by Wes "Brigham" Clark
As I type this, my eyes are itching and watery, and the part of my eyes that are normally white are red. A long string of mucous is trailing from my nose to the keyboard, causing my figures to slip on the surface of the keys. It's pollen season here in Virginia, folks, and although I've been assured that the pollen count is low, there is something growing out there that is driving my immune system nuts. Grass, some sort of tree… who knows? This never happened to me when I lived in Southern California.
So if I seem cranky, this is one reason why.
But the crankiness I wish to discuss is mental or emotional. It's late May and the end of spring season, you see, and the only rugby to be had through the summer is Sevens, which I will return to in a moment.
Have I mentioned that I used to do Civil War reenacting? Nowadays rugby takes the place of reenacting, when I used to dress up in blue or gray wool uniforms (mine was Union blue) and show up for reenacted battles on historic sites all across the country (but primarily on the Eastern Seaboard). Traditionally, the season ends in November, and the usual last event is a memorial parade at Gettysburg. Then reenactors would have to put their stuff away until April. I used to run a Civil War reenacting Internet list, and one of the members identified Late October-November as "cranky season," when buffs seemed to get short-tempered, being deprived of their hobby and the company of their pards.
I know that in April, when the first big events begin, just being out in the field with the sights, sounds, smells once again gave me reason to celebrate.
Cranky season happens in rugby, too. John "Montana" Thomas - a big prop who is something of an advocate of the position - noted the end-of-spring-season blues to me. He thinks summer is when, "…the big beasts of burden are put out to stud during the summer, when they go through a bit of depression and shock because of their lack of activity. Sevens is fascist and backs control the game."
My beefy friend continues: "After my 1996 rugby spring with the Denver Highlanders we ended the season with a tour to Missoula, Montana and the Maggotfest. The tournament was a lot of fun. Several of the guys ventured up to the Unibomber's cabin and posed with FBI agents. We won the tournament and returned to Denver victorious, and we all met during the following weeks and retold our stories of conquest at McNichols Arena. The Colorado Avalanche, Denver's new hockey team, was in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and we had several seats for the series. When the Avalanche won the cup, our rugby team partied and had a great time. Then the depression set in. There was no more 15's. No more hockey. All there was was loneliness. Okay, a bit melodramatic, but honestly, I call the two months of summer the Post Rugby Depression. There is little structure. You don't hang out with your mates as much as you once did."
Rugby makes something that most people look forward to - the summer season - into a time for depression!
I will admit to having no interest in Sevens rugby at all. To me, it isn't even rugby. It's a bunch of backs running about for short periods of time. Track and field, in other words. Eh. Frankly, I don't care how fast they can run, or how many points somebody can score in two seven minute periods. If I want to watch guys dashing about in a field, I'll go watch a lacrosse game and see them hitting each other with sticks while doing so. Soccer? Good fitness practice for rugby, but that's about it. Baseball? Boring. Football? Ditto. (I can't believe how much rest those guys get, compared to rugby!) But clearly, I digress.
Montana, being an inventive sort, came up with a solution for the cranky season: "I invented the WHORS (Washington Handsome Overweight Rugby Side) and this year's team, the USSR (United Socialist Sluts of Rugby). I needed a 15's fix mid summer. So I figure I can survive June and hold off until July 7 to do my rugby thing. Then it's only three weeks till 15s starts again!"
Hope springs eternal.
As for me, being somewhat older than Montana I'll spend the summer doing family stuff, sitting out by the pool eating pizza and dreading the first practice of fall season. Trying to keep up with guys half one's age is enough to make anyone cranky.
More of Wes Clark's feeble writing can be found on his rugby web site, "the Rugby Reader's Review."