Rugby as culture
As many locals with tenure can attest, the long-standing traditions of fireworks and rugby as part of Park City’s annual Fourth of July celebrations have not always been relegated to separate venues. We fans have always embraced the elegant violence inherent to our favorite sport and could never imagine commemorating Independence Day without it.
At its core, rugby, as improvisational performance art, infers a stripped down Kabuki theater, a ballet de bruise, as it were. In each moment, there is time, as T.S. Eliot wrote: " time yet for a hundred indecisions/and for a hundred visions and revisions." Its beauty lies in the fact that when the game is afoot, the match is always in flux.
It’s been a few weeks now since word began spreading among the Park City Rugby Football Club Mucker Old Boy contingent that some members of the Chamber Bureau and a few newcomers in organizational positions feel that "local" rugby is a misnomer and no longer has a place at the 4th of July festivity table.
For some reason it seems that the history lesson of how, six years ago, the Muckers, who could no longer afford to reside in Park City, merged with the Haggis of Salt Lake, who had no fan support down in the valley, must once again be assigned as homework.
Admittedly, the days when the Muckers and their watering hole, The Alamo Saloon, existed at the vortex of Park City culture, have waned. Except, of course, in the minds of the Mucker Old Boys and their founders Corky Foster and "Alamo Dave" Mueller.
Alamo recalls: "What always made it special was the local crowd. Falling on a holiday, with all the other activities in town, we had our best crowd of the year. It was always a high-spirited throng, in more ways than one.
"Probably less than 10 percent of the crowd really knew anything about the game, but they knew enough to know when to cheer. If you played rugby in those days, beyond family and a few close friends, there were usually only a handful of onlookers just about anywhere we played. The crowd at City Park was amazing.
"It was rowdier than a Chicago Blackhawks crowd, and that’s really saying something. Not only that, they never got the idea of standing back from the sidelines and that worked to our favor, too. The opponent would try to make lineout calls…hah!…not an easy thing to do with our fan base howling in a frenzy and/or some knockout ski-town girl in a skimpy halter top creating a distraction."
Corky follows suit: "A few things can be said; Park City is a natural setting for rugby events, it brings a large assortment of individuals to the mountain resort in summer. It has received national/international attention for rugby in the media over the years. The future of rugby in the U.S. and Canada is growing — women’s rugby in Canada is the fastest growing sport.
"U.S. men’s rugby continues to grow at the club level and is experiencing exponential growth in the modified game of 7’s. You would have to look long and hard to find a university or college in the U.S. that does not have a club, club/varsity or NCAA varsity rugby program. Example, BYU and Utah play at the highest university levels.
"Rugby 7’s will be introduced into the 2016 Olympics in Rio after missing since 1924 when the Olympic champions were the USA.
"Last, when you brush up on your Park City history, remembering the club founders, ‘The Originals,’ you rightly must honor the tradition established on the pitch in the late summer of 1970 by so many enlightened, thrill seeking, fate casting, gentlemen and gentle-ladies.
"At the City Park, the PC Rugby Club tradition is embedded in the hard rock that underlies the green blades of grass bent and crushed under rugby boots of past 4th of July Muckers and their faithful fans. 44 years ago, if you were ever there, you remember and smile."
In many of our minds, Park City Rugby on the Fourth of July is a thread of continuity that can’t be severed without rending the very fabric that gave the community its singularity. Especially at a time when outside forces are attempting to reshape the old mining camp to suit their megalomaniacal vision.
Rugby at City Park on Friday, July 4
1 p.m.: Haggis FC vs. United Rugby Club
2:30 p.m.: Haggis FC vs. Mana Rugby Club
4 p.m.: Old-Timers’ Match.
The Park City High School track team concluded its season on May 17 and 18 at the Class 4A state championship meet at Brigham Young University.