New York Rugby And Joe
‘New York Rugby Club’, ‘and we are playing at a tournament in Christchurch’, ‘Ali’, my friend replied. Our official rugby playing days behind us, but still reasonably fit, I inquire ‘who for’? when Ali asked if I felt like a game. A past New York Rugby Club coach and present mentor, ‘Geoff’,’ a New Zealander with US citizenship organised an oldies team to tour NZ on an exclusive world tour. However several members of the team named, ‘New York Vintage Whines’, apparently softened when they researched NZ rugby players and pulled out of the tour. Thus the invitation of a few NZers to the squad, including Ali and I and our wives. Given the broken bones, other injuries and serious hangovers sustained during our more youthful playing days, our wives were rather dubious and or bemused at the concept. None the less they seized the opportunity over the following thirteen years to share and enjoy fantastic holidays with good folk from the world over, some of which have become good friends.
Much credit must go to Geoff and his wife, a high ranking US sports official for organizing very busy people and keeping us together. Not an easy task when most of us are head strong individualists. Later during the thirteen years a few players broke off, perhaps because of the NZers, but they were always replaced by equally as good folk.
Players and their wives are from all walks of life. One, an Irishman destined to be, and training as a priest, left Ireland as a young man to complete his training in New York. Being born with a fetish for rugby union, Joe arrived with a pair of rugby boots with layered leather tags, nailed not glued. Old maybe as Joe himself, they are with him still. Theology and priesthood appeared to falter somewhat in the much more liberal NY, when he befriended a pretty girl, married and had a large family. It has not really been established just in what order those events happened. Joe, apparently was happy to become a father one way or the other.
On a visit to New York City, Ali, myself and our wives along with Joe were squeezed into his little Nissan car on a tour taking us through Harlem when he decided to stop and get directions from a bunch of locals gathered in a dodgy part of town. Humor very flat and obviously in no need of a little Nissan car, or the meager possessions of four middle aged New Zealanders and an Irishman, they let us go without directions. Still disorientated Joe spied two police cars on the other side of a very busy multi lane highway as we were merging into it. Seeing an opportunity he ran the gauntlet through heavy and opposing traffic, bounced up and over a curbing to pull up between two desperately fleeing policemen. Unable to fit other wise, our bodies were partially protruding from four opened windows of the little Nissan, and being rather shook up we must have been quite a sight to the two approaching police, one grappling with the strap on his holster. Content realizing we were neither a threat or drunk, albeit a bit eccentric, we were given directions with a wry smile. Joe proceeded on, arm waving out of the window at points of interest through honking traffic indicating all past events were quite normal and part of his daily routine.
Inquisitiveness would lead a non drinking and gentleman Joe on walks exploring new venues while his younger team mates are socializing after a match. As on the field, in Harlem or frightening policemen, his faith and honesty are apparent even in the darker parts of town. With a simple pub map in hand, two prostitutes suggest he may not be quite where he thinks, so once again he asks for directions.