It hardly seems it, but Memorial Day is a mere four weeks away, and as all the warm-weather sports get into full swing (and kick), there’s plenty to cover across all fields. There are a stack of short stops this month, but the big story is the 10 rugby teams participating in Philadelphia for the Colonial Cup.
The Colonial Cup is now part of the official seeding process for the Bingham Cup, the biannual International Gay Rugby event named in honor of Mark Bingham, a San Francisco Fog player who was part of the Flight 93 resistance group on 9/11. That cup competition was held last year in Nashville and next year it will be in Amsterdam.
Gryphons president Ray Fritz is a recent rugby enthusiast. Five years ago, the Florid native got out of a bad relationship and contemplated moving back to Atlanta. But in the end, he decided to give the City of Brotherly Love one more chance and got a “crappy apartment” in the Fishtown area.
Shortly after, he saw a notice at The Bike Stop for rugby players.
“I saw a flier at The Bike Stop for the team, and I thought, ‘Eh, maybe I’ll go out,’” he said. “So I go home and Google ‘rugby,’ watching YouTube clips and go, ‘I can’t do that.’”
But the desire to try something new and make some new friends won, and he’s been part of the program ever since. An unfortunate neck injury last summer during the Bingham Cup in Nashville sidelined him, but he’s still very active in other aspects of the Gryphons.
“The guys on this team are so welcoming, so inclusive,” Fritz said. “These guys kept me here. If it hadn’t been for these friendships, I wouldn’t have stayed. I’m looking forward to seeing some friends made from other teams. And I’ve met these other guys now from all over the country where we play these tournaments. I’m friends with all these guys I’ve met and I get to follow their lives also, which I find is fascinating, and then I see them. There’s this couple who got married in another city and I’ll get to see them and see that relationship blossoming.”
Remarkably, the Gryphons had 100 percent of last year’s players return and gained new ones this spring, so they can now field two teams in different divisions. Fritz said there is a good mix of teams of each level of play coming from around the eastern half of the country to the Colonial Cup. Another cup tournament will take place later this year in Denver for the other half of the country.
“We have teams coming from Madison, Columbus — there’s two teams from Columbus — Boston, New York, a new team from Baltimore, D.C., Nashville and Atlanta,” Fritz said. “Some teams are foregoing coming here to save money for Amsterdam. Colonial Cup for us turns into a fundraiser for that, so any extra funds we have from this we will move over to that.”
There is no charge to watch the competition in Fairmount Park, and spectators can also purchase a $60 paid pass that includes the Saturday drink-up tentatively scheduled from 5-8 p.m. at The Field House — which includes an all-you-can-eat buffet and two-hour open-bar beer selection — plus Sunday brunch and a T-shirt.
Drink-ups are the rugby version of an after-party where teams get together to toast, drink, sing and share general camaraderie. It’s as much a part of the experience as the play. Non-players can pay $20 and get the buffet and two hours of beers. Following that is a bar crawl, then the closing party at 11 p.m. on the third floor of The Bike Stop; a $5 donation is requested.
At 7 p.m. May 18, players will be on hand for the official meet and greet at Boxers. Fritz encourages anyone and everyone to come out and welcome the out-of-towners to Philadelphia as well as encourage the local boys.
In the meantime, get out and play
Find out everything you want to know about the Colonial Cup, from the schedule to how to make a donation, at philadelphiagryphons.org/. Follow the Gryphons on social media at facebook.com/PhillyGryphons/.
- Memorial Day Weekend brings the City of Brotherly Love Softball League’s Liberty Bell Classic back in diamonds. The Sunday block party on Camac Street is one of the highlights. The tournament is May 27-28. For information and registration, go to libertybellclassic.org/.
- If you’re looking for the Falcons soccer club’s Liberty Bell Classic over that same weekend, pause and wait. The annual tournament has been moved to OutFest weekend, Oct. 13-15. Until then, the outdoor pickup game schedule continues Tuesday, Thursday and Friday evenings and Saturday mornings. Info at falcons-soccer.org/.
- Tennis, anyone? After years playing in FDR Park, the Philadelphia Liberty Tennis Association is finalizing arrangements to use the outdoor Hamlin Tennis Center on University of Pennsylvania’s campus. The league is hoping to have play May 22-Oct. 1. There is still time to vote for your most agreeable days and times at facebook.com/PLTATennis/?hc_ref=PAGES_TIMELINE&fref=nf.
- Stonewall Philadelphia holds its spring 2017 charity bar crawl “Legends of the Hidden Temple” May 20 at various location in the Gayborhood. The group is also beginning registration for the July-August and the volleyball league, which will again play at Drexel University. Check out stonewallphilly.leagueapps.com/ for details.
Scott A. Drake is the 2017 Professional Keystone Press Awards winner for best sports column in a weekly paper. If you have a person or event you think should be highlighted, email [email protected].