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On Rugby, Peachtree Schnapps, Navy Football and Sparky, Cont.

So on Saturday, I went to Annapolis for Navy-ECU. (Programming note: hoping to line up future tailgates with rugby players. Any rugby players out there going to local college football tailgates? Lemme know. I promise not to eat all of your pretzels.) Team Beer was set up directly next to the Class of '69 tent; "Class of 69 and a half," they called themselves. Many of them used to play serious amateur rugby; now, they play two or three times a year and go to each other's weddings and reunions and call themselves "just a bunch of old guys."

Maybe this kind of thing happens every weekend at college football tailgates, but here's what happened around 4:15 on Saturday. The leaders of Team Beer called for silence by screaming "Bring it in Crabss, bring it in." One Crab was the guest of honor: Sparky, a stocky little fire hydrant who also happens to be the commander of the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion out of Camp Lejeune, which was scheduled to leave for Iraq yesterday. That'll be the fourth time to Iraq for Sparky. He used to coach the sprint football and rugby teams at Navy, which is how he latched on with the Crabss.

(Let me note that the youngest of Sparky's five children is named Olivia, the fifth-most popular girls' name in the country last year, and the second-most popular girls' name in D.C. Sort of shocking, right?)

So anyhow, some ECU kids around the corner were wearing elaborate pirate hats and playing this game called "cornhole," which seemed like a perfectly appropriate tailgating activity to me, and the Crabss were presenting Lt. Col. Renforth with a proclamation and a framed U.S. flag that had flown over the Capitol Building.

"Here, give me your beer," David Metrinko said to Sparky before the presentation.

"There isn't a finer American, Sparky, as far as we're concerned," said John Murphy, Team Beer's founder.

"Wow," Sparky said after it was all over. "That hurt."

It had been raining, and the melba toast was soggy and the purple/white cheese spread looked even worse than it had at the beginning of the afternoon. ("I ain't never seen any cheese that looked like that before," one woman said, accurately.)

I grabbed Sparky for a minute. It's considered very bad form to equate sports and war--yeah, Kellen Winslow, we remember--but Sparky went for the analogy, big-time.

"These guys are as close to being my brothers as what I have in the Marine Corps," he said. "It comes from the blood and sweat on the rugby field, as well as what happens out here. It's the bond you have with your brother, it's the fraternity that can't be replicated anywhere else but the Marine Corps....The same emotions I had saying goodbye to my family, I feel today. The exact same emotions."

Then some shirtless ECU fans came by screaming "11-point dogs, 11-point dogs" (the Pirates, it turned out, didn't cover), and many of the Crabss went into the game, and others stayed out in the parking lot to drink some more beer.

(There were also many more impassioned discussions about rugby and about Sparky, and a few tears, plus a lot of unprintable jokes and many usages of the word "lad," but I'm not sure how well it all translates four days later. Suffice it to say that the Crabss love the guy, a lot.)

(Later, I confessed to John Murphy's wife that the Bog is sort of a humor-type look at local sports news, and that I wasn't sure where this would fit in exactly, especially in the first week, but that I would try to write up a short little item about Sparky.

"How do you turn Sparky into a short little item?" she asked.

John Murphy thought about this. "Well, he is," John Murphy pointed out.")

By Dan Steinberg  |  September 6, 2006; 9:32 AM ET
Categories:  Rugby  
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Dan, great to see coverage of the CRABSS, Sparky and Murph. These guys are what's right with sports. Pro football has lost any sense of this spirit. Rugby players do it for the game and the people. Sparky said it, ruggers are a close-knit group.

Posted by: Guy Enderle | September 6, 2006 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Come out to Washington DC Rugby games, most saturday's. The tailgating is known to be good, esp during the kids games. Always someone manning the grill!!

Posted by: Chris | September 6, 2006 2:00 PM | Report abuse


Welcome to the DC blogosphere, if you are looking for an interesting rugby team to party with and write about, please consider West Potomac RFC. We are the second oldest club in DC (founded in 1963), we are sponsored by Pabst Blue Ribbon, and we are the hardest partying team in the DC Metro area.

I'm not familiar with the CRABSS, but I dare say that we would probably like schedule a game with them for our Old Boys side.


Past Captain
West Potomac RFC

Posted by: | September 6, 2006 2:22 PM | Report abuse

I can testif.y, Chris is officially WRFC's grillmaster!

Posted by: Ed | September 6, 2006 3:34 PM | Report abuse

There are some excellent youth programs in Washington DC, assisted by some of the Men's Clubs. These include DC Youth Rugby and Hyde Charter School both of which are having difficulty finding a venue for their athletic programs due to field constraints in the DC area. Perhaps an article on their successful programs and how they are keeping kids out of trouble would be appropriate. Seems more interesting than commentary on some old guys drinking schnapps.

Posted by: Publius | September 6, 2006 3:41 PM | Report abuse


Even without the mention of my particular club, Washington RFC, I can appreciate your cover of the sport. Thank you much.


Posted by: -T- | September 6, 2006 3:51 PM | Report abuse

I'm chuffed to read that you have discovered the rugby community and our abilty to party. Not restricted to tailgating I might add, come on tour with us to one of our away games, look out Charlotte NC :) In fact check out our home bar The Capitol Lounge after any of our home games, a warm welcome is always extended to any rugby fans.

Steve Studley (A real name)
Hooker (A real position)
Washington Rugby Football Club (A REAL rugby club :)

Posted by: Steve Studley | September 6, 2006 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Two articles on rugby in a row. It does not get any better than that.


Posted by: Will Hallahan | September 6, 2006 4:42 PM | Report abuse


It was great having you join us this weekend, you were the high point of the Skins' game on Thursday. Sparky is away and
ensuring our freedom.
I will pass your blog around to the lads, you should be hearing from them soon. You'll find that rugby people
really share a gusto for life that alot people seem to have lost.
As for KJ from West Potomac the CRABSS are
Old Boys from Island, Severn, Naval Academy, and Pax River. So we have probably played in the past, on the Old Boy subject,
I have to ask if "Dirt" and "Older than Dirt" are still around.
As for Steve from Washington RFC, I'll be
sure to say "Hi" to Brian Donnelly for you,
he's on the CRABSS roster too.

Thanks again,

Posted by: Murph | September 6, 2006 8:00 PM | Report abuse

Hey Dan,

great stuff.

But rugby is not all about partying.

Did you know that the MARFU (Mid-Atlantic Rugby Football Union) All Stars are current National All Stars Champs? We have taken out team from ranking at the bottom in the national rankings to number one in five short years.

And don't forget, it is one of the few sports left where fathers can line up in the same team, or indeed against, the next generation, with ruggers 50 and over playing against younguns.

This weekend will see the Wild Geese, a motley group of gents of varying advanced ages, playing the American University team. The Geese will be hoping to keep it in tight, while the AU fellas will be sending the ball wide, no doubt.

Keep it up!

Coach Cam

Posted by: Cam | September 6, 2006 9:16 PM | Report abuse

Hey Steve, what is it that makes Washington RFC a REAL rugby club? Finishing DEAD LAST in the Super League?

Posted by: PAC Rugby | September 7, 2006 12:14 AM | Report abuse

Shame that a nameless third sider from the respected PAC club would take a cheap shot at WRFC on a blog full of expressions of camaraderie about a sport we ALL appreciate, regardless of where we land in the standings!
We'll see you in two weeks mate, give us a name and we'll give you the boots.

Posted by: Kevin Tifft | September 7, 2006 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Oh yeah and I seemed to forget to mention that there are rivalries in our sport. Pity the nameless guy from PAC couldn't put that aside for one minute whilst everyone got an open forum for a little plug for their own teams and sport.

Let me see: Hyde, DC Youth, CRABBS, MARFU All stars, Wild Geese, AU, Navy, West Potamac and Navy all manage to get thier teams a mention one way or another without resorting to anonymous trash talk.

And people wonder why rugby has a "meathead" rap in this country??

Posted by: Steve Studley | September 7, 2006 10:17 AM | Report abuse

With comments like this, you gotta give rugby some time on the site. Crazyness. Gotta love a sport where each team has both a tight and a loose head! Come see the real thing this Saturday, no trash talking just real sport played the right way..


Posted by: Dan | September 7, 2006 10:55 AM | Report abuse

The beauty of rugby is that you spend your afternoon trying to destroy the oppo, but once the game ends all is forgiven and you buy each other a few drinks in the bar. Very few sports in the world maintain such noble conduct. It's a mutual respect for each other, which is absolutely vital to rugby's success.

Posted by: Ed | September 7, 2006 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Rugby is the greatest and most under-appreciated game in the United States.

I am gratified to see that someone actually took some time to write about it.

In addition to the clubs already mentioned, please don't forget about the Rappahannock Rugby Football Club ( the Fredricksburg/Spotsylvania County area, as well as the DC Furies women's team.

I am a latecomer to rugby, having discovered it at age 40. My busted up knees keep me from being able to play, but it doesn't stop me from getting out to WRFC, PAC, and NoVa games.

Rugby rocks. There is nothing else like it in the world of sports.

Posted by: Busted Up Bill | September 7, 2006 11:14 AM | Report abuse


Great to see some rugby coverage. Thanks. I'm with Washington Rugby (WRFC) and it would be great to have you out to our matches. Your support is appreciated, and for the readers out there we also need support in helping to find a permanent location in the city where we can play this great sport. It's unfair that such an organized bunch of serious teams cannot get a pitch to play and practice at in their own hometown. Please help out and support us.

Posted by: Anthony Harley | September 7, 2006 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Having played rugby in the DC area at both the college and men's level I can't tell you how awesome it is to finally read an article highlighting the best parts of the finest game in the world. You've barely touched the tip of the iceberg that is USA Rugby, let alone the DC area rugby community. Please keep reporting on your exploration of this great sport, more people should know how truly great this sport is. Naturally, the Washington Rugby Football (WRFC) humbly extends our sidelines and barstools for your information gathering needs.


Posted by: Ian | September 7, 2006 12:53 PM | Report abuse


Great Stuff! Good to see rugby players getting a forum to speak up. Rugby is about to take off in DC! Washington RFC is leading the way by supporting youth rugby. Hyde Rugby Team and their story is an inspiration. Washington Youth Rugby features the next generation of success stories...on and off the field. Check us


Posted by: Brian | September 7, 2006 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Hey I love the rugby coverage! Although you didn't get into too much of it, sounds like you had a great time and that is what matters! You should come out and check out some more of our (Washington RFC's) rugby games & shenannigans. It would be great to show you what we're all about!


Posted by: Joe Boswell | September 7, 2006 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Welcome to Rugby!

You've opened yourself to a whole new world and I can guarentee you will enjoy it.

Great Game, Great people, Great Times!

Look forward to seeing more about rugby.


Posted by: Dan | September 7, 2006 2:14 PM | Report abuse

it was great to hoist a few at the Navy game last weekend with you. The comraderie of this wonderful game is known only to those who play it. Being an AU Rugby grad/Washington Irish rugby grad/ Kent Island Rugby grad & finally player coach of one the greatest group of lads in the area,CRABSS, I can say with great pride that I am a rugby player.
God Bless our boys and girls out there in harms way.
Ruck on everyone!!

Posted by: Little Joe | September 7, 2006 2:52 PM | Report abuse

LJ, thanks for stopping by, good times on Saturday, but if you think about it again I'm sure you'll remember that we did not, in fact, "hoist a few" last weekend. Please bear in mind that my editor sometimes reads this, that technically I was on the clock on Saturday, etc.

Rugby people in general, great to hear from you all. My out-and-about time is limited, so if I had to follow just one rugby team around, is there any dominant and/or most entertaining local program?

Posted by: Dan Steinberg | September 7, 2006 3:24 PM | Report abuse

My advice would be to spend the season checking out all the teams.
As a lifelong member of WRFC, I hesitatingly acknowledge that the current top 15 man team is PAC. We are bitter rivals, both competing in the Rugby Super League and they currently have the upper hat is off to them. We'll see how we compare after this season.
In the next division, I'll let NOVA, Marlyland Exiles, and Baltimore Chesapeake decide who is better. Both Exiles and Nova are superior 7 man rugby clubs, with the Exiles competing this year in the national tournament. In Division II, there is the Washington Irish, Frederick, West Potomac, Severn River...the list goes on. And so many women's clubs as well.
Bottom line is it is a great sport and I hearken back to a few comments before.....we beat hell out of one another on the pitch and then meet for a drink and a feed afterwards,leaving the animosity on the pitch.

Posted by: Kevin Tifft | September 7, 2006 3:37 PM | Report abuse

There's no better team for tailgating, commeraderie, and "balls-out" fun than North Bay Rugby Club up in Harford county Maryland. We have an awesome men's club, a fantastic all-girls high school team, and our U19 boys team just won the Division II championship after only their second year. This year, we're off to Ireland, 24 boys and 21 adults. Go North Bay~!

Posted by: Ellen Hickey | September 7, 2006 9:28 PM | Report abuse

Rugby is without a doubt the best team sport in the world - evidenced by what happens on the pitch between 15 teammates and off the pitch by the entire club.
In your foray into the local rugby scene keep in mind the concept of the club as a vital component of this game. Just as with the players, the clubs come in all shapes and sizes. (Just take note of how many of us have proudly declared our club affiliation.)
When someone decides to play organized basketball or soccer or softball they find a team to play for. When someone decides to play rugby they join a club and become part of something much bigger than just a team.

Posted by: Owen Malone | September 7, 2006 10:41 PM | Report abuse

Dan, good stuff, we see so little reported in the press re rugby that we spread the word--I read this and recently another piece in the Post because it was sent via a rugby email group. Indeed, we are like a family, but our family tree is more like a bush or ground cover; probably there are 3 rather than 6 degrees of separation. Although each of us and every 1 of our clubs are different, the 1 thing we all share is our love of the game; you may want to find a club playing or training near you and have a run to get the real story a la Plimpton.

As a Washington RFC Old Boy and someone who's been around the game 25 yrs, I know a lot of the guys who've posted above; and there are a number of men and women who are giving back to the game. For example, we founded Alexandria Rugby to promote and develop the game in our city; thus far, we provide coaching and equipment for the youth rugby program, we introduce rugby in PE to hundreds of Alexandria City Public School elementary and middle school students, we provide coaching and equipment to the TC Williams Rugby Club (the only public HS I know in VA that sponsors a rugby program) and just last Sat (9/2) we held a fundraiser at O'Connell's (owned by a rugby player) in Old Town, featuring our Mayor and the New Zealand Ambassador, attended by rugby folks representing at least 20 different youth, HS, collegiate and senior clubs. Thanks.

Alexandria Rugby
TC Williams Rugby Club
Alexandria Youth Rugby

Posted by: Jeff Murphy | September 8, 2006 4:28 AM | Report abuse

Real Name: Splat
Real Position: There is no life outside the front row

I think you've started something here. Aside from 1 misinformed individual everyone on this "bog" embraces the game the people who play it. Having played the game at all levels and enjoying the twilight of my career, I have always been impressed by the tight knit community we have. Yes there are intense rivalries, but at the end of the day we have 1 great bond in common-We love the sport. CRABSS is an excellent group of guys who have the experience, character, and passion for the sport. I have been at teamates weddings, christenngs for their children, and funerals for teamates and their families. This is what being a team is about.
Here's to Sparky and God Bless America.


Posted by: Splat | September 8, 2006 9:03 AM | Report abuse

Of course you were on the clock that day at Navy.Hoisting a few was our job, yours was to observe and report, which you hve done most triumphantly.. You should take the time to partake one day off the clock with some of these guys. Rugby players by profession are great storytellers. There are some great local tournaments in the area that the Post should cover and then a lot of these old guys go to Savannah Georgia for a St Pats tournament...
Road Trip Dan???
Once again great job on opening the rugby floodgates.
Front Row for Life!!
Little Joe

Posted by: Little Joe | September 10, 2006 1:30 PM | Report abuse

The D.C. area south has no less than eight men's rugby clubs:

West Potomac
Washington Irish

...and last but certainly not least, my own club, WESTERN SUBURBS RFC. We are a Division III club celebrating our 30th year playing rugby.

Stop by our website, Everyone else in the area is reading it, you might as well, too.

Our page for beginners is here:

Brother Brigham

Posted by: Brother Brigham | September 11, 2006 8:10 AM | Report abuse

Excellent stuff. Keep the yarns about craftry ruggers! You made my day. Come by and see the AU Eagles sometime. WWW.AURUGBY.COM

Posted by: LC | September 12, 2006 12:51 AM | Report abuse

Great blog. (Which by the way, as Murph pointed out was spread around, and is now being read in San Dieo CA.) I too am proud to say I am a CRABB, and I sure wish I could have been there with you all. Cheers and I'll catch you next time.

Posted by: LT D | September 12, 2006 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Keep the rugby articles coming.
American University and Catholic University play a match Saturday, Sept. 16

Posted by: Old Man Jeff | September 12, 2006 12:58 PM | Report abuse

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