As Alice Hoagland turned and walked away, tears filled the eyes of the Nashville Grizzlies rugby team. While they had just lost their fifth and final match of the international gay rugby tournament, The Bingham Cup, the Grizzly players were not depressed over their losses. They had, however, just experienced one of the most special and memorable moments of their rugby careers.
The Bingham Cup is named for Hoagland’s son, Mark Bingham, who died on Sept. 11, 2001 as one of the heroes who rushed the hijackers on United Airlines flight 93.
Outgoing Grizzlies President Jon Glassmeyer says it was the team’s most momentous occasion.
“Alice Hoagland, Mark Bingham’s mother, took the time to come and speak to the team. She remarked on what a fine team we were and how she truly felt exemplified the spirit of the game her son loved so much," he said. " There was not a dry eye on the pitch as she walked away.”
The Bingham Cup is a biannual rugby tournament created by the San Francisco Fog Rugby Team to celebrate the life of their teammate, Mark Bingham. Begun in 2002, the tournament has been hosted by San Francisco, London (2004), New York (2006), Dublin (2008) and Minneapolis (2010). The local rugby team in each city hosts the event under the guidance of the International Gay Rugby Association and Board (IGRAB).
The Grizzlies took 24 players and 14 members of the Grizzlies’ auxiliary to Minneapolis to participate in Bingham Cup 2010. According to Glassmeyer, the Grizzlies ended up pulling one of the toughest draws of games of any team in the tournament.
“Of the five matches played, all our competitors made it to the finals, three winning their division,” Glassmeyer said.”Our very first match was against the New York Gotham who ultimately won the Bingham Cup. Where the Grizzlies could have been bitter or disappointed, we took each match as a challenge and did our best to honor Nashville," he said.
The Grizzlies’ sportsmanship was well recognized. Glassmeyer says the team got a personal compliment from the IGRAB President, Alex Fallis.
“Alex spoke to the Grizzlies after our last match and congratulated the team on being gentlemen on and off the pitch (field),” Glassmeyer said. “He told us that he hoped someday all the teams in IGRAB would show the sportsmanship and character of the Grizzlies. All extremely kind and uplifting words. All in all, it was a long year of fund raising, practice, and many matches of rugby to get the Grizzlies to Minneapolis, but it was worth every minute!”
The Grizzlies closed out their season with a pool party celebration in late July, and the election of new officers. For the 2010-2011 season, the Grizzlies have announced the following slate of officers and board members:
President: Daniel Vincent
Vice-President: Paul Hoffmann
Secretary: John Bledsoe
Treasurer: Richard Lancaster
Match Secretary: John Purdom
Social Chair: Jamie Day
Membership Chair: Ira Phillips
Player at Large: Joe Woolley
Auxiliary at Large: Scott Ridgway