Rugby’s a game after my own heart |

Rugby’s a game after my own heart

When most people think of Valentine’s Day, they think of love, red roses, little candy conversation hearts and romantic evenings.I, on the other hand, think of hard tackles, colliding scrums, game-winning tries and face plants into hard-packed snow.For the past five years I have opted to miss out on those romantic evenings and instead take part in the annual Valentine’s Day Massacre Rugby Tournament in Breckenridge.This year was no different, and on Feb. 11 I, along with former teammates and anyone who was willing to partake in the madness – including my 17-year-old sister – formed a team and battled in what has become my favorite rugby tournament of the year.We were slated for three games, all played on packed-down snow fields lined with cherry Kool-Aid. Considering the cold weather and choice beverages we consumed to provide internal heating, we still managed to put together a pretty impressive performance – winning two games and dropping only one. Most years, the weather hasn’t been a problem and the sun has provided enough warmth to make me forget that I am playing a game that is really meant for grassy fields, in the middle of winter. But on this Saturday, negative, bone-chilling temperatures quickly made me remember where I was. Only minutes into our first game, feeling in my feet vanished and I suddenly felt as if I was walking around on peg legs. When all was said and done after the 20-minute contest, we had overcome the cold and held on for a 4-0 victory.By the time the second game rolled around, my hands had become numb and catching a ball became rather difficult – kind of like having bricks attached to the end of your arms instead of four fingers and a thumb. Instead of kicking from time to time like I usually do, I chose to hang on to the ball, figuring it was much better to be slammed into the snow than to have to chase a kick and sprint, breathing air so cold it instantly crystallized the bronchioles of my lungs.Somehow we again pulled it together, not only beating the cold, but also our second adversary, this time by a score of 2-1.Despite feeling like I was transforming into a block of ice, I was having a great time. Between games, I would defrost inside, talk to old opponents and teammates and change socks, even though that turned out to be about as useful as having a convertible in Seattle. In our final contest, I didn’t get to play much, leaving the field in an ambulance with my sister who had an asthma attack after her lungs chose not to deal with the ridiculously cold air. She got some oxygen and sucked down some magical air from inhalers and recovered just fine. Our team went on to lose the game and, needless to say, our day of rugby was done. And I didn’t really mind either – being wrapped up in those straight-out-of-the-dryer hospital blankets is an amazing feeling.After the experience, all I can say is that next year I will continue to neglect the boxes of chocolates and hand-made Valentines. I will be back on that field, fanning the flame of my annual Valentine: rugby.Joelle Milholm is a sports writer for the Post Independent.

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