Something I wrote for a final assignment in literay journalism class
The field was muddy and the stands were covered in the same mud. I had roped a roommate into coming with me by promising him an interesting place to do homework – somewhere where he could organize his school papers and occasionally steal glances at particularly aggressive girl-on-girl action. It was Saturday, Feb. 23 and brisk. Perfect rugby weather.
The teams were the University of Florida versus Florida State University. Despite going to UF, I was actually there to see an old high school friend on the rival FSU team. I spotted her through the chain-link fence, stretching with her teammates.
She was not hard to find. Her bright blue chest-beacon stood out against the sea of black, white and gray sports bras.
As long as I have known her, she has been into sports fashion. I remember her buying custom Nike shoes, the same shade of blue as this sports bra, back in high school. They had her name sewn on the back in stitching probably done at an Indonesian sweatshop.
She is a sweetheart … who happens to like crushing people. She is an odd mixture of the girlishly girly and brutishly sporty. This is her first year playing rugby.
The match played out like some exotic and brutish European ritual. Despite what some people think, rugby is still a foreign sport. There is nothing American about it.
Many UF students do not even know that we have a rugby team, let alone know how it’s played. The sport falls outside our jurisdiction of football, baseball, basketball and bullying other countries.
The game occasionally gets attention in the media, but usually as an oddity rather than a pastime.
In early April, “The Alligator” reported on the annual Prom Rugby Charity Match, an event where the women’s rugby team dons formal dresses and somehow raises money for cancer.
The only other article that could be found about women’s rugby in “The Alligator” archives concerned the team being suspended in 2005 over a pudding wrestling fund raiser.
Accurately reflecting UF’s collective apathy toward the sport, only five other people were at the game I attended.
I watched the spectacle confused as my roommate organized papers. I had never even seen a rugby ball before.
It reminded me of an overinflated American football – sort of pregnant, maybe tumorous, definitely bloated. It is like that poor, retarded ball that would be left in the bottom of the bin at recess.
I tried to guess the rules to rugby as the match went along.
The game moved fluidly like soccer, but was bastardized by halting lineups called scrums.
A scrum is this crazy exercise where players interlock limbs like a Transformer and kick the ball through a tunnel made of legs.
“Does the referee know what’s going on?” I asked my roommate.
As far as I could tell, it was slightly organized chaos; akin to two people speaking an unknown language, leaving my mind reeling at the thought that they could possibly understand each other.
We knew UF was dominating the game; Even in our naivete that much was obvious. The team was highly organized and much faster. They also had at least twice as many players as FSU.
FSU had only one extra player and she had an injured shoulder, which automatically promoted her to sidelines flag holder for most of the game.
In the end, UF mauled the rag-tag FSU team with a score of 135-5.
There was no animosity or hard feelings though. I know this because I went to their social afterward; a gathering of players from both teams in a ratio of about three lesbians to every straight individual.
I was mostly ignored during the social and therefore had free roam to eavesdrop on any conversation I pleased. It was like my dick was a wand that made me invisible to the large concentration of gay women.
I had never thought about the rugby/lesbian stereotype before this. Right or wrong, I reserved that banal concept for softball.
“Well, she’s straight,” my FSU friend said as she pointed to a teammate.
Drinks were bought and age did not matter. The comradely was like nothing I had ever seen between two rival schools.
The teams half-sang and half-chanted raunchy, rugby drinking songs. After half an hour, a group of men in the bar became frustrated and shouted obscenities at the players. This riled up the girls who proceeded to sing even louder.
“These songs are traditional, like, you could sing them in London and rugby players would know the words,” my friend said.
Rugby has the word “rug” in it. This is highly convenient when singing raunchy rugby songs. Another fun fact: Rugby players refer to themselves as “ruggers.”
One of the songs had a pattern I could easily recognize. A player would volunteer to do a verse by placing a drink to her forehead, signaling everyone to point in her direction. She would then name her rugby position and a sexually suggestive reason of why she enjoyed that position.
“Because I like to take it from behind!”
The chorus would repeat variations of this last line until another girl volunteered.
“If you get the words wrong or mess up the order, you have to shoot the boot,” Caitlin said. “It’s where you take off your cleat and drink beer out of it.”
“A great alternative to flashcards,” I thought. I found the concept disgustingly amusing: a foot-fungus-filled cascade of beer, all to humiliate a player into memorizing lyrics.
I spotted one other guy in our group that night. He was short and had a constant, goofy grin slapped on his face. I wondered where he came from, but the party atmosphere was too rabid to be asking interview questions.
Besides, he moved around too much for me to catch him. He reminded me of a hyperactive little brother in a group of his older sister’s friends.
My friend introduced me to a graduate student whom I recognized as the unofficial leader of the FSU team.
“This is Shaw and he’s cool,” she said as if desperate to convince.
“You’re tall,” the graduate student said to me.
She turned her attention back to the girl she had her arm around. We were outside the bar now. The two leaned against the railing and embraced.
“There’s a lot of gossip about them,” my friend said to me. I just nodded.
“Yeah, I’m straight,” someone to the left of me said.
My ears pricked up. A UF rugby player, wearing those patented eye-black stickers with gator logos embossed on them, was talking to another player about her sexual orientation. She described how she could see herself experimenting with women and maybe turning lesbian.
When I was done listening, I realized my friend had left me. I saw her talking to two teammates in a corner and headed over there.
As soon I got to them, my friend went back inside the bar. I decided to stay outside and awkwardly nibble at a plate of fish and chips that she had ordered earlier. The two girls ignored me and their conversation eventually steered toward my friend.
“No, she’s straight, but we’ll change that,” one of the girls said.
The teams started gathering outside to go on a bar crawl. I decided it was high-time to head home. I said goodbye to my friend and we parted ways.
Finally home, and tired after a long day, I bunkered down on my couch to watch a televised version of “Beetle Juice,” fondly reminiscing about the crazy “ruggers” who were still out partying.