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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Witnessing History in Weymouth

4/3/21 in Weymouth was always on the calendar for a potential boots on the ground (BOTG) weekend trip. Got cousins in Bahstahn and they were keen to make the trip into the city to witness the first, ever, official, MLR home opener for the mythical Freejacks. Luckily for Rugby PickEm fans, long time listener, first time caller ... Paddy from Providence was also in attendance to witness New England rugby go professional ... (officially ... on home soil ... to a pretty damn great crowd, we'll get to that). 

Perfect Day for It 

Paddy parked in the back lot (right by The Hangout which is an old airplane hangar). The whole athletic complex is just north of Historical Naval Air Station South Field which was originally established in WW2 as a Navy blimp base. It was operational from 1942 to 1997 and has housed and serviced planes such as P-3 Orions and C-130 Hercules. But the history on this day was made between the lines ... although their was certainly an aerial aspect too (we'll get to that).

Paddy was kind enough to stop at the store, so a few beverages in the parking lot were in order as the cars continued to pull up, park and this fired up fanbase walked the short walk (2 mins max) into the stadium. I personally like tailgating on the fringes, but the cars kept coming and parked even further behind us. Now I was keeping my eyes and ears open for SUPER FANS, and one thing I noticed was how decked out the fans were in NEFJ gear. This front office clearly knows what their doing (they were handing out gear packs to founding members near the ticket gate). They know how to connect the merch to the players, and having an overlap with Patriot colors is only a plus. And the flannel. Can we talk about the flannel? Easily the most popular item at the game Saturday (it was cold(ish) around 48F) it is built for any occasion.
The NEFJ flannel. Built for just about any occasion.

Once the game kicked off it was all a blur. So much action, mixed with so many good fans mixed with some Baxter Brewery IPAs ... it's always the best of times that seem to pass in an instant. Both teams got on the scoreboard early, but Waaka's boot was the difference on this fateful day. Utah still brought it, and will be a force to be reckoned with all year ..., but the day belonged to the beloved Jacks.

Some of the best interviews were with complete strangers, and it was Rob from Dublin who was the real hero of the day ... sprinting out for a beer re-up in the 60th minutes. The majority of the stadium is built up and broken down at the end of the day, so there will always be challenges with logistics. I rarely waited in line for a beer or a porta-potty (I have impeccable timing, and usually am too impatient to watch kickers set up for 3 points and take their sweet time, so I usually look to sprint to the loo), and when I did, it was no longer than 2-3 minutes. 

The entire staff couldn't have been nicer, and the fans kicked it up a notch as the tries started coming in. The play of the day was Harrison Boyle releasing Dougie Fife right in front of where we were standing and enjoying the action on the north side of the field on a small hill elevated for just the right angle.

Harrison Boyle made things happen all day. Great passer.

If there was any downside to the day at all, it was the fact that I missed Boston rugby legend and good friend Dave "Buzzy" Rudzinsky. I lapped the whole field trying to find him (which if you know him and the volume he operates at, shouldn't have been hard), but alas I couldn't track him down. I don't think anyone in the greater Boston area cares more about rugby from the grassroots, to Mystic River RFC, to the Freejacks than Buzzy. The guy just bleeds rugby out of his ears. His energy is impeccable, and if you ever end up at a Freejacks game this year, he'll likely be in the crowd. 

Buzzy's Pregame Kit Selection (peep the flannel)

All in all the day gets a 10/10. The only complaint (naturally from Paddy) was the the pizza was cold, but guess what Paddy ... where you come from they call cold pizza an "Italian Pastry". I think this team is headed for a spot in the Eastern conference playoffs, but it's early days. Let's see how coach Ryan Martin handles the team in the coming weeks. I think they're contenders, but I know that this fanbase knows how to #LightTheWay. Together We RIDE!


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