I saw a scrum the other day.
No, it was not a bar fight or one of our urban campers pushing a shopping cart through downtown. It was at a rugby match, the San Diego Legions, at the spectacular new Snapdragon Stadium.
Now I know about as much about rugby as congress knows about college football, which is to say not much. But that’s not the point. It was my first time in Snapdragon and I was anxious to see and experience an event there.
Built primarily for the San Diego State Aztecs football team, Snapdragon Stadium also holds other teams – obviously the Legions and the wildly popular San Diego Wave women’s soccer team – and concerts.
I was immediately impressed. It is well designed, modern and, I couldn’t help but notice, has two big parking lots, something I hope will be put to good use for the upcoming Jimmy Buffett San Diego concert on Saturday. May 6. Jimmy Buffett’s Parrothead fans are famous for their pre-concert tailgate parties.
It is also not difficult to find a beer. That’s good. In fact, at the main entrance there is the open-air Dos Equis Club overlooking the 50-yard line. Turns out this is for VIPs at the football games, but it’s open to the public for most other sporting events.
There are also beer stations around the stadium with San Diego craft beers and the prices – $15 for 24-ounce cans and $15.50 for 20-ounce craft beers – are standard for ballparks, including Petco Park. There are also canned cocktails, kombucha and, I’m sure, wine.
My buddy, Alan, and I walked around the stadium and while we can’t say for certain there’s “not a bad seat in the house” we noticed good sight lines from different vantage points. We wound up sitting at another open-air bar, this one perched above one of the end zones. The cushioned chairs were at the railing and very comfortable; we felt like VIPs ourselves.
That section is open to the public for most events and another bar in the other end zone (the one opposite the big parking lot) is supposedly a big-time hangout during football games and other big events and is always open to all ticket holders.
The people working at Snapdragon Stadium are immensely friendly. Okay, that’s not unusual for San Diego but stadium workers have a nationwide (worldwide?) reputation as being, well, too businesslike. No personalty. That was not the case at Snapdragon, so much so that when I sat down next to a person who turned out to work in management for the stadium and causally mentioned my beer from the Dos Equis Club was lukewarm, he got on the phone and had a cold one delivered to me.
Now that’s the way to get on PubClub’s good side!
@pubclub.com It’s a scrum! PubClub.com catches the SD Legion rugby team at Snapdragon Stadium. #rugby #rugbyboys #rugbygame #rugbyscrum #snapdragonstadium #pubclub #sandiego ♬ original sound – PubClub
Plus, I got there in 40 minutes from the Gaslamp Quarter using the San Diego Trolley Green Line. Roundtrip cost: 6 bucks. And no parking fees or worries about having to drink water or sodas instead of beer if you get my drift.
About the only annoying part of the Snapdragon rugby experience were the way-too-frequent BIG. RED. WALL., chants over the loudspeakers. It reminded me of the constant sound “Wheel. Of Fortune,” in Las Vegas casinos.
As far as the game itself, well, it was hard for this average American to understand. Rugby certainly has elements of our football but the extra points are kicked, apparently, from different angles based on where the player crossed the goal line. Rugby uses what I call the European timing system in regards to the clock, which is to say it runs forward instead of as a countdown and includes that puzzling “extra time, stoppage” rule that was so confusing for Americans during the World Cup. Well, confusing for those Americans who actually watched the World Cup anyway.
I could not figure out the punting strategy since a team can apparently hang onto the ball unless the other team rips it out during a tackle. Or during a scrum.
Yes, a scrum! I was eagerly anticipating this part of the match. I had expected to see spirting blood like the Black Knight in Monty Python’s Holy Grail movie – “tis but a scratch!” – and maybe a few teeth flying into the stands like a foul ball in baseball. But, alas, that did not turn out to be the case. From the vantage point of the seats the scrum was just a circle of hunched-over men in a big huddle until one player emerged with the ball.
I always had the impression that rugby was non-stop action – constant stops in American football is what Europeans and fellow colonialists from across the oceans complain about our game – but in fact play in rugby stops almost just as often. The team’s name of Legions, also needs some work from a marketing and PR standpoint. The couldn’t do any better than Legions? That’s as bad as the Guardians in Cleveland.
The announced crowd was 11,000 and change, which the stadium scoreboard boasted was a “world record for rugby attendance.” That must have come from the PR department because the world record for rugby attendance is 123,307 set in January at the United Rugby Championship. But that’s okay; hey, I liked the enthusiasm!
The experience at Snapdragon Stadium was awesome. I will definitely go back again for more sports and events. Plus, I finally got to see a rugby match. I don’t know when or how, but that is sure to come in handy one of these days somewhere in my world travels.
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