I have a life other than authoring natural disaster thrillers like The Great Seattle Earthquake. While watching the royalties and reviews of the new book come in, I have kept tabs on the Rugby World Cup, which is currently playing out in Yokohama, Japan. Once upon a time, I was a rugby player, not a watcher. For eight years, encompassing sixteen seasons, I played the wing and lock positions for Cornell Med in New York City. I was about the scrawniest member ever of a sport well known for brawn, brawling, and beef.
But no one could call me faint-hearted. In one game, I fielded an up-and-under kick, where the ball arched high and I jumped high to catch it only to be slammed down by a chest-high tackle that rattled my head on the ground and knocked me out cold for a few minutes. That happened in the first half, but I was back in the game for the second half, dishing it out as well as I had taken it. There were no cell phones back then, so no footage survives.
However, in another game several years later, I got involved in a head-on collision in a loose ruck. Going in for the ball, I met an opponent doing the same, and a clash of skulls ensued. That’s me at half-time, with a stream of blood splattering down my face from an eyebrow laceration that made me literally see red. It required five stitches later, and left a split-eyebrow scar that I’m still proud of. But at least I finished the game. Not so, the other guy.
Here’s a shot of him leaving the pitch (field) a little early. Well, you can’t see him because he’s already laid out in the back of the ambulance. Too bad he had to go, because we had a great party after, which is a Rugby tradition centered around a keg of beer and many a ribald song and raunchy poem. I ought to know, I often recited Rugby Dick to help Cornell–also known as Big Red–to win the party after if not the game.
If you’d like to learn more about this rough and tumble sport, check out the World Cup at this LINK. It starts with a performance by the New Zealand All Blacks of their legendary challenge to opponents, an authentic Maori Haka chant. Fun stuff.
Bet you didn’t know I was such a brawler in younger years. I’ve set aside the cleats, cup, and jersey, given my advancing age, but those were eight great years of unforgettable, hard charging, high impact, hyper-masculine stuff. Ernest Hemingway, you weren’t so badass.