If there's any city in the world to spend just 12 hours in, Los Angeles is right up there. The urban sprawl can be intimidating, but with limited time we went straight to the beach ... Venice Beach to be precise. It was going to be a Gilly type of weekend, so naturally we had to find ourselves a pub or two that served this Legendary Lager.
|"Are You Gilsperienced?" - Jimi Hendrix
Our server Slater at the Whaler was kind enough to give us good tasting notes before we got our first pitcher, and man ... there's just something about this Legendary Lager that hits just right. Crisp, bold, legendary.
Flash forward 4 hours later ...Tyler's shoulders are completely sunburned, and we are in the Uber to SoFi stadium. The fact that we were blessed to be the first fans to witness live sport in this stadium was truly remarkable. I'm not sure why, but I feel like I'll be an 80 year old man telling anyone who will listen about (cue the old man voice ...) "back in '21 .... my friend Tyler and I headed to LA to watch those Legendary Giltinis christen SoFi stadium ... you know they used to call is SoFi back then ?! ..."
There's just something about the way it's designed that makes your jaw drop.
|Once you enter you can see that most of the arena is dug out of the earth. It's half bowl half stadium & my oh my the sightlines!
Once we got in, we had no choice but to get our hands on some Gilly merch. The all white bucket hat will be a staple of my summer attire, and we can't thank the Gilly's Girls enough. They ramped up the energy in the stadium throughout the night, and brought the true passion needed to properly rep the brand.
|A lot going on here ...., but the Gilly's Girls are simply the best
They rugby was great, and if the rugby traditionalists are going to whinge about the football lines, they can eat it. For all the shit that Gilly has copped from the American rugby audience since he purchased the two franchises, let's remember this ....
- He's creating access for new rugby fans. Ticket giveaways and the lure of enjoying a match in places like the Coliseum and Sofi create buzz. Random people end up at the games who would have never thought to if they weren't prompted (just listen to the audio podcast, we interviewed at least 4 different groups of people who were enjoying their first ever rugby match).
- He's bringing in legit overseas talent. This is the part where some people would prefer to see more Americans play. But the high bar of talent helps raise the overall level of play, and a rising tide lifts all boats (oh and Sir William Meakes is an absolute gun).
- He's bankrolling multiple academy sides in L.A. & Austin. I would bet my money that both of these cities produce numerous new eagles over the next decade. The coaches that have come from Australia will help speed up the development of American coaches in L.A. and Austin. It's the rapidity of developing grassroots rugby in these areas that excites me.
- When the USA secure the 2031 Rugby World Cup hosting bid (yes that's right I said WHEN not IF), ol' Gilly will be a major reason why it happened. So you whingers can thank him then!
Back to the boots on the ground adventure .... How could we not mention our legendary halftime interview with Ben Affleck's white whale .... the one and only Nivine Jay. The selfie below tells it all!
|An interview with Giltinis stadium host Nivine Jay was a memory that will live in RP infamy
Even though the score line at the final whistle made it look close, it was all Giltinis all night. The Gilly Experience was truly one to remember. Tyler and I ended up walking back from SoFi to LAX (yes, it was a dumb idea and took way too long so eventually we had to jog ... which wasn't pleasant), and got to our gate just in time to hop on the flight back to Denver. Special thanks to Tyler Grant for saying yes to dumb ideas!
Next stop on the Rugby PickEm Boots on the Ground tour of 2021 is the Texas Cup on June 5th. Can Houston snatch back the cup at home? Will Rugby PickEm regular caller (720-259-8825) Frankie Ruggs from Houston be in attendance? Will Gilly himself make an appearance? Stay tuned.