can thump a long punt in their sleep. Having been *starved* for ball at the wing (and even after moving to outside center) for years because of constantly kicking flyhalfs however, I promised my 'B' side backs that we would be running the ball religiously and letting other teams worry about tackling us. It worked well--we were 5-1-1 before my final injury (and may I warn any/all readers to *NEVER* get into a discussion about injuries with a rugger. Not going to belabor the point, just don't!)
I guess the other team figured out I wasn't going to cause them any strategic problems by kicking, because late in the first half, as I turned to spin the ball out, I saw ALL the opposing backs already across the imaginary line behind their teams scrum and charging hard at those I intended to pass to. Like a good option QB I kept the ball and cut into the area away from those otherwise occupied forwards and...I swear I could hear something like that "ahhh-ah-ahh!' chorus of angels you always get in the movies when something religiously special is happening. I know the sun was shining brighter and the grass was *definitely* greener as I took off into territory almost totally without others. It was probably 40 yards to the goalline, and about 5 yards out the fullback finally arrived, but I planted on my left, let him flail past me, then, having locked out a troublesome knee (I was using an inadequate neophrene sleeve) backward, I hobbled the remaining distance and planted the ball between the posts, scoring to end my career.
Limping to the sidelines, I told someone to go in, my knee was finished. "Quit being such a pussy Shorks," came the reply, "there's only like 15 seconds left in the half." If you've ever participated, you know the attitude.
It should be noted that Charlotte fields three sides (the 3rd XV are called the Socialites and play essentially 'friendlies') and while their First XV is designated a Super League team since 2006, they have added youth, high school and U-19s into their organization this year.
Ahhh, rugby memories! The Knickerbockers (Albany, NY) were essentially a Super League team in the Northeast, and my Reds nemesis. I still have a championship hat from the 1981 Upstate Tournament where we beat them in a 'B' side match in the semi-finals, shutting them out until the final play of the game, when one of our players punched a Knick who was holding him, right in front of a referee.
Here's the point for anyone who gets into a situation like those Providence players:
You always play hard, and as angry as the Providence team might have been about the taunting, my team had lost 13 STRAIGHT TIMES to the Knicks--can you imagine how we would have felt if we hadn't won that game on the second overtime penalty kick? No great memory of two entire days of outstanding defense in that tournament, that swaggering knowledge of having done the deed that carries on for *years*. We knew that getting a try or even a couple penalty kick points meant we'd win because our guys (and yes, some "rugby whores", guys we gave jerseys to and became Reds for the day) were absolutely STIFFING people. All that would have become nothing, because baby, if you get ejected or suspended, you ain't in the game at all!