Extra Point

By Mike Fitzgerald

Friday, October 25, 1996


Lots of rugby players are
just plain whacko

RUN for your lives! Board up the windows and bolt the doors!

Is a huge hurricane approaching? Nah. This is just as frightening, though - 30 teams from around the world are in town for the Hawaii International Rugby Tournament.

Here is my favorite quote on the sport: "I prefer rugby to soccer. When soccer players start biting each other's ears off, maybe I'll like it better." That's from actress Elizabeth Taylor. Seriously.

I have played football, basketball, hockey and baseball. I have been a boxer - in the ring and on the street. I have been hit in the head with a baseball bat, golf club and was even knocked silly with a gas pump handle (hey, those things are heavy). I have had a knife stuck up to my throat and have heard bullets whiz by.

I have jumped off cliffs into lakes, bridges into rivers and roofs into swimming pools. I have been in four cars that were totaled and barely dodged two tornadoes. I have had at least three brain concussions, dozens of stitches and have broken or dislocated every finger.

There also have been a few field trips to mainland lockups. Nothing serious. In fact, my official sentence from a judge after a bar brawl led to an overnight stay in Tempe, Ariz., was: "To get out of town by sundown." True story.

IN other words, danger has been my business and I have been lucky enough to live to tell about it. Or, as an old blues singer friend once remarked to me: "The Lord takes care of fools and babies."

But have I ever played rugby?

No way. You have to show restraint at some point in your life. Plus, at the first rugby game I ever watched in person, two players cracked their skulls together. It sounded like two melons being mashed and there was enough blood for an impromptu horror movie.

I have done the next craziest thing related to the sport, however: attended several rugby parties. Rugby players are notorious for drinking beer by the keg and washing it down with raunchy songs. Then they usually perform dangerous, embarrassing and pretty funny stunts.

One Honolulu bar owner told me recently that he didn't encourage this year's rugby players to drink at his joint because the last time one of the fellows insisted on showing everyone that his head would, indeed, fit between the two giant ceiling fans.

I went to a bunch of post-rugby bashes while majoring in partying in college. We would go to this city park, drink a lot of beer, sing the dumb songs and then the few girls who were brave enough to attend would usually take their tops off.

(Please don't go running to your phone to call our senior editor Diane Chang about the girls taking their tops off. It was the 1970s. Besides, when I wrote that Mike Tyson didn't get a fair trial, Chang gave me five wicked karate chops without warning.)

You know, now that I think about it, maybe women's rugby is a sport that the University of Hawaii should consider for gender equity.

OK, where was I? Oh, yeah. An awesome rugby party about 20 years ago.

And besides the girls being bombed and half-naked, the players would also moon any normal people who got too close. Then the cops would show up, shake their heads and billy clubs, take down the girls' phone numbers - and shut down the party until the following week.

Again, let me emphasize that this was the 1970s, the greatest time in the history of the world to be young and alive and in college.

But don't expect the same shenanigans at Kapiolani Park.

These guys are serious about their scrums and rucks. There are even divisions for the older guys who still like to clunk noggins.

There are matches today, tomorrow and - for those still standing - on Sunday.

Check it out. Who knows?

Liz Taylor might be there, looking around for bitten-off ears.



Mike Fitzgerald's commentary appears every
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.




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