OBETZ, OH – Even the most willing-to-suspend-reality Hollywood producer would wave off the PRO Rugby script that was written this season, particularly it’s over-the-top and astoundingly improbable ending. The Improbable Season screenplay, would be mocked by The Hollywood Reporter and used as bulletin board fodder for NYU Film School professors. Eyes would roll at the “build it and they will come” theme blatantly ripped from Kevin Costner’s Field of Dreams. 3500 fans in a bulging Obetz cornfield? Stop it. League Officials and Referees scrambling to calculate point totals as the home team’s incredulous fans burst with joy when their short-handed team scores at the death? No way. A completely improbable conversion kick to send all into a euphoric chaos… Come on. Oh, and then have those huddled officials declare that the team the won, actually came up short in the points-scheme… Enough already.
But that’s what happened. I was there. I saw it. Hopefully, you saw it too.
The Improbable Season, featuring absolute warriors from both the Ohio Aviators and Denver Stampede, was epic. The big difference between what transpired on that welcoming village’s paddock and the movie, Field of Dreams though, was that this was real. The hits were real. The injuries were real. The bleeding was real. The electricity in the air was real. The stars of the story were not actors. The fans were not extras. That aforementioned chaos was not choreographed.
After Robbie Shaw hooked his improbable conversion kick through the posts in what was arguably the biggest kick ever made on American soil, the cliche “there are no losers here today,” was never more apropos. Totally-spent players dropped to the ground, as a roaring crowd mistakenly thought their men were the champions. But one person clearly knew that match’s winners were not to be the first-ever PRO Rugby champs. That person was a gutted Paule Barford, the Aviators’ Head Coach, who showed a class and dignity rarely seen on the American professional sports landscape. Coach Barford came on camera, tipped his cap to Denver and went back to his proud team with his head held high. If only Bill Belichick was watching.
Man of the Match Will Magie (the Stampede’s fly-half) was a humble – almost reluctant – recipient of the traditional accolade, and would later have to deal with heat exhaustion. The previously distraught Mike Garrity, with his injured leg wrapped in ice, was now all smiles. Ohio’s Spike Davis, the force of nature at wing, was understandably quiet, head down in thought.
Winning Coach Sean O’Leary showed the same dignity in gaining the championship as his counterpart Barford did in coming up just one point short. He saluted the Aviators before thanking his own players and coaches; Dave Williams and Pete Borlase.
Thanks to Doug Schoninger, Steve Lewis and Dom DeFalco at PRO HQ and all the coaches and players in the set-up’s 5 cities, for The Improbable Season and its Improbable 32-25 Ending.
This ending, though, is just the beginning.
P.s… Here’s the match. It’s worth watching.
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