Why Rugby?

Steve Braunstein

There are many reasons, of course, but I would like to touch on one in particular today and it will hopefully summarize the camaraderie of rugby throughout the world that drives the passion for the sport we love.

In 2003 England had a very good squad headed to the Cup, with the kicking of Jonny Wilkinson sure to propel them to the final.  As we all know, that did happen and that is where the story begins.

A gentleman from jolly old England was in a bit of a conundrum.  His girlfriend’s family was having a family reunion of historic proportions over in the colonies – more specifically the Ritz Carlton in Naples, FL – during the World Cup Finals!  What’s a gent to do?

Well, in the world of 2003 that gent jumps on the world wide web and finds a person affiliated with the local rugby club, our own Naples Hammerheads.  Mission accomplished when he locates our one and only Raelyn Barlow, who at that time was either President or VP of the men’s rugby club.  It’s been some years and a few blows to the head, so you have to forgive my fuzziness on those details.

After contacting the lovely Ms. Raelyn he inquired where he might be able to watch said final if England was fortunate enough to appear.  She told him that the English Pub in Naples would be his best option since they were the only place in SWFL showing rugby at that time.  (We’ve come a long way baby!)

England did make the final and happily, the Naples Pub is only a few miles away from the Ritz Carlton.  Only one issue.  The match is at 4:00 AM and the English Pub will not be open at that time.  This is where I enter the story.  In a panic he calls Raelyn and asks if there is any other way to watch the game?  She then tells him “Well, my friend Steve is having people over and I don’t think he would mind if you watch there.”  He said “Great.  What is the address I’ll grab a cab”.

Folks, in 2003 not only was there no Uber but there were also no cabs running at 3:30 AM in Naples FL.  In fine rugby form Raelyn said “No worries! I’ll come pick you and your girlfriend up”.  Which she promptly did at 3:30 AM and deposited him at my house, on my couch, next to an awesome Australian lad Blair Kirby who was also quite excited that his team was playing that morning.  I do have to say that Blair was not quite as happy as the rest of us of having this gent around for the match.

So for the next 2 hours he and his girlfriend drank beers with us and cheered the fabulous rugby played in the 2003 Rugby World Cup.  He did not know a soul there and I did not talk to him before or since he walked out with a humongous smile on his face at 6:30 that morning.  But, he was able to share a wonderful moment across the pond with people who loved rugby as much as he did, even though they might not have been around it as long.  Raelyn, of course, then charioted them back to their hotel in fine rugby fashion.

So many things about that 24 hours that I will personally remember forever ( I didn’t even go into the special Comcast box I got that day, which caused a panic attack of historic proportions by refusing to work.  Thank goodness another rugger by the name of Keith Warde drove 20 miles at 12 midnight to save the day!) But I do like to think that during the World Cup, or when someone asks him to tell one of his rugby stories, that this night, where it was all about the rugby – where the who, where and when didn’t matter – comes to his mind as it does mine.

Til next time folks.  Keep on rucking,
Steve Braunstein

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