ACRC as Much Spiritual as Ruck ‘n Roll

With all due regard given to the need for writing cover letters to resumes–and a decent quantity of progress on two sexy chapters for next book– it shouldn’t have taken me a month to knock out a blog in praise of the ten game slate of American Collegiate Rugby Championships matches assembled by Steve Siano’s Sevens Sports operation. Showcased at the Rugby Athletic Center on South Tyvola Ave. in Charlotte, NC, the event was, for every ex-rugger, newbie enthusiast, or player in attendance, a Friday afternoon-all day Saturday slice of what live sports is supposed to be about.

From the 4 tries by Corey Patton of North Mecklenburg— correctly identified as a star to watch in a gorgeous full color glossy tournament guide– in their 33-5 whacking of Hough in the high school exhibition that kicked things off, through the 53-19 pillaging of previously unbeaten (8-0) Army by the electric lime-green stockinged hordes of major independent Life(their ‘B’ side punched out Western Michigan 42-10 in Saturdays top-‘o-the-morning match), it was glorious stuff to watch.

Boston College beat Iona 29-19
North Carolina St. devastated Texas St. 63-7 in Fridays nightcap
UMass pounded North Texas 46-0
Kutztown (9-1 as Rugby East champs, only loss to Army) overwhelmed Michigan 43-17
American International pulled out a highly competitive 46-40 thriller over Bowling Green
Clemson (Atlantic Coast champs) pulled away from 20-14 halftime score to beat always a rival South Carolina (Southeastern CRC champs) 40-14 in after-Life Bowl Series finale

Beyond the almost un-rugby-like precision that the schedule maintained, it would be a serious breach of sports journalism not to give generous credit for the overall effect to the RAC facility and Sevens Sports as well.

While Saturday was sunny, and the weather of a satisfying Fall crispness all the way, viewing a premier pitch from the comfort of the triple-tiered and sub-divided into ‘booths’ arena a former golf driving range created, was an exceptional experience. There was never a peep of negatives to be heard about *anything*– despite its college-age participants, beer was cold and available, the toilets clean and always operational; even the fire pit between the foosball table and the 3rd level concession stand created its own smoky ambiance. The fact of $2 for 16-ounce PBRs, $4 cans of Guiness, and the meaty warmth of Chik-fil-a sandwiches were appreciated Goodnesses for anyone who ever lugged their beverages field-side (and then wondered where to take a leak). Enjoying said supplies with a nephew who was left off the Stony Brook (Empire Conference champs and 21-20 victors over West Virginia) roster was cool, as was his low key “thanks for letting me use your extra jacket” after several hours.

While its never been on any personal ‘bucket list’, watching Life’s continuous forward motion as tackled runners popped short passes to others blasting along in close support, made believing their program is every bit of what its advertised to be a Real Deal fact. Having been involved in a 52-0 ass-kicking by Old Blue in a 20-minute halves tournament game (Saranac Lake, NY) almost 30 years ago, and earning a last-play-of-the-game karate chop to left ear (think cartoon sound of broken china when shaking head) for getting close to tackling an Old Blue inside center, brought memories to what a full game of barely slowing down the other guys must’ve felt like.

Memories are actually rugby’s stock in trade, so here’s a pretty good one: Seeing an older gentleman (NCHSRA President P.J. Anderson) in Springbok yellow/green outfit at the games required relating how the city of Albany (NY) hosted the South African team in 1990, when it was still an athletic pariah. Lacking a definitive “you can’t do it” from the state, mayor Erastus Corning ignored anti-apartheid protesters– and a small bombing of the ticket office– to allow the game against the Eastern Rugby Union (ERU), played in a driving rainstorm.

In relating that meeting to a random ex-rugger, it turned out he’d BEEN to the game, even got in free. Part Two, he’d played for Binghamton, a member of the Upstate Rugby Union I’d played in. Memory Part Three, telling Sevens Sports leader Steve Siano about the coincidence of talking with guy who went to that game brought reply (believe it or not) that he’d PLAYED at fullback in the game as a college sophomore.

What more could you ask for from a weekend of rugby, an exceptionally well-run event that brings ancient memories into close order with what those participants (and my nephew) will be part of forever? Not sure who won the ‘canoe races’ between rivals UMass and Boston College, but someone will probably still be telling stories about that this Christmas break.

Glenn Shorkey

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