Having the entire weekend available was great, and while I lucked into a pair of tickets for the Panthers game on a glorious Sunday afternoon where Jake didn't throw any interceptions, the defense made life miserable for Falcons QB Matt Ryan, Steve Smith made two terrific touchdown grabs and the running game consistently got the tough yards, my original goal of watching some rugby the next Saturday I had off worked fine too.
Getting out to Charlotte RFC's Skillbeck Athletic Grounds was particularly appropriate because, well, this was Olde Boys time, and Charlotte played three full games without that Super League designation (which is only in the Spring season) that still has me thinking 'elitist crap'. With several dozen members of teams that played in the '80s and '90s back for a Veterans Day-type extragavanza, there was exactly the "I remember" chatting along the rail of the Skillbeck clubhouse, which overlooks the pitch, while some very entertaining rugby was played against Old White of Atlanta.
For the record, Charlotte's Socials won "something like" 44-17, which is a great score to report, because those older players are truly about the playing. If they don't recall the exact score an hour later, so what? There was also a Myers Park vs. Vance scrimmage early in the proceedings, then the main match, a 32-24 comback by the First XV, with two tries by Ty Alkins and two clutch kicks by Joe Cowley integral to notching the win. Old White was definitely undermanned to play a second side match, but pulled out a win even while looking weary. lol Back in '86, I remember traveling to several matches with only 18 and playing two...
There were many gentlemen worth talking rugby with, and even if the notion of utilizing *7 substitutes*, sin bins, and lifting people in lineouts is still foreign to many of us who remember only two or three subs who ONLY went in when a player had a serious enough injury to HAVE TO leave the pitch, memories are part of the deal for "olde boys". Rugby is truly a global fraternity, and while I know my brothers (familial ones) who are Phi Delts think fraternity ties are forever, mentioning a rugby connection will get you a beer in Bangkok while being a Greek will only rarely get you anything in Greece. That Tom Deevers actually played against the same (once upon a time) U.S. Eagle #8 Tom Selfridge that I did (and both know of his ego) was a cool connection; having 3-4 know what a Schenectady Red was also cool; that nobody questions exactly how accurate your memory of your skills were was kind of awesome.
Yes, it was ideal weather for watching the lads have at it, perhaps a bit warm for them, especially when Old White had to go without many fresh players the second side match. I don't know how many of them stayed around for any singing, which is one of the parts of rugby I miss hearing-participating in. But for Neill, a much larger wing forward now than he was a hooker back in the day, and Jerry 'Raley' Miller, who is remembered for being "a 5-try a game guy" with blazing speed and being a HUGE hitter at 155 lbs., the games were great backdrop to the memories.
And the chance to chat about my final game as a flyhalf and scoring after that bad left knee gave out on a long run with gray and balding gents who truly understood about that effort was, as the commercial notes, priceless.