Core Samples |

Core Samples

There was this note written by Mark Twain back in the day that stated that "the report of my death was an exaggeration." The same can be said about the Park City Rugby Football Club. It would have been most easy to believe the rumor of the famed local side’s passing, however, what with only one home match this past season and hardly ever more than a half-dozen ruggers showing up for practice in recent times. I officially held a ceremony down at Stormin’ Norman Hall’s tree in City Park during the historic time-frame of the now-gone Challenge Cup Rugby Tournament and, with a couple of cans of Guinness to share with Norm, formally installed the Muckers onto the Endangered Species list. But unless the United States Fish and Wildlife Service pulls them off the list and removes protection, the next few months might very well see this particular sub-genre of "wildlife" taken off life support. How sweet it would be to once again live in a Western ski town where rugby is a transcendent part of the community. The fault lies squarely at the door of the Muckers, of course. They spoiled us. We became jaded. We got so used to hitchin’ our athletic identity to the fortunes of the local lads as they paraded up and down the pitch each summer Saturday, that once the opportunity was withdrawn, we became a bit ornery. Where we once cheered we now whined. "What have you done for us lately?" became the new anthem. Well, rugger fans, there appears to be light at the end of the scrum. There has been a bonding, a merger of immense proportions, a marriage made in, if not heaven, at least limbo. Over the past few weeks, the Muckers have joined forces with their longest and most bitter rival, the Haggis Rugby Club – defending Division-2 National Champions — and reorganized under the name the Park City Rugby Football Club. The actual roles the names "Haggis" and "Muckers" will play once the 2006 season gets underway are still being worked out in the "loose rucks" they call meetings but all that, to the fans anyway, is sidebar. What’s inside the touchlines to we disenfranchised rugby buffs is that Park City will once again boast a side it can call its own. The town will have a team. What this all means is that the answer to the age-old musical question is, yes the circle will be unbroken. The journey of the Haggis, originally the Dead Goat Touring Side after it broke-off from the Muckers back in the early ’70s, has come full circle now that it is reunited with the club from whence it came. This also gives the term "rugby union" a whole new connotation. On the one hand you have the Haggis, about as successful a rugby side as you can find winning matches on the pitch, and on the other, the PCRFC, about as successful as a rugby side as you can find winning its way into the collective heart of the community. The Haggis went looking for a little "love" and the Muckers went looking for long-term survival. With this merger, both searches appear, at least at the onset, to have been fruitful. It won’t take local fans long to return to the fold and get onboard. They haven’t had a whole lot to cheer about of late. The Haggis, long established in the new-talent supply pipelines that are the University of Utah and Salt Lake City’s Highland High School — the most outstanding high school rugby program in the United States — is just what the doctor ordered for Park City with its dwindling player base. The Muckers, historically anyway, have all the love they need if only they had a team. Longtime Mucker Jack Walzer is the newly elected president of the now-combined club and his eyes glow and his smile spreads as he talks of bringing back the old fans and creating new ones. With new fields going in out at the Quinn’s Junction recreation complex and a season that, like the old days, would begin in the spring and end in the fall, he sees a huge potential for the club. There are visions of "old-boys" returning to the fray and the reincarnation of the "Sam English Cup" and the nurturing of now-lost traditions and cultural ritual. There is talk of reinstituting the "Park City Challenge Cup" tournament that so defined September in these mountains. Although early and late season home matches would be held at the lower elevations of Salt Lake City, the heart-of-summer would once again belong to those wild and crazy communal gatherings at City Park. For years, the pitch at the park was ground zero for the instigation of interpersonal relationships in this town. Friends you make at rugby matches somehow stick to your ribs. Many are the long-time mates I see nowhere else. How would it be to once again have on constant display that most intriguing and intellectually satisfying spectator sport of rugby within the highly friendly confines of the local rugby pitch. And now that both sides that regularly do battle each Fourth of July, namely the Muckers and the Haggis, are of one heart and mind and uniform and forward pack and wing and team name, what is to be done ruggerwise upon each Independence Day following the parade? Well, the newly installed powers that be figure they could raise the bar even further and feature a match between the home side and a truly premiere rugby club one with all kinds of trash talkin’ implications, both regionally and nationally. Another great upside to having a strong Park City Rugby Football Club both on and off the pitch is that, with the addition of the new fields out at Quinn’s Junction, matches between international sides could possibly be hosted. Whoda thunkit? Stopping in at the "No Name Saloon" the other night I conducted a quick survey among a quorum of the few long-time Muckers present. They all thought it was a great idea, even though it was the hated Haggis that was now in the fold. If it meant the Muckers would survive as a quality club and side for the long haul, then all was well. In rugby, the expression "with you" means you are in support of a teammate attacking the opposition – that you are in position to take a pass. For many a year the Muckers were "with" Park City and Park City was "with" the Muckers. It could well be that those great days are about to return and the team and town will be "with" each other again.

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