When you visit Philadelphia there are a few non-negotiable must doâ€™s. You ring the Liberty Bell, watch big Sav punt for the Eagles, eat a Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich and best of all, finish the day with the famous run up Rockyâ€™s stairs in order to pay homage to the great boxer. You can forget that he is a fictional character. The people of Philly certainly have and so have I.Â You can do all that in a day and be back in New York by 8pm sharp.
I didnâ€™t do any of those things. The Baltimore Eagles were lining up against the highly underrated NYC Magpies and I wanted to do my bit to help regain some Maggie pride in the Big Apple. Baltimore has been NYâ€™s biggest rival in recent times.Â As much as the Pies wanted to keep things light hearted, they also wanted to put on a clinic in front of the locals and send Baltimore packing.
Your average New York Magpie is all class. (Not like Simon Black or Steve Johnson football classy, but more of a living in the West Village, well groomed, highly fashionable, media savvy, good with money kind of classy â€“ like Aka.) They enjoy a Broadway show and theyâ€™re not afraid to talk about their feelings.Â Most importantly, they look after one another and really get into the spirit of footy in the US of A.
The season works in a fairly unconventional fashion with a mixture of carnival days and standard four-quarter matches. On carnival days a selection of teams will meet at a ground and play two shortened games with twenty-minute halves. The Ladiesâ€™ team also gets involved on these days, although on this and on most occasions they struggle for numbers and play a little hybrid game on a half sized field.Â On Saturday we were playing in a carnival where we were matched firstly against a very jovial and undermanned North Carolina outfit that were fittingly kitted out in Richmond colours, and of course our previously mentioned rival, Baltimore.
The day started early with a bus leaving at 8:30am from Madison Square Garden.Â The Pies and the Lady Pies tunnelled in from all directions and loaded onto the bus. After a couple of head counts and more than a few phone calls, our coach, Glenn â€˜Brownlowâ€™ Ormsby decided that â€œFrickin Smiles (Centre Half Back) can take the frickin train to Philly, if he canâ€™t get here by nine oâ€™clock.â€ So half an hour after the planned departure time we pulled out, minus Big Smiley, who was very stiff apparently as we found out later he got there at about two minutes past nine. He did catch the train and proved to be an inspiration down back. Not on the football field mind you, I didnâ€™t really notice him out there, but definitely at the back of the bus where he hoarded and put to bed about 20 Buds on the way home. It was his Birthday and after the morning heâ€™d had, the cans were well deserved. Evidently he was also trying to settle his nerves before his planned marriage proposal to his girlfriend.
Earlier in the day North Carolina was no match for the Pies. We pretty much did as we pleased on our way to a 45-point lead by half time. Big Joel Keating ran a muck in the forward fifty and the midfield ran some circle work in the guts like it was a Tuesday afternoon skills session before nonchalantly driving the pill deep into the attacking fifty. The North Carolina defence were a bunch of jocular characters, but were out gunned by the match hardened Pies.Â The score board was being regularly updated by a couple of strung out Lady Pies, one trying to work-out and communicate her six times tables, while the other madly flipped the cards.
The game ended with most of the starting line up lazing around under the trees like a congress of baboons. Our backline was trading stocks on i-Phones and the reserves had taken over the feast.
After that we had a stretch and turned our minds towards the hotdogs that were sizzling away next to the ground. During the break between games we had a bit of laugh, watched the girls play with passion and nous and supported the reserves in their game against the Baltimore Magoos. Three hours after the first game we finally took to the field for the premier match of the day against Baltimore. We were informed during the pre-game pump up that this was to be the last game for Hawk, a Veteran of at least two or three seasons with the Magpies.Â Just before the bounce Hawk looked around the huddle and asked us if the beers would taste better if we were winners or if we were losers. It wasnâ€™t your regular pre game rhetoric and I think most us were just glad we would be drinking beer either way. The mumbled response from a couple of the boys confirmed â€˜winners beerâ€™ as the answer to the puzzling question.
Spurred on by Hawkâ€™s powerful words the Magpies set to work dismantling the Baltimore line-up. Believe it or not, they actually employed a flood from the opening bounce. There were a couple of extras down back and Big Nick, one of our American forwards, asked me whom I was manning up on. I informed him that it wasnâ€™t up to us to find a man when playing in the forward line. Satisfied with that he jogged up to the wing where he happened upon a stoppage, I assume by accident, and started having a real impact on the play.
The score was low and the match was fairly uneventful.Â Shane Batty was the dominant player on the field, playing inspired in front of his visiting parents. The backline repelled anything that came forward. Play of the day came in the form of a barnstorming, Marty Lang style hit up followed by a space junk floater that sailed through the big sticks.Â I believe the player responsible was a fella named Toby, heâ€™s a rugby convert and as mad as a cut snake.Â We kept Baltimore goalless and kicked three of our own to come out on top. Revenge is sweet and the beers were delicious.
The next day, staying true to form, Smiley slept through the 10 oâ€™clock reservation he had made at a fancy breakfast cafe for his romantic Sunday morning marriage proposal. Seriously fatigued and probably aware that this was as good a time as any, he apparently rolled over, grabbed the ring out of his sock drawer, and quotingÂ Mark Knopfler he said, â€œ You and me babe, how bout it?â€