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This is hysterical. Or is it?

Posted on April 26th, 2012 in Blog,Rugby Zen
by Buzz McClain

Comedian/rugby referee (some would say they are one in the same) John Goodwyn sends this wry observation on how we mangle language. Enjoy.

By John Goodwyn

Hysterical Euphemisms


I was going to rant about the Cuban embargo this week but then another idea hit me today as I was reading The Week magazine. This is not so much of a rant as just a peculiar observation. But first, I want to start you with the etymology of the word “hysteria”.


1     : a psychoneurosis marked by emotional excitability and disturbances of the psychic, sensory, vasomotor, and visceral functions


2     : behavior exhibiting overwhelming or unmanageable fear or emotional excess <political hysteria>


(Definition provided by Merriam-Webster)


And this, from Wikipedia:


<<In the Western world, until the seventeenth century, hysteria referred to a medical condition thought to be particular to women and caused by disturbances of the uterus (from the Greek ὑστέρα “hystera” = uterus), such as when a neonate emerges from the female birth canal.>>


So you see, “hysteria”, as it is understood now, is just a psychological condition. However, it has its roots in specifically female histrionics. Much in the same way that, etymologically speaking, women are not capable of making testimony because it requires, well, testicles.


With the understanding of the modern definition, as well as knowledge of the etymology of the word, then, it was with some interest that I read a story about an episode of “conversion disorder” at a high school in New York. For the purposes of this column, the details of the episode aren’t terribly important; just suffice it to say that a group of cheerleaders, one by one, began suffering similar psychological ‘twitches’, causing an uproar in the town with people trying to find the cause. Even Erin Brockovich was in on it. And I’m sure Nancy Grace had an opinion but, this being New York, no one wanted to listen to that obnoxious southern drawl of hers.


Anyway, what I found funny was that it has been determined to be “mass hysteria”. However, this article was very quick to point out that the term “mass hysteria” has fallen out of favor for its sexist connotations and has been replaced with “mass psychogenic illness”. Now, if I hadn’t provided the Wikipedia article about the term “hysteria”, how many of you would have actually known that it refers to lady parts? And here’s the kicker; the article went on to say that girls are more likely to succumb to this than boys. So it turns out, after all, that females are more prone to hysteria than males. Who knew?


Once again, in the never-ending quest to soften our language and make sure no one is offended, here’s just another phrase that was simple, everyone understood immediately what it meant, and its modern interpretation had nothing sexist implied nor interpreted – yet it’s been replaced by a phrase that’s one word and two syllables longer, has no meaning for most who read or hear it and conveys no emotion, whatsoever.


George Carlin is turning over in his grave – or should that be “alternating corporeal lateral arrangement within the confines of his terrestrial interment”?


Don’t worry, I’ll be right back . . .

Posted on April 23rd, 2012 in Blog
by Buzz McClain

Bear with me as I find a balance among my new full time job (my first in 17 years) as Senior Writer at George Mason University, my family life and my rugby world. I may not post as frequently about domestic rugby, but the postings will be more significant than cut and paste jobs — at least that’s my intention.

Feel free to scratch me from your Favorites bar, if you’ve put me there at all, but check back once in a while to see if this post has moved down.


RugbyBuzz interviews Hayden Smith’s NFL agent on radio

Posted on April 9th, 2012 in Blog,Rugby Zen,Stars to Watch
by Buzz McClain

Here’s an email preview of Jack Betcha’s story as to how he got the NY Jets to sign USA Eagle Hayden Smith to an NFL contract to play tight end. Listen in tonight  at 8 ET on www.fcac.org/radio-fairfax.

From Jack Betcha:

I was sitting in my office one day when I received a call from friend and USA captain Todd Clever, who lives in san diego in the off season. He told me he wanted to stop the office and introduce me to some one. That some one was Hayden Smith who was in town training with Todd before he had to return to London.
When I first set eyes on Hayden, he instantly reminded me of another client in size and stature named Will Yeatman who was playing Tight End for the Dolphins.
Todd told me Hayden is interested in exploring a chance to make a jump to the NFL and wanted my opinion. Im glad he did because I was thinking his body type was perfect for a tight end, which was my former college position.
The first question I asked Hayden was what type of 40 yard sprint he can rum. He said he had been timed once at 4.65.  I said if what you say is true then you have a great shot. After he told me his story of how he went from Austraila  to the states to play college basketball then on to rugby and the premiership I was even more encouraged.
We exchange contact info I went to work on devising a plan that could maximize his opportunity for a chance at a contract.

2)  my office has been contacted by several rugby players. A few from australia and one from england.  Nothing has materialize like Hayden’s situation but I am always keeping my eye out for more talent.  I may even have a tryout camp in australia and London later this year.  But first, let’s see how Hayden does.

Women face barriers when it comes to rugby? Nah. What? Wait . . .

Posted on April 6th, 2012 in Blog
by Buzz McClain

Reposted from Your Scrumhalf Connection. I’m always looking to help a student out; if you have feelings or knowledge about this subject, contact Cameron Renton at cameronrenton90@hotmail.co.uk and give her the USA version of what barriers women rugby players face (besides the occasional referee not taking them seriously).




Now THIS is a rugby poster

Posted on March 30th, 2012 in Blog
by Buzz McClain

USA Rugby’s latest promotional poster — see the entry below this one — could use a little spicing up. Like this one. I could say something complimentary that would be taken as crude and sexist, so I won’t. But I’m thinking it.


Is it hot in here or is it me? It's me.

This is the WORST rugby poster ever. Truly.

Posted on March 28th, 2012 in Blog,Rugby Zen
by Buzz McClain

Not to chide the intern who put this piece of promotional art together from public domain sources, but this is really lousy. From the cliched, seen-it-for-years copy to the bizarre cut out of the tacklee’s rather extreme pompadour (he must be a backline player, har!), to the unlikely prospect of two Brothers playing in the same USA game at the same time — where was this photo taken anyway? — I nominate this poster as the zaniest poster since, well, since the one below it.


Nice hair. Wait. What?


About that hair cut . . .


Bert Sugar’s last interview — about rugby

Posted on March 26th, 2012 in Blog,Historic Buzz,Recent Headlines
by Buzz McClain

It is with great sadness that I learn of the passing of Bert Randolph Sugar. He was famous for boxing commentating, but in my book he’ll always be one of the more colorful rugby personalities to every play the game. He didn’t play long, but he made a lasting impression — in fact, the team he started at the University of Michigan has graduated hundreds of rugby enthusiasts since Mr. Sugar founded the club.

Bert Sugar, boxing and rugby enthusiast

Here’s the story, from an interview I did with him last year. It’s not half as hilarious as hearing him say it, but if you keep a gravelly, self-deprecating voice in your head as you read it, you’ll understand why I’ll miss our occasional phone calls.

And don’t miss my exclusive photo of Mr. Sugar getting hit below the belt, as they say in boxing, during a rugby match. The photo is from his private archives and he was gracious enough to send it to me. Sugar lived up to his last name — he was a sweet man.


By Buzz McClain


This is the story about how a severely hung over law student and future boxing icon came to re-start the University of Michigan rugby team after a 69-year absence from the campus — because he was envious of possible Harvard suntans.

That’s our story and we’re going to stick to it.

The Wolverines can blame it on Sugar. Bert Randolph Sugar, to be precise, author of some 80 books – and counting, from boxing and baseball to blackjack and Houdini – a ringside fixture identifiable by the fedora and cigar and an inimitable way with words that’s as long gone as the Marquess of Queensberry.

But before we get to Sugar, we need to revisit the Ann Arbor campus on Monday, Sept. 29 in 1890, when the first-ever issue of the Michigan Daily ran on its front page the intriguing story, “Our Rugby Team: The Neucleus of It Practicing Daily on the Campus,” wherein the unnamed writer coined a phrase that, under the right conditions, could be a rousing rugby battle cry:

“Of course the boys are all ‘soft’ and short winded as yet, but if they follow . . . Captain Malley it will be soiled meat and sand that Cornell runs up against this year.”

Soiled meat and sand! Who cares what it means, it sounds like lyrics to an American haka.

In any case, Michigan played the likes of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth and Amherst; there are references to the team going to Buffalo and “the Tech” for matches, but we can’t be sure what schools those might be. (Thanks to former and current UMRFC officers Wes Farrow, Kurt Sarsfield, Craig Williams, Kevin Barlow, Niall O’Kane and Charles Berklich for digging up and sending the 120 year old newspaper clipping.)

As it did on other campuses, rugby at Michigan made way for the current gridiron football program once Walter Camp’s innovations – the forward pass, line of scrimmage, and other abominations – became widespread. Rugby was played no more at Michigan.

Which brings us to Bert Sugar’s hangover in the spring of 1959. The law student – he boxed and played football at Maryland as an undergrad – says that in a “stupor I read in Sports Illustrated that Yale and Harvard were going out to Bermuda to play rugby. And I thought, Why don’t WE go to Bermuda?”


“Because there was no WE, there was just me!”

Sugar, who was also in the doctorate program as well as grad school, ran an ad in that same campus paper that suggested, “Free beer, we’re forming a rugby and cricket club,” he says. “Seventy or 80 turned up, mostly for the free beer, but a couple of football players and a lot of guys who had played [rugby], maybe 20.”

From that humble beginning the team would soon claim the title, says Sugar, “the champions of the Big 10. That’s because nobody else had a team.”

In fact, Sugar had to drive to Detroit to get balls and a rugby law book, which he read while running down the field at the first practice. “I’ve seen better organized prison riots,” he says.

But he was hooked after the first knock on. “Certain aspects were marvelous, and the camaraderie, unbelievable. My girlfriend-and-bride-to-be, we though this was just great.”

And that, despite the trip to the hospital – on their first date – to fix his broken nose. “I was bleeding all over the place. Somebody was cleaning their cleats with my face.”

The newbie Sugar, standing at 6-1, played a skinny prop before “some South Africans and Aussies showed up – real players – and moved me to second row.”

Wait. Back up. The newspaper ad said “cricket” too? “I had no idea what the hell that was either,” Sugar deadpans. “It sounded classy.”

Sugar was co-captain of the Michigan squad despite his inexperience. The team caught on because “we got some sort of stature by the fact people were joining us who had been players in other countries.”

Still, the three-times-a-week practices lead to some tense, testy encounters – with the marching band. “We were on their field and we wouldn’t get off so they could practice,” Sugar says. “We’d never leave.”

Finally the time came to play the first game, against – what the what? – the far more experienced visiting University of Toronto.

Michigan took the field wearing Lippman Delicatessen soccer uniforms. You can’t make this stuff up.

“What else did we have? We hadn’t played a game yet,” Sugar says. In a strategy that has been used uncountable times for uncountable rugby clubs, the hosts held a party the night before in the visitors’ honor and “we got them all drunk and we won. By the time the game started they were throwing up on the sidelines. We won 10 to 6. I got kicked in the balls. I got right back up and went after the guy who had just kicked me in the balls.”

And in the best rugby tradition, all was forgiven at the post-match celebration. “I thought this was a hell of a sport,” Sugar concluded at the party. “Looking back, this was one of the most fun things ever.”

These days Michigan has a men’s and women’s team and, says Sugar with pride, “I’m told now 1,000 people have belonged to the club” since 1959. For his part, Sugar last played in a 1999 alumni game, but he’s attended other anniversary functions held by the club.

And did Sugar ever make it to Bermuda?

“Nah,” he says, “never got to Bermuda. We went to California instead. We chartered a plane but some of the guys volunteered to deliver hearses out west for General Motors. They slept in the back.”

Michigan's Bert Sugar getting kicked in the nuts.



New York Times does a good story on Mike Tolkin

Posted on March 23rd, 2012 in Blog,Recent Headlines,Stars to Watch
by Buzz McClain

Who knew he was an English teacher? Here’s a very well done profile of the new USA Eagles coach. I’d like to meet him some day.

Steve Cohen, man from MARS, honored by Michigan Rugby

Posted on March 20th, 2012 in Blog,Stars to Watch
by Buzz McClain

Longtime US rugby stalwart Steve Cohen gets interviewed and honored as Michigan’s “Alumnus of the Month”; you can read it here.

Steve Cohen, man from MARS

Cohen is the driving force behind the Small College Rugby championship, a national contest that never got the blessing of the powers that be and was derided in the cradle because, after all, how good could Division III rugby be? And who would care? Well, there are now 160 men’s tams and 60 women’s clubs playing for the Division 3 trophy and you know what, it means something. Keep up the good work, Steve.

By the way, do you know who founded the Michigan rugby club? If so, leave a Comment with your answer. Bonus question: What’s the team’s slogan and what does it mean?

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