The team is only two years old and only a few of the players are experienced at the rough-and-tumble sport. But that isn’t stopping the Nashville Grizzlies Rugby Football Club from taking their competition to international turf. The Grizzlies plan to play in Dublin, Ireland, June 12-15, in the Bingham Cup 2008 competition.

“We thought it was a really great opportunity to play against more established teams and represent Nashville,” said Grizzlies President Jim Schmidt. “And it will be a great brotherhood and bonding trip.”

The Mark Bingham Cup is the International Gay Rugby Association and Board’s (IGRAB) biennial tournament of member clubs from around the world. More than 850 players and fans are registered to attend the event.

The Bingham Cup is named in remembrance of Mark Kendall Bingham who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. Bingham played for the San Francisco Fog, one of the nation's leading gay and bisexual rugby teams.

Fourteen Grizzlies and several members of their support staff plan to travel to the competition. Schmidt said the trip will cost each person about $2,500. The team began hosting fundraisers last September to offset the cost for each person. They raised about $1,000 with a car wash held at the Lipstick Lounge and a raffle held at Tribe last month, Schmidt said.

David Glasgow, Grizzlies secretary, said the team has grown into a socially diverse group of men ranging in age from 19 to 50 years old since it was founded in March 2006. Most of them joined the team with no prior rugby experience looking for exercise and camaraderie, he said.

Chris Sanders, a founding member of the Grizzlies and the president of the Tennessee Equality Project, said he was drawn to the idea of starting a gay organization unlike any other in town.

"We wanted something that wasn't issue oriented and would be a good way for us to meet different people in the community," Sanders said. "When you play sports together you get really close and come to trust and rely on one another. That was one of the best parts about starting the Grizzlies."

For Ben Marks, another of the Grizzlies' founders, the tournament in Dublin will bring things full circle. Marks helped form the Grizzlies team in 2006 but moved to San Diego, Calif., before the team's first game. After two years away from the team and still living in California, Marks plans to join their ranks for the first time to compete with them in Ireland.

The team competes each year in the nation’s major cities including Chicago, Atlanta and Phoenix. Schmidt said they expect to meet up with their hardest competition in Ireland. Forty teams from 16 countries are competing in the tournament.

"It takes a lot of effort, the practice, the fundraising to get these guys to Dublin," Sanders said. "We have a great gratitude to everyone who has helped make it possible."

The Grizzlies plan to battle several teams on the their home turf in the fall including the Atlanta Bucks, Charlotte Royals and Carolina Kodiaks. Home matches and practices are usually held at 1162 Foster Ave. A schedule of the Grizzlies’ events can be seen at

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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