If I Were the Marrying Kind (but thank the LORD I’m not, sir)

A few days ago I found myself trying to scrub the dirt off my legs in the shower, until I realized it was a bruise. I smiled. I’m playing rugby again.

During the Festival de Verano in Bogotá, I talked to some girls who were watching the men’s rugby matches and wearing the iconic cotton shorts and high socks. The words “well I used to play in college in the U.S. and I…” had barely escaped my mouth when they were all “De una! What’s your number? See you Wednesday!”

I know a lot of you are like, hey Brig, remember that time you couldn’t do anything for six months except sit on the couch and hate everyone? And bum rides and accept pity beers from strangers at the bar? And you were afraid to play games, hike, jump off things, be rowdy and generally do anything fun, for far too long? And you had to go all the way to Guatemala to get over the asphyxiating immobility and restriction?

Yea, that. So far, I haven’t seen a lot of Colombians who are remotely close to the size of the Bryant girl who leveled me. Anyway I’m sure the surgery is way cheaper down here.

The practices are in Bogotá so I have to allow 1.5 hours each way, it tends to rain and I’m always about five to seven communication seconds behind everyone else, but it’s so, so worth it. In a place where I rarely feel like I’m in control and aware of the current situation, where so many things are foreign and more difficult than they should be, rugby is a comfort and a remedy. My feet don’t have to search for words or meanings; my hands find and release the ball with wet grass the only thing diminishing my ability to excel. With so many frustrations in day-to-day life, a familiar oblong ball ignites endorphins and confidence that are hard to get elsewhere. Rugby appealed to me in college, and appeals to me now, because you can get ahead if you just push yourself a little more, hit the other guy a little harder, stamp out the physical discomfort with adrenaline and rely on instincts, agility, reflexes and teammates.

Victor Cahn sums it up nicely:

“In our country, true teams rarely exist . . . social barriers and personal ambitions have reduced athletes to dissolute cliques or individuals thrown together for mutual profit . . . Yet these rugby players, with their muddied, cracked bodies, are struggling to hold onto a sense of humanity that we in America have lost and are unlikely to regain. The game may only be to move a ball forward on a dirt field, but the task can be accomplished with an unshackled joy and its memories will be a permanent delight. The women and men who play on that rugby field are more alive than too many of us will ever be. The foolish emptiness we think we perceive in their existence is only our own.”

Something about rolling around in the mud for two hours a week and waking up feeling all those forgotten muscles puts a smile on my face. He had me at “unshackled joy” and “permanent delight.”

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