“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” – Charles Dickens
SAN DIEGO, CA – For those of us lucky enough to be at Torero Stadium for Major League Rugby’s epic championship final, the aforementioned quote from Charles Dickens could not have been more apropos.
Belief. Incredulity. Light. Darkness.
For Seattle’s Seawolves and their amazing horde of wonderfully crazy fans in town with the Rugby 100 Club, it was the spring of hope. For the shock-stricken legion of San Diego fans, it was all darkness. But for a league in year 2 of its existence, the ending couldn’t have been more delectable.
Yours humbly stood on the pitch for all but 15 minutes of the 5+ hours of pregame, match and post-match.
I never do that. This was different.
Down on the grass you felt every hit. Every collision. The urgency. The desperation. The euphoria. The heartache.
If Hollywood had scripted what transpired on the field, we’d all be guffawing at the over-the-top absurdity of the founded-in-fantasy plot twists and turns, but… It. Was. Real.
The far-fetched winning try and the ensuing mayhem that followed Scott Green’s final whistle etched this epic battle in the annals of sports history. And it all unfolded but feet away from me. When the oceans of emotion from 46 players (and injured teammates in civvies) exploded and flooded the pitch, I was simultaneously gutted and ecstatic for players and management on both sides of the ball.
Phil Mack. Joe Pietersen. Riekert Haddingh. Paddy Rayn. Shalom Suniula. Nate Augspurger. Mat Turner. Lou Stanfill. Richie Walker. Rob Hoadley.
The privilege of being there – in the middle of it – comes with a certain unwritten code, however. You let the players have their moments before approaching them. You give space, especially when there are tears (on both sides) unleashed by the sudden finality of toil and sacrifice ending.
Who do you go to first?
I went to the Legion first.
They deserved acknowledgement. No camera. No “How do you feel about the result?” questions. There would be a time and place for that later. Instead, there was a hug for Augspurger. A hug for Matayas. Thanks yous to Ryan and Pietersen for their exceptional seasons. And then there was Stanfill. The guy is just a rock amidst a canyon of rocks. “Hey man, that was great for the league and great for rugby.”
The teams then shook hands. Some hugged. Some congratulated. Some consoled.
It was sports in its rawest and purest form and experiencing it up close and personal made living with the mountain of debt and challenges incumbent on being a full-time rugby pundit, well worth every minute.
A Tale of Two Cites, indeed. And both should take a bow.