Ostensibly I was there to watch my oldest son play rugby, but also to catch up with the 'kids while they are away in school. This was a chance to see them on their current stomping grounds, knowing that soon they will be heading out into the world to make their own way. This was another time when I would be able to talk to them alone and see what wonderful things a liberal arts education was breeding in their minds.
I also went because one of the nurses I work with was very irate when I told her that my son was playing rugby and I had not ever seen him play. She let me know, in no uncertain terms, that I would be neglecting my responsibilities as a father if I did not go see him play. I assured her I would go as soon as possible.
To make the trip more interesting, I brought along my 16-year old son so he could have a look at the college. I figure he could start thinking about what he is planning after high school, and what better way than to sit in on some classes with his older sister. He also brought along his license and the insurance papers for the Aardvark so he could drive that while on campus.
Since I am always thinking about 'what if,' I brought a stack of reading material and directions to the National Rifle Association Museum if it turned out that the 'kids had other pressing obligations. Needless to say, I never got to the museum, and I only read while waiting in the airport or before drifting off to sleep; the whole weekend was full of visiting with one or both of the 'kids.
We flew in on Thursday night and were picked up by the college 'kids. We had a late dinner - they were waiting to eat until we got there - and then we dropped off the teenager at his dorm where he would be spending his time. I headed off to the hotel.
In the morning, I woke from a dream where someone was screaming at me. I realized that it was the telephone ringing for my wake-up call. I did some basic maintenance for the Aardvark and then headed over to the campus for Mass. After a beautiful Mass, we got together and went out to lunch. After that, we did some shopping, restocking the student's supplies and snacks. We went out again for dinner, and then began the weekend of rugby.
The first game was about three hours drive from the campus; it was a bit longer since I do not drive through Washington, D.C. for various reasons. I got to re-experience the Beltway once again. Yippee.
The Saturday game was against Washington College, which was established in 1792. I showed up on campus, and could not find anyone who could direct me toward the rugby match. Eventually I ran into someone who thought it was "over there, across the bridge, past the womens' softball field." That was exactly where it was. After walking around the field and discovering that the only other fans there were for the other team, I went and stood by my son's team. It was neat to compare and contrast the various cheers that the two teams were bellowing, as they had their pre-game huddle.
I am sure there is another name for 'huddle' in rugby; I just don't know it yet. Anyways, while the opposing team yelled about victory and beating the other team and 'GO TEAM GO,' all I could hear from our team were yells of 'Our Lady of Victory...PRAY FOR US!' and similar intercessions.
Then the game began; I had gotten a five-minute briefing from two of my partners who played rugby in college, so I was almost completely clueless about what was happening on the field. At first, I thought I was watching a cross being frisbee soccer and some bizarre game we were forced to play in Officer Candidate School (Jugball? I can't recall.). I started asking one of the players on the sidelines all sorts of questions, most of them starting with, "What just happened?" or "Why did he do that?" After a while, I got the general idea of the game. The purpose of the game is to score more points by running the ball into the opponent's end zone, preferably as close to the center goalposts as possible. This is important, because extra points are kicked from the field, lined up where the ball touched down in the end zone. That is as much as I could get out of the game. I started concentrating on what my son's role was in all this. He did not run with the ball very much, but I guess that was not his job. He did have one very special thing which seemed to be his alone. Anytime one of his teammates was tackled, he would appear and shove the opponents off of his teammate. This helped our team keep possession of the ball and kept our players from being crushed. It was kind of neat to watch him just push people off of others. I was very proud of him.
I took about 500 pictures with my iPhone camera; when I got home, I realized I had pretty much taken 500 pictures of a bunch of guys' rear ends. That is one of the problems with taking pictures with the iPhone. One is that even in cloudy daytime conditions one can hardly see the screen. That is one reason I just shot one picture after another. I was hoping for some of them to turn out right. Another is that the aperture on the camera takes into account the light in the sky and then closes down, making whatever one was photographing on the ground very dark. I tried to limit the amount of sky in the picture to compensate for this.
I should have brought my 30-year old Pentax K-1000 camera with me for some really good photography. Oh well, there is always next year.
Here is the team preparing for a 'scrum,' which is how the ball is brought back into play after an infringement. Don't ask me what an infringement is. Dominick is in the front line of this scrum, closest to the camera. He is most notable for being the dirtiest in the line. Also, this picture was from the game on Sunday, not Saturday.
Here is another interesting picture. When the ball goes out of bounds, the ball is thrown back into play by tossing it towards a member of each team who are standing side by side. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that they aren't really standing but rather getting tossed up into the air by their teammates. The picture below shows some of the details, but the coach was in the way. Rather, I took a picture with the coach in the way. You can get an idea that those guys are being elevated, though. Dominick is one of the tossers, too.
Here is a picture of Dominick after the Saturday game. He looked beat, but happy. The Crusaders won both games handily, and other fans did show up at both games (the other one was in Frederick, Maryland).
I showed up expecting to see carnage and mayhem, with limbs and teeth and noses being shattered the whole time I was there. I was pleasantly surprised, even though one player sprained his ankle, another dislocated his shoulder, and another was knocked unconscious for about ten seconds. I found myself running onto the field on two occasions; the third player was knocked out while I was dealing with the dislocated shoulder, and I did not find out about it until later. Still, I left the games thinking that this game was all right, fun to watch, and I would actually recommend it to my younger sons. Watching my son play rugby gave me a totally new and unexpected appreciation for the sport.
When I returned to work, I mentioned to some of my orthopaedic surgeon colleagues that I wished that they had been with me, since most of the injuries were in their field. Several of them showed me how to reduce a shoulder dislocation. One spoke about it with envy; he had never gotten his hands on an acutely dislocated shoulder. Most of them are seen in the emergency room, by which time they need pain medicine in order to reduce the dislocation. If there is a next time, I shall hopefully be better prepared to help someone with that kind of injury.
After the game, the team gathered in the end zone and began to sing 'Non nobis,' a Latin hymn associated with the Knights Templar during the Crusades. In Shakespeare's play Henry V, the Te Deum and Non nobis are ordered sung by the king after the victory at Agincourt. Here are some of the words of it:
Sed nomini tuo da gloriam.
Not to us, not to us, o Lord,
But to your name give glory.
The version sung by the Crusaders is that one which was composed and sung by Patrick Doyle in the 1989 adaptation of Henry V. Here is the video:
Here is the link for the video for those of you on facebook. It is impossible for me to hear this, or watch this video, without getting choked up.
An here is the link for facebookers:
I had a wonderful weekend visiting with my two oldest children and seeing how they are growing up so much. It was such a blessing to spend time with them and to give them encouragement and advice - not always fun to do as a parent. I came back home to the rest of the family full of love and pride for my oldest son and daughter, and joy in being reunited with the rest of the children and my wife, the woman who is such a wonderful mother to all these little - and big Noisykids.