Pensacola Rugby Road Trips

By Fran Thompson

Smoke, Jack & Bobby,

I’m going to start posting Pensacola rugby stories on my website. I’m ccing you guys because Bobby was telling Elf stories when here, Smoke was pretty much my only connection when I moved over from NOLA, and Jack has done an incredible job of keeping us in touch. Feel free to add, improve, edit, etc.. as there have been lots of beers consumed between then and now,

I lost his address again. But I know Elf Gone Bad is running a base in San Diego.

P.S. – Saw Doug Dassenger at the Bob Dylan concert up the street from me on Friday. He’s married to a beautiful girl named Margaret and has added about 15 pounds of muscle to his torso. Mentioned Ft. Laud. to him. Also saw Burke Willborn’s mug in the Gulf Breeze News. The cutline ID’d him as the assistant wrestling coach at GBHS.

Fran the Man

Favorite P-Cola RFC Road Trips

I never actually fought at the post-match party. I hate fighting and I’m not good at it. But twice I quick punched people. It’s pure coincidence that both times were in the middle of incredibly great Pensacola RFC road trips. I also saw a no-talent named Danny Brasso from Crescent City RFC for no reason at all walk up and pop a NORFC prop named Mike Guzzio at a rugby party around 1981. Also, coincidently. Guzzio, a teammate, once punched me in a game with the explanation that a week earlier, I told girls we were trying to pick up that he was gay. So be it.

The First Punch

Anyway, I punched a 2nd row I earlier played against in the parking lot outside a bar in Memphis. I was bruised from playing two games, and he pushed me a bunch of times for who knows why. I think we lost the first game close and dominated the second. I popped him and then turned towards a waiting Navy van full of teammates heading back to shower at the Memphis Navy Base. I didn’t think anyone saw it. But an Old Number 7 flanker I had played in the Battle of New Orleans with busted me. I apologized, of course, and tried to say it was an accident. I’m glad the Memphis boys didn’t hold a grudge, as we partied with them later on Beall St ‘til the bitter end.

The military guys flew a military plane to Memphis and Mikey Owens, Little Bobby, a pilot who wanted hours and I drove over to Hurlburt Field in Mary Esther and flew in a rented piper. Everybody going to Memphis chipped in about $15 and that paid for it all. That sounds noble on the Navy guys part. And it was. But it should be mentioned that we did only have 15 available players. We all played both games. Pat Lein, a centre, propped in front of me in the first game. The Navy boys met us at the base with two vans and we were all able to stay free at the base that night. The two guys piloting the planes Sunday a.m. were the designated drivers on Saturday night. Little Bobby pulled out a bottle of rum as soon as we were airborne Sunday a.m., and Mikey and I helped him polish it off before we touched back down. I don’t know for sure. But we easily could have met most of the guys from the team at Rum & Reggae and/or the Shaker on the way back to the beach.

The Second Punch

I also punched a guy at a rugby party in Tallahassee. He was not a rugger, just a drunk guy I egged on, I said hello – that’s it – to a girl coming down steps near the entrance to The Moose/Antlers(?) on Tallahassee Ave. A guy behind her started screaming about kicking my butt. He was really hammered and kept coming towards me. I could have walked back into a bar full of ruggers. But I just stood there and watched him continue to walk towards me. When he was in front of me, I smacked him and hightailed it back inside the bar. After a bit, a couple of the FSU ruggers I was eating pizza with said the guy was outside screaming about killing me. They asked if I wanted them to go out and smack him again. I said no thanks.

This was early in the party at a perfect college bar. We smeared FSU twice. Their football team was hosting Michigan State later that evening, and the joint was electric. Great fall day. Free beer flowing. Rugger huggers everywhere. I even had money to buy a couple rounds of pizzas. We had the perfect side to take advantage of all that. I think Gene Agate was our captain, Jeff Sands our coach and Elf Gone Bad our unquestioned leader for the ages.

I ended up back at our hotel – directly adjacent to the bar – the next morning thinking I’d been stranded when Paul Cotter pulled up in his muscle car. We blew back to P-Cola Beach in less than three hours, splitting a case of Busch on the way.

I wasn’t there for the highlight of the road trip. But I did, for a bit, save the AP story from the paper. it seems our guys were invited to a sorority party at an apartment complex where they were beer bonging and carrying on as usual. At one point, they started an elephant walk towards the balcony just when the balcony packed with people crashed into the ground below. Luckily, nobody was in the doorway below. But there was blood and about 30 injuries. We had a few casualties from guys who were on the balcony already, and one Elephant walker (I think it was Chuck O’Neil) was standing in the doorway, jewels in hand, looking down at the crying hordes. I’m told Elf Gone Bad was in the middle of it all standing proudly and cooling things down with a beer bong that he had placed over a broken water main.

Every party with that team was a major celebration. Our two headed Commander – Elf Gone Band & Glasser – , and the crew of misfits they led, deserve their own chapter in my team’s history. For on those Saturdays when we made it happen, there was nowhere else I would’ve rather been and nobody else I’d would’ve rather partied with.

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