The tournament was hosted by my team, the mighty Gotham Knights RFC of New York City. A lot of B roll footage is from that tournament, and you can see us in our yellow-and-blue jerseys running around with that silly white ball kicking up dust across the abominable rugby pitches on Randall’s Island. Oh, it was hot that weekend, and it was still only spring!
Everything the Fog and Convict players say about their teams, their teammates, their own experiences, the ideals of the sport itself, and the way the game is coached and played is mirrored absolutely equally among all teams around the world.
UPDATE: The game will be at Wassening Park in Bloomfield, NJ, at 1 p.m. on 10/27. See gothamrfc.org for directions.
Following their defeat of Fordham University’s Old Maroon RFC 41-5 on Saturday October 20, 2007, the Gotham Knights will advance to the the final round of the New York Metropolitan Rugby Union Division III playoffs this coming Saturday.
This is unprecedented for a gay rugby team in New York, or rather, a gay team that plays rugby. But since we’ve got a few straight guys on board, we can’t really say that, so we say “predominantly gay.” Which is fine by me, because even that is unprecedented. The win last weekend also makes us the first such team to play in the Northeast Rugby Union championship tournament in he spring, the first stage of the USA Rugby national championship playoffs.
And, wouldn’t you know it, this happens during a season I happen not to be playing. (Maybe these two things are not unrelated…)
The championship game will be played at Brookdale Park in Montclair, NJ. I won’t be there, because I’ll be cleaning house for my husband’s birthday party. But I will be on pins and needles waiting for that email from someone’s Blackberry. Stay tuned.
Let them be famous and worlds apart from me. Let them be extraordinary, in my mind, to a degree only I can know. And let them live their real lives without me. They are the performers. I am the audience. Let us not break this sacred boundary.
So it is a particular irony that my first interaction with Broadway phenom Idina Menzel was not only a complete fiction, but also an unfortunate and unpleasant experience involving the NYPD that I hope never to repeat again in my life.
I have never seen Wicked, but I own the soundtrack. I saw the movie version of Rent. Didn’t care for it. A lot of people whining about the consequences of the bad decisions they’ve made, I think. But I guess I admire Ms. Menzel, and enjoy her work. A fan? Eh… not really. She was the headline performer at last night’s annual NYC Gay Pride pier dance, where I was a volunteer. And truth be told, I was more looking forward to the fireworks than her techno remix of “Defying Gravity,” but after seeing her sound check earlier in the day, I could admit to having a mild curiosity to see her performance.
Once again, my rugby teammates and I were bartending for the slick, gyrating masses of manflesh that make up the pier dance. On my way to the volunteer port-a-johns toward the end of the night, I ran into a crowd behind the main stage area, just a few tents down from ours. I tried to skirt around the edge of the crowd near the fence, and someone from behind me grabbed my arm just above the elbow and yanked me violently backward. I assumed it was just someone telling me that I couldn’t go past that point for some reason, so I shook off the hand and stepped backward, with my hands out, trying to see what was going on. “Whoa! OK. No trouble. I can wait.”
“What do you want to do with him?” I heard someone say.
I had my volunteer shirt on, and my credentials on me. Whatever was happening, I assumed I could just wait it out. At least they knew I belonged there.
But suddenly I was aware that I was being surrounded.
“He’s out of here,” said someone else.
Two police officers snapped to attention and guided me away by the arms. They marched me past my team’s tent. A few of them saw me being led away, but the cops wouldn’t let me stop to tell anyone what was happening. They were not rough, but they were direct and very clear about me moving along. I still had no idea what had just happened. And I still had to piss like a racehorse. So I asked them to explain.
“The head of security saw you,” said one of them.
“Saw me?” I said. “I don’t even know what it is that I’ve done. Can you at least explain to me what’s happening?”
“He saw you go right for the talent,” said the other one.
There had been volunteers and security folk and cops all around — as there had been all over the pier all night long — and there was no one turning people away or stopping anyone from passing. A slip in security allowed me unwittingly too close for comfort, and now it looked like someone was overcompensating for his error by making a spectacle of kicking me out. Maybe the security folks were starstruck, themselves.
“OK,” I said. “I’m not going to try arguing. Clearly I’m out of here no matter what. But I have to tell you, I was just walking to the bathroom. I swear I didn’t even know she was there. I didn’t even see her. I don’t understand how this is even happening.”
One of the officers, perhaps beginning to believe me, explained to me that it didn’t matter if I had done something wrong or not. The head of security wanted me out of there, so they were obligated to take me out of there. End of story.
“You’re seriously telling me that I need to be escorted out of here like this?” I said. “I need to completely leave the pier?”
Yes. I did.
They walked me to the front gate. They allowed me to get my bag from the volunteer bag check. They made a guard cut off my wristband and said that I was not to be admitted back in. The whole thing was very humiliating and confusing. So I walked off down 14th street, ripped off my bar crew badge, stripped off my volunteer t-shirt and dropped it into a trash can.
I won’t speak ill of Heritage of Pride as a whole. I know they’re very careful and serious about safety. And they do a phenomenal job of organizing and coordinating the volunteers. But clearly some of the volunteers can be a little overzealous. I felt a lot better after speaking the next day to the volunteer coordinator, a very nice man, who asked me a lot of good questions and made sure he got the story straight before he apologizing and saying it shouldn’t have happened. He was surprised that there was no first warning. My first indication that I was in the wrong place was being yanked out my skin.
I never even laid eyes on Ms. Menzel, let alone a hand. I didn’t even get a chance to see who this security guy was. And perhaps the worst part of it is I still had to pee. Badly. So I high-tailed it to a bar nearby and answered nature’s subtle call. I couldn’t make out Ms. Menzel’s voice from across the West Side Highway, but the fireworks were not half bad. Then I met my boyfriend and got roaring drunk.
When a couple of streakers from the Convicts section tried to cross the field, the hosts were not amused. Says McCarthy: “Americans don’t really get streaking at sports events — it’s considered an English peculiarity, like bad plumbing,” and the incident brought a swift public address announcement from arena officials threatening to stop the match if there was a repetition.
I missed this incident, but I heard from many people afterward about the streakers at half-time during the final San Francisco Fog vs. Sydney Convicts match on Sunday, May 29. These may have been the same guys who ran naked somersaults across the stage during the kangaroo court at the closing night party at Webster Hall later that night. If so, I’m sorry I missed half time.
I would like to state for the record that the source of the displeasure was not an entity affiliated with the hosts of the tournament, my rugby team. No, we know how to appreciate a well-placed naked man in rugby boots. The announcement came rather from a joyless official on the loudspeaker at Icahn Stadium, which adjoined the pitch where the match was being played, and which was hosting a high school or junior high track meet at the time. I guess the guy on the mic threatened to call the police, with all the humor of a 17th century Puritan preacher and all the authority of your meanest uncle.
Yes, with naked men and women dripping from billboards up and down Manhattan and bullets and explosions all day long on television, heaven forbid we should allow people to see a fun, non-sexual and completely harmless expression of nudity in real life. This shame of the human body in America is freakish.
The Sydney Convicts Rugby Football Club took top honors on May 28 at the 2006 Bingham Cup hosted this year in New York City. Having traveled half-way around the world from Australia to compete, the Convicts’ victory against the San Francisco Fog in the finals closed out the international gay rugby tournament held in honor of United Flight 93 hero Mark Bingham.
Alice Hoagland, mother of United Flight 93 hero and gay rugby player Mark Bingham, presented the grand prize on Randall’s Island, the site of the tournament. More than 700 rugby players from teams around the world competed in 80 matches. Ms. Hoagland passed up screenings of United 93 at the Cannes Film Festival to attend the tournament. Instead, she presented the Cup named after her son to the winning team on Sunday. Players from teams all over the USA and from Canada, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Holland, and Australia, flew in for the tournament.
In addition to the presentation of the Cup, Boston Ironsides won the second division competition with a 3-0 overtime victory against the Dallas Diablos to take home the Bingham Bowl. The Sydney Convicts also won the third division by defeating a Worldwide Barbarians team by 26-7 to take home the Bingham Plate. In the first ever Bingham Cup women’s rugby division, top honors went to the aptly named team from New York Rugby Club named “I Love Kuch,” who bested the Scottsdale Lady Blues and a composite team to take the newly designated prize.
The Bingham Cup is the biennial international rugby competition named after Mark Bingham a hero of United Flight 93 on September 11, 2001. Bingham played for gay & bisexual rugby team the San Francisco Fog RFC after leading UC Berkeley to national championships. The Bingham Cup was first held in San Francisco in 2002 and in London in 2004. The 2006 Bingham Cup was hosted by the Gotham Knights Rugby Football Club, a team Bingham was helping to found in 2001 before his untimely passing, and proceeds will benefit both college scholarships via the Mark Bingham Leadership Fund and the United 93 Memorial Fund.
For more information about the Bingham Cup, participating teams and match results go to www.binghamcup.com.
Associated Press coverage of the tournament was picked up across the country in mostly smaller daily papers. We’ve been covered in the gay press and internationally, notably in Australia, the UK and South Africa. We’ve also had some strange appearances, such as on Chinese and Indian television.
Other appearances: Time Out New York New York Channel 9 MSNBC CNN SI Sports Illustrated Live WNBC LOGO YES Network Boston Herald at least one TV station in mainland China at least one TV station in India Fort Worth Star Telegram Arizona Republic Calgary Sun Hamilton Spectator (Ontario) The Independent (South Africa) Mail & Guardian (Johannesburg, S.A.) The Trentonian (New Jersey) Charleston Gazette San Diego Union Tribune WKNG Channel 6, (Orlando, FL) Times Leader (Wilkes Barre, PA) Findlaw Auburn Citizen (New York) Guelph Mercury (Canada) Standard Speaker (Pennsylvania) Edge (Boston) The State (South Carolina) Pioneer Press (St. Paul, MN) Monterey County Herald (CA) NEPA News (PA) Kentucky.com Kansas.com Sydney Star Observer (Australia) UK Gay News (London) PM Entertainment (Long Island) New York Blade Southern Voice (Atlanta) Houston Voice Southern Voice (Florida) Washington Blade Gay Outdoors 365Gay.com OutUK (London) Gaysports