Core Samples |

Core Samples

Coming to the conclusion this past Friday that, barring any unseen intervening variables, yet another summer would pass without the stalking of a rugby sideline with beverage in hand, I began to miss Park City’s annual Challenge Cup Tournament more than ever. How long has it been now, 10 years? Or does it just seem that long?

Somehow, the Fourth of July gathering at the City Pitch just doesn’t seem to satisfy my rugby "jones" anymore. I’ve become one of "them." You know the type: never knowing who’s playing who, or the score, and, with no need to roam the touchline following the ball, continually jawing with mates who have acquired a similar affliction.

So that set me to moping around a bit. Something is always happening to the past that seldom sits well with the portly gray dude. But, it should be remembered, nostalgia has always carried a comforting component hereabouts. It seems to say, "There was a time and what a time it was."

Then came news that a long-time friend, if someone you never actually met can be a friend, had chosen to check out of the current space-time of his own accord. The relationship I had with David Foster Wallace centered on the fact that he wrote books and I bought them or talked my local librarian into buying them.

Wallace, whose brilliantly witty and maniacal prose had raised the bar in postmodern literature over recent times, decided, for whatever reason, to string himself up. Well, that was his call and, if memory serves, he sort of warned us about it. When his groundbreaking novel "Infinite Jest" came out, he mentioned in an interview that he wanted "to do something sad."

Well Dave, you did it! Hopefully, wherever you ended up, there is a rugby club with whom to involve yourself. Ruggers have a way of being as zany and creative and exuberant as you. They too have an avant-garde sensibility and relentless powers of observation. To quote an oft-used rugby slogan, we’ll always be "with you," mate.

Speaking of rugby, about the time I had completed a small shrine of Wallace paperbacks, I received one email which reminded me of another. Park City Mucker co-founder Corky Foster had taken the time to alert "Alamo Dave" Mueller, "Porky" Joe Onn and me that a new rugby movie with a huge local storyline was coming out.

"Forever Strong" involves itself with the coming-of-age story of a troubled youth and his growth process once he becomes part of Salt Lake City’s legendary and highly successful Highland High School rugby program. As I understand it, Highland’s longtime coach Larry Gelwix, replete with his "earnest, hard-edged dorkiness," as the review in "" puts it, is also a big part of the film as he would have to be.

Gelwix, as Corky reminded us, played for the Salt Lake City side in the now-mythical exhibition match in Park City over the Labor Day Weekend of 1970 when, arguably, the sport was first introduced to the old mining camp. Continued research in the archives of The Park Record has failed to show that the sport now known as rugby had raised its elegant head previously, hereabouts.

The online review also notes that "Forever Strong" is "centered on some very authentic rugby sequences and the spiritual heart of the film, the Haka." The Haka, a traditional dance form of the Maori of New Zealand, has long been used by the New Zealand All Blacks national team and, due to the wide expanse of Polynesian culture, by many other rugby sides around the world.

With the permission of Utah’s Maori community, Highland has performed the Haka ritual for more than 30 years, a fact filmmaker and BYU grad Ryan Little chose to use both actually and metaphorically as part and parcel to the healing process of the young man in question. The film, shot in Utah County, opens September 26.

The other email arrived earlier in the day from the Park City Haggis mailing list with a link to an article from the "USA Rugby" Web site which announced that some rather top-shelf rugby is scheduled for Utah later this fall. It seems the national governing body for the sport has selected the new Real Salt Lake soccer stadium in Sandy as the host site when teams from New Zealand, Uruguay, and the United States square off in a doubleheader on Saturday, November 8.

The first match, between a U.S. Select XV Team and the New Zealand Heartland side, is scheduled for a 1:15 p.m. kickoff. The main event of day, an international test between the United States and Uruguay national teams, gets underway at 4 p.m.

Although absolutely nothing can replace the joy that came almost weekly to Mucker fans back in the day as they wandered sidelines cheering on their neighborhood rugby heroes (and heroines), this announcement is pretty cool.

And come to think of it, hanging out with brother McGee during the week he was in town was a lot like a rugby sideline, what with all the eccentrics coming out of the woodwork to share his presence and all. Movies, matches and McGee quite the September song.

Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and a free-lance writer with a background in commercial and community radio, among other pursuits. He has been a columnist and feature writer for various Park City publications going back to 1973.

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