Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Blood Bin Follies (With Gratuitous Self Indulgence)

Ok, so this is a weird story (sent to me by a former student and still-Brit, Steve). Basically, one of England's premier professional rugby teams spent a hunk of least season faking injuries by bringing out fake-blood capsules onto the field. The former director of rugby at Harlequins, Dean Richards, has been banned for three years and the team's trainer for two. Harlequins wing (he shames us all) Tom Williams was originally banned for a year for his part in the incident, but after fessing up and naming names, his penalty will be four months, and he will enjoy the fruits of a new contract with Harlequins, who lost to eventual champs Leicester in one of the sullied games, next season once his banning is done.

Basically the strategy involved was that Williams manipulated a "blood bin" in order to allow a replacement to come into the game. That replacement just happened to be a goal kicking specialist during a game in which a drop or penalty would have made all the difference.

Self-indulgence time: I should note (while being allowed to tell my favorite anecdote from my Rhodes University rugby glory season) that the blood bin replacement has not always been in effect. In 1997 during "Tri-Varsity" weekend at Rhodes, in Grahamstown, South Africa, where I played rugby for the university, I had the ball on the wing inside the 22 yard line and was approaching the goal. In the process of going down in a maelstrom of University of Fort Hare defenders I took a boot to the face, right above the right eye. I got blood binned, but at the time, to replace me would have taken me out of the game for good (which would not have been much of a loss. Why my coaches did not replace me straightaway is still one of the eternal mysteries of my athletic career). So as one of the trainers began daintily to prepare all of the medicinal tricks in her kit bag to patch me up, I grabbed the roll of tape from her, ripped off a piece, popped it over the wound, and ran back onto the pitch. I was a bloody mess, but I finished the game, and when I crossed to the tunnel toward the locker room, one of my teammates screamed "Now You're a rugby player, Fucking American!" (Ahhh, cute university nicknames.) The result was seven stitches that afternoon and the esteem of my teammates (and only halfway through a season of playing with them!)

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