Happening in Nashville
With the Bingham Cup coming to Nashville, some might be wondering what exactly rugby is, and how it’s played. What follows is my quick attempt to explain this. (Any mistakes are mine.)
I began playing rugby in June 2006, a few months after the Nashville Grizzlies formed, and I played with the team until 2013. Our inaugural season drove home a point that you’ll see expressed on a t-shirt frequently sold at rugby tournaments: Rugby: like explaining sex to a virgin. Except, in this case, the group of men to whom you’re losing your rugby V-card really want to hurt you, and not in that consensual Fifty-Shades kind of way, which, let’s be honest, suddenly looks pretty damn vanilla.
Those first few times you play in a match are like your first few lays: laughable, messy, and likely to be over a lot sooner than you’d planned. Now, as confusing as it is for newbies, rugby is even more confounding for spectators who are only familiar with American football and, maybe, soccer.
Questions you might hear on the sidelines could include:
“How long is this game?”
“Why are they running backwards?” and
“That thing they’re doing now is called a what? Man, scrum sounds dirty.”
So… According to rugby lore, the game was invented in 1823 during a soccer match, when one Brit named William Webb Ellis picked up the ball and took off running. I’ve heard more than a few guys (all of them forwards —think “more versatile linebackers”) add to the legend, claiming the lad was a bigger guy who was tired of chasing the faster players.
What is true is this: rugby occupies a middle ground between soccer and American football, being played on a similarly sized field (which is called a PITCH), with H-shaped uprights, and using a ball that looks like a bloated cousin to the pigskin. What differentiates the game? That can take a while to master as a player, but as a spectator here are a few things to keep in mind.
First and foremost, in rugby, you can only pass the ball laterally or backwards, never forward. This is probably the hardest thing to pick up for players accustomed to American football. While you can pass laterally, well, you’re still safer passing backwards because the SIR, which is what referees are called in rugby, may see the pass from a weird angle and think it has gone forward.
In such cases, your team will lose possession, and you will have to suck it up. Why? Because in rugby only the team captain can talk to the sir, who will not hesitate to yellow or red card players for illegal play or repeated instances of disrespect (if you’re like those Grizzlies who know their place around doms, then you’ll never get carded).
As in soccer, rugby uses LINE-OUTS if the ball is kicked, carried, or otherwise knocked out of bounds (also known as “goes into touch”). Unlike in soccer, these line-outs are contested, with both teams lifting at least one player whose job it is to win possession of the ball.
Also like in a soccer match, one may kick a loose ball down the pitch. While this can be effective if the kicker is fast, it is generally frowned upon and likely to get one accused of actually being a soccer player. There are also penalty kicks in rugby. These can result from high tackles or other egregious forms of play. (“Egregious?” those you who have a passing knowledge of rugby may ask. “Isn’t the whole game nothing but?” Though it looks that way, as the saying goes, “Football [soccer] is a gentlemen’s game played by hooligans, while rugby is a hooligan’s game played by gentlemen.”)
So, high tackling brings us to football. Like that American sport, rugby involves a lot of tackling. Unlike football, play does not stop at the tackle, but more on that in a moment…. Though rugby players are not allowed to wear hard pads or helmets, there are soft torso and shoulder pads and minion- or LEGO-looking monstrosities dubbed “scrum caps” to protect the ears of those who play a certain position. This padding is thin and minimal, so the most protection players afford themselves is a lowly mouth guard.
You might be wondering how much like Anastasia Steele one must be to play such a game with so little protection, but a key difference between rugby and American football, when it comes to tackling, is this: we don’t tackle our opponents with our heads.
Do players sometimes get concussions? Yes. I know someone who, at one point, got them like I got nose bleeds (honestly, the latter were so bad I’d slice OB tampons in half and stash a few in my pocket, ready to staunch the flow). But concussions from tackling in rugby happen when, for whatever reason—tackler’s fault or not—a tackle has gone wrong, not when it’s gone “right.”
In a further contrast to football, tackling someone or being tackled during a rugby match is not the end of that play, but merely the beginning of a new phase of play. Moreover, if you’re tackled and the person does not hold onto you, you can get back to your feet, step over the ball, snatch it up, and keep running. Like life, rugby is about nothing else if not commitment.
Once securely tackled, though, you will post the ball back toward your team, setting up the LINE OF SCRIMMAGE. Players from both sides have to approach that line through what is called THE GATE, which you establish based on the angle between your arms and legs when you post the ball.
Now, if your teammates and opponents get to you at the same time, they’ll set up what’s called a ruck atop you and the player(s) who tackled you. If possible, both of you need to get the f%#k out of the ruck ASAP because if you are on the ground, dear, you are the ground. That is, you can’t complain if you get cleated. Well, you can, but you’ll get no sympathy from the sir, who will be ordering you to “roll away.”
Sometimes, the tackle is messy, involving more than two people, and you’re unable to roll away, which sounds a lot better than “struggling-to-crawl-out-of-the-ruck-on-your-elbows-from-beneath-two-guys-whose-combined-weight-is-pushing-500 pounds-and-who-seem-interested-in-a-triad-all-while-trying-to-avoid-accidental-or-purposeful-cleating.” (Some of you, wistful for Folsom, might be thinking, ‘*Sounds like a Tuesday night*’, but you and me, no shade, flag different colors.)
In those times, when you can’t help but hear Bowie and Mercury sing about pressure, you’ll curl up in the fetal position, and cover your head with your arms while clenching your fists. (Trust me, when you do get cleated, that hooligan/gentleman line gets harder to reconcile.)
Other times, though, you don’t get tackled but your forward progress is halted by opposing players. Your teammates will rush up and, with you still standing, surround you and try to push you against the other team and move the ball down the pitch. This is called a MAUL. But the sir, whom I like think of as a “bossy bottom” in these moments, will be telling both teams as soon as the maul forms to “use it,” meaning they must move it one direction or the other, or he or she will “blow it up” by whistling and stopping play.
At that point, a SCRUM will be called. This is probably the most recognizable formation on the rugby pitch. In a scrum, eight players from each team will get into a formation that looks like two half-huddles about to crash into each other. In highly contested or sloppy matches, you’ll hear forwards from both teams joking to each other about how many scrums they have had to do.
Each team will also have a player called a SCRUM-HALF, who is like a quarterback from football except not, because the glory often goes to the faster guys whose hair never gets messed up (these people are known as BACKS).
In any event, when the scrum begins, the scrum-half whose team has possession of the ball will feed it into the middle of the group. Hopefully, the person on his team known as the HOOKER will hook the ball backwards using his foot, so the scrum-half can feed it to the back-line. Again, the backs are typically fast and in desperate need of a biscuit (a part of me really wants to make quote Tolkien’s Gollum—We hates them, Precious—but I was once a back…until carbs.)
Once the backs get the ball, they will—again, hopefully—run north-south (that is, down the pitch, never side to side) and score. In rugby, that is not called a touchdown but a TRY. Unlike the touchdowns in football, you cannot spike the ball in the TRY ZONE (AKA, the end zone). Rather, you must touch the ball down with control. If you lose control of the ball, or if you spike it because you grew up playing football and are so excited to relive your Pee-Wee glory days, then you’ll cost your team that five points and will be penalized for a KNOCK-ON (this happens if you pass the ball forward or it bounces off your body anywhere above your knees).
After you score a try, your team will get the chance to kick for two more points. Unlike football, this conversion kick must be in-line with where the try was scored. How far back you move the ball is up to you. Like football, you can use a tee, but you are also allowed to drop-kick for the conversion.
At that point, the kicker will race back to his side of the pitch because the other team gets to decide when they will kick off to re-start play. Unlike football, the team that just scored receives the kick-off. And it begins again and continues until the forty-minute halves are up.
If you’re lucky, while watching your first match, a player will score his or her first try. When this happens that player will have to run a ZULU. This sometimes takes place on the pitch or at the bar where the post-game social known as the THIRD HALF is held, and it involves the player racing a designated route completely naked while getting doused with beer.
So, even if you don’t drink, go to the third half, for those are (in)famous for their songs. A couple of titles should give you a hint as to what you should expect: “The S&M Man” and “Jesus Can’t Play Rugby.”
The take-away is this: in rugby, players leave it all on the field, then drink up and commiserate with their former opponents, and find a common pitch in irreverence. I’m biased, I know, but there’s no better sport that reveals the sportsmanship of all involved. To see this, all you need do is look beyond the blood, mud, and bruises.
Who would have thought that we would have to get through a pandemic in order to appreciate the small things we have, such as the ability to simply pack our bags and hit the road?
For two years, there’s been nothing left for us travel junkies to do but sit at home and try to find new destinations that we will conquer once we defeat what appears to be the biggest villain of the 21st century. But once that happens, hold your bags tight because we will be up for some of the most interesting travel experiences. Take a look at some ideas for your post-COVID traveling plans:
A gay cruise
One of the best options to have in mind when all of this passes is a good, nice and long (pun intended) gay cruise. Or cruise in general, for that matter. Bear in mind, social distancing will still be a thing in the post-COVID world. But COVID-19 likely doesn’t mean that cruises will cease to exist. On the contrary, though cruise ships will probably keep the number of passengers smaller than before, it is believed that they will become an even bigger hit in the following period, especially because they are all going to go a lot more environmentally-friendly. On the bright side, is there any better way of celebrating the end of the pandemic than by cruising around some magnificent seas, stopping by at great cities and having romantic dinner nights at nice restaurants?
A getaway in nature
On the other hand, there is always the option of stepping away from the hustle and bustle of large cities, and spending some time in a place that’s not only healthy, but also beautiful. Some of the destinations that plenty of people will look for are the ones that can cater for both peace of mind and amazing things to see or do. One such destination is New Zealand, one of the greenest countries on Earth right now. Not only will you be visiting the magnificent country that gave us the beautiful Shire from Lord of the Rings; this is also a destination that’s excellent for everyone who prefers relaxing to partying. If you’re up for some partying, you will be able to hit Auckland, while if you’re for something calmer, there’s plenty of amazing places that you can see and visit.
Dancing around at Pride
Pride parades are also events that you want to have in mind for the post-COVID world. Such events have always been quite important, but it seems that they are now more important than ever. The virus has canceled more than 75 Pride parades all around the world, which is one of the reasons why we must support the ones that will see the light of day once the pandemic stops. Truth be told, the upcoming Prides will perhaps be the best Prides ever organized. Give the gays a couple of weeks of quarantine, then let them outside and see what kind of party they are able to throw!
A road trip
If you’re, as well, waiting for the day to wake up and say “long gone are the days when we were not allowed to go wherever we wanted?”, and if staying at one place gave you a lot to think about, then your first post-COVID travel experience should definitely be a nice road trip. You can practically choose which country you want to tour, and you can either take your own car (you have probably missed it so much), or rent one at your destination. Australia is an amazing country for this, though, as it offers the possibility of seeing the Great Ocean Road, which is an amazing thing to see and experience. On the other hand, if you do not want or cannot leave your country, you can also choose to go on a domestic road trip – there are amazing things to see in your vicinity as well.
Holiday for a single guy
If you’re single, or you’re traveling someplace with another single friend, then you should definitely organize a nice vacation for yourself or for you and your single friend, and hit one of the best European cities. Europe has been greatly affected by the virus, which means that now it’s time to pay it back and get it back on its feet by traveling there and seeing all the amazing things it offers. Any city you choose in Europe – you will not make a mistake. Apart from being able to see great landmarks, you will also have the chance to have a drink at great gay clubs and pubs, and join unforgettable gay parties. And if the gay scenery is not your forte, worry not, as Europe indeed has to offer so many different and magnificent things.
Without any surprise, one of the most commonly determined goals for this year is to be happier. It doesn’t matter what you secretly want, such as to lose a couple of pounds, build up your muscles or find the love of your life – the ultimate goal of every single one of us is the same – to be happy.
After all, anything that we want from life, we want so that it could bring us happiness. But happiness will not come to whomever, as every person needs to work hard and think long about all the things that make them happy and actually earn that happiness. The end of every year is the perfect time to start thinking about that, to reflect on the previous year, see the negative points that you never want to repeat again and then see what the aspects you need to focus on more are. Take a look at some of the ideas that will help you become a happier gay man in the next year.
Who cares what others have
The first and most important piece of advice would be to be who you are, but since this is as cliché as it can get, let’s say that the first thing to do is not to compare yourself with other gay people. This is something that can create so many different issues – first of all, with your self-confidence and image which can have a big effect on your life, and secondly, it can affect your relationship with other people. There are certain things that are always “expected” from gay men, such as having abs, being very handsome, having crystal clear skin or dressing up in the latest fashion. Well, be who you are and never try to be someone else so that you can stand out. This is the most important tip you should follow as this is the only way you will truly be happy.
Make yourself a routine
Creating a routine for yourself and having activities that you enjoy doing on a daily basis is an essential thing for your happiness. What is important to know is that your habits create your mood, and the more interesting habits you have, the happier you will be. It is always a good thing when you get to come home from work and have certain things that you can get up to. However, it would be good that your routines in 2020 revolve around everything that is natural, healthy and organic. So, buying yourself a gym membership or taking up a sport are two great ideas. If you want to be bolder, you can always hit the best kratom shop and turn to natural products that will make your daily routine much more pleasant, and you happier. Remember that this doesn’t have to necessarily be a daily routine that you have to create, but rather have several things that you like doing and can do from time to time when you want to feel better.
You are enough for you
Next up, we should turn to one of the biggest issues of unsatisfied people – the fact that they’re single. Now, not all single people are unsatisfied, but the majority of people feel dissatisfaction once they have nobody by their side, which is one of the traits they definitely have to change. You do not need anyone else to tell you are perfect or amazing or pretty or beautiful, you do not need anyone so that you could feel validated. What you can do is spice things up, and if you are a sexual being, you can always find someone to spend several hot nights with. However, if you are looking for a relationship, you need to start with yourself and stop feeling sorry for yourself because you are single. This is what shows, and nobody wants to hit on someone who has a lot of negativity going on.
Socialize with positive people
Photo by Ba Phi from Pexels
There’s nothing that works better for your own happiness than surrounding yourself with people that you love and people who are positive (obviously, you get the most of it when you combine these two and spend time with people who are both positive and very important to you). In 2020, it would be best to ditch negativity and leave it behind – even though it might be difficult, limiting the time you spend with negative people can definitely do wonders for your own mood and overall state of happiness.
Finally, focus on yourself. It is 2020, so whatever you choose to do for your own well-being is definitely not something you should be embarrassed about. If yoga is something that is going to calm you down, take your stress away and thus make you a generally less unsatisfied person – so be it. You can also turn to meditation or simply spending time with your friends and laughing. Laughter is also one of the strongest remedies. You know what they say – when life gives you lemons, make a lemonade. Beyoncé made it and it’s the best album of the decade.
Hopefully, you will be a better person in 2020. After all, it doesn’t matter what you do and how others perceive you – if you like yourself, that’s what matters. So, make the following a New Year’s resolution – love yourself.
You might think that the moment you tie the knot with the same-sex partner, your concerns end (since we did have to go too far and endure too much for this to be legal), but this is only just the beginning.
First of all, congratulations on getting married, we do all wish you a lifetime of happiness. But, you might not have really thought about all the things that you are supposed to think about before tying the knot. Apart from the place where you will be living and the number of kids you want to have, you will have to think about finances and budgeting in general. Being married is not an easy, nor a cheap exercise, and living with someone has plenty of other expenses that you might not have taken into account. But, in order for this to go as painlessly as possible, take a look at some of the best budgeting tips for the two of you:
1. Talk about your priorities
The first thing that you need to do is make a list of the priorities that you might have as a married couple. Knowing these things in advance will not only help you save some more cash in the future, but it can also significantly enhance the communication between the two of you and prevent any future problems that you might face in regards to your relationship. Plenty of people fall out because of irreconcilable differences regarding finances, so the sooner you set these rules in stone, the better. What is your priority? Do you think that the most important thing to do is invest in the house? Do you want to travel, or perhaps invest in a new business? Make sure you talk this out with your partner, as this will be extremely helpful once you have to plan out your finances.
2. Planning out the finances
Now comes the tricky part, and that is planning out your finances. Allocating the amount of money that you will spend on different aspects of your life together is definitely not an easy task. In order to do this, calculate your monthly earnings on one side and write all of your necessary expenses on the other. Next up, try to allocate the amount of money that you will spend on traveling a year, and see if you have to save for that on a monthly basis or not. These are all the things that you are supposed to do if you want to travel effortlessly and to always have a ready fund for things like these. Also, bear in mind that no matter where you are in the world, you will be able to apply for a personal loan if you know where to look, so it would be good to know your finances in advance and plan things accordingly. Do not forget to add a fund for your house or apartment (as probably there will be things to be done there) and some bigger shopping.
3. Long-term planning
Planning is indeed a great thing, so the next step would be to plan bigger. Now, this is the time when you have to think about your long-term finances, and the things that you would like to have accomplished or bought by then. This is also a great way to avoid any arguments in the future. So, where do you see yourself in 20 or 30 years? Do you want to buy a car? Do you want to invest in a big house somewhere out of the city? Knowing these things in advance will only make this process easier when the time comes.
4. Have three different funds
In order to keep everything in perfect control and to avoid any conflicts in the future, it would be a good idea to have three different funds - one that is going to be for the both of you, and two for each of you. This will give both of you an illusion that you have “your own cash”, even though you might not have the opportunity to spend it very often, it is a good feeling. This is also something that you can use if you want to make a purchase that your partner disapproves of. Surely, depending on the amount of money that you both earn a month or year, determine these two funds accordingly. Also, it would be a great idea to have exactly the same amount of money in those funds, regardless of how much each of you earns.
5. Have an emergency fund
Finally, there is another fund that you have to worry about, and that is the emergency fund. This is important for all the married people (and all people in general), but it might be slightly more important for LGBT people as you never know what tomorrow will bring and if you will have to spend a bit more on certain taxes or not. Yes, gay marriages are legal, but it is always to play it safe and keep an emergency fund in case something happens, and you cannot have control of the finances of your partner. Apart from that, this is a good idea as it is always better to be safe than sorry.
It might seem that you have to have different funds, and by having so, you will not see one dime from your salary. Yes, life is expensive nowadays, but with proper budget planning, you will be able to do a lot.