Friday, March 5, 2010
"In the days when you were hopelessly poor I just liked you more..." *
While attending the University of Delaware, one of my more foolish endeavors was playing Rugby. I guess it can be chalked up to the follies of youth. It was shortly after the first practice that I figured out most of my teammates suffered from chemical imbalances. They were a rogue's gallery of the strangely behaved.
Cormac*, our hooker, probably weighed no more than 120 pounds. He was an exchange student from Ireland who was as pale as snow. He chain-smoked cigarettes that he rolled himself and sold marijuana for pocket money. Cormac's Irish brogue was so thick that I only understood one word that he said: That word was "fuck." The fortunate thing was that about 75 percent of what he said was "fuck."
Swamp Thing (yes, he was called Swamp Thing) rarely showered and I was under the impression that he was mentally disabled and allowed to play under some agreement between a local treatment center and the University. I was stunned to later learn he was actually a chemistry major and an excellent student.
Another teammate, whose name eludes me, was from Hoboken, New Jersey. When he was on the field it was a fifty-fifty chance that the game would be called due to a fight he created. He had a set of false teeth that he spit out from time-to-time for laughs. I vividly remember him being decked by an opposing player with a vicious right hook to his face. His reaction was classic. He just stood there holding the ball. Smiling, he let his dentures fall out and said, "Aw, look at that. You knocked my teeth out."
Rugby was two years of perpetual injury and drunkenness. "We eat our own dead" was scrawled on the wall inside the rugby house, basically a three-storied Victorian "tree fort" for young men who refused to grow up and take on responsibility.
Manson, a dead ringer for the famous criminal leader Charles, would sit on the second story roof of the rugby house after games with his faithful German Shepherd and entice passer-bys to stop in for a beer. Soon, it was wall-to-wall people and sheer madness, and inevitably, Newark's finest was called to the scene.
About a year ago I was up at the King of Prussia Mall with my wife and son. I happened to look up and I saw a young couple with a toddler in front of us. You could tell thay were very happy and very proud of their son. As I saw the father smile at his boy I realized we had played rugby together at Delaware. I started to walk up to him and say hello - maybe say something about the old days - but I stopped. I let him continue on with his family. He never saw me. I guess I thought it best to leave those days behind us. It appeared that we had finally decided to take on the responsibilities that we were hiding from on the rugby field after all.
*quote taken from the Smith's "Half a Person"
*name was changed for confidentiality