It was late in 1993 when the London Metropolitan Policemen’s rugby club came to Tucson.
The group of about 60 players, coaches and assorted other hangers-on were on the tail end of a month-long tour.
It had played in Los Angeles and Phoenix before it blew into my adopted hometown.
I, along with most of my Old Pueblo rugby club teammates, were looking forward to a chance to play against the Bobbies.
Much to our disappointment, we found out the Met would line up against an all-star team made up of University of Arizona players and coaches.
It looked like Tucson’s two mens club teams – Old Pueblo and the Tucson Magpies – would have to watch this one from the bleachers.
Then, for whatever reason (I suspect the UofA kids got scared), Wildcat head coach Dave King decided to give some of us old guys a chance.
I was headed into my eighth year with the Lions at the time, so I knew (hoped, really) it was a matter of time before King would corner me at the local rugby bar, Bob Dobbs.
King – or Wingnuts as he was known as because of his enormous ears – walked up to my table, pint of a fine American pilsner in hand, and grinned.
“We need you in there,” he said.
“Sure,” I said.
It was as simple as that.
We talked strategy, tossed back a few, tossed back a few more, okay, so we didn’t get too much done by way of game tactics, but it sure was fun.
As the hangover wore off during the course of the the next afternoon, I got a little nervous.
I mean, rugby was invented in England.
These guys have played the game their whole lives, whereas most of the people on my team were relative rookies. On the other hand, I had just come back from a three-week rugby tour of New Zealand.
I’d also knocked heads with some pretty tough hombres from Los Angeles to El Paso and all points in between in my previous seven seasons and came out without a scratch, so away went the nerves, back in came the excitement.
Ignorance is bliss I guess.
I was at my usual table in Bob Dobbs when a few of the Met players came in for a pint the Thursday before the match.
They didn’t look that tough. A couple of furrowed brows and some cauliflowered ears, but other than that, nothing too scary.
I winked at the guys at my table.
I was sitting with my back to the door when I saw the looks on the faces of some of the fellas at the table change.
I finished my drink, then swung around.
The biggest human being I had ever shared a room with was at the bar.
He was a 6-foot-10-inch, 320-pound nightmare in a Met navy blue windbreaker.
It was then that the nerves came back.
That Saturday, we took a beating for the full 80 minutes.
The score? I don’t have any idea. Judging by the knots on my head, my best guess is we lost by two, maybe three hundred points. It wasn’t pretty.
After the final whistle, I walked over to King. I wanted to thank him for giving me the opportunity to play.
He didn’t say a word, he just grinned.
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The Nevada City Brewers left no doubt they were the top Junior Division team in Little League’s District 11.