Bedfordshire Blue Raiders…

April 17, 2008

Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock….

Friday night, into Saturday. Saturday night into Sunday….

Watching the clock. Every tick and every tock was one second closer….

One second closer to strapping up the pads, one second closer to buckling up the helmet…

Tick, tock, pads, helmet, tick, tock, pads, helmet…

 

It feels like an eternity, but the training, the blood, the weat and the tears finally come to fruition. It’s 10am, and we’re ready for the trip to Bedfordshire. WOO HOO!

So, people start to congregate from about 9.30, with the adrenaline already pumping, and ready to get going. The rookies have a nervous look in their eye, and the veterans sense the anticipation. So, as people start milling around Paul Bovingdon, our Treasurer, has the job of dishing out the travelling shirts. This year, we’ve gone for a delicate pale blue shirt, emblazoned with the Gladiators’ 25th Anniversary logo. Very nice they are too… when they fit! It’s fair to say some of the “larger” gentlemen had issues doing them up, but we soldiered on regardless!

The bus journey was as long and arduous as ever – well over two hours pootling down roads in the pouring rain. The highlight was the moment Coach Roberts dramatically appeared from the lower deck, and instructed us to all shuffle around – offensive players at the front of the bus, and defence at the back. Needless to say the way were were sat originally meant that most of the offence was sat towards the rear, with defence at the front. Cue lots of moving around, complaining, yelps as people were treading on each other, and amidst the madness the passive figure of Duncan Flack, superstar Running Back, still, unmoving dead centre of the bus. Mind you, with the stupidly loud screeching music he plays there’s a fair chance he was oblivious to what was going on anyway…

So, once we’d shuffled around… nothing happened. that’s right, nothing. So, thinking it was a team building exercise that the coaches had ordered for a bit of a giggle, we started to move back to where we were. At that point Coach Roberts and Coach Stephenson appear from downstairs to give “inspirational” pre-game talks. I didn’t hear Coach Roberts’ contribution, but T’s revolved mainly around “We’re going to beat them. we’ll have fun. It’s all good”. Inspirational, i’m sure you’ll agree.

So, with Defensive players suddenly panicking and flicking through playbooks, the offence proceded to discuss more important matters – like how Monty might be able to steal the TV from the front of the bus (5 minutes alone with a screwdriver and it’s his…), which women Rugby thinks would “wear it like a raincoat” (i think we got as far as Slider’s Mum, and stopped there…), and whether the new and improved Tommy Clarke was actually trying to turn into Duncan, with his new streamlined haircut (yes, yes he is…).

Eventually we pulled up outside the Bedfordshire International Athletics Stadium, thinking how great it was to play in a posh stadium… It turns out that the football field was out the back somewhere on the wasteland that’s so bad it was rejected for allotments. Combine this with the cold, wet, muddy conditions and it was time to play football!

Warm ups, then roster check, then coin toss and then… KICK OFF! Finally the 2008 season is underway, after what seems like years of waiting!

We kick nice and deep to the Bedfordshire returner and then the Defence takes the field. The entire offence prowls on the sidelines looking for the chance to get onto the field. Eventually the defence force Bedfordshire to punt the ball away, and we’re on. The first play comes in and new QB, Dan “The Slinger” Singer steps up. His hand trembles, he calls the cadence, i snap the ball nice and cleanly into his hands, he makes the hand off, and we’re off and running.

As ever, the game passes by so quickly, but there were some real moments to savour. Tommy Clarke bagging the first interception of the season, Duncan rumbling up the middle, Paul Gates sweeping round the edge, and the defence gang tackling each rushing attempt that Bedfordshire made.

So with the rain hammering down, we get through to half-time with neither side getting on the scoresheet. We got as far as the 5 yardline, but couldn’t convert, and then a catalogue of errors on the field goal attempt left us coming away with nothing. But we were not deterred, and as the sun came out in the second half, so did our best football. Soon after the restart we drove down the field, and Slider slipped into the end zone from close range – Goat converted the extra-point and we were 7-0 ahead.

Bedfordshire’s rushing game stalled, and we took control of the football again in the 4th quarter. Again, we got close, and again Slider swept around the edge and into the end zone for the score. 14-0.

It could have been so much more, but some silly penalties negated some excellent efforts. Notably when rookie Paul Gates took the hand off, and managed to rush over 60 yards, breaking 4 or 5 tackles in the process, only for the play to be called back for holding. Frustrating in anyone’s book! Someone needs to teach Monty to block…

But, 14-0 it finished. The Gladiators record their first victory in 2 calendar years, and celebrations ensue. Not least by the coaches who get well and truly smashed on the way home, drinking copious amounts of rum and beer…

However, they were sober enough to announce game MVPs on the trip back. Offensive MVP was Alex “Slider” Robinson for his two touchdowns:

     

 

Defensive MVP was Matt Selby for making an immediate impact at Linebacker and shutting down the Bedfordshire Offence:

     

Special Teams MVP was Steve O’Callaghan, for his contributions on all the special teams, and his long snapping accuracy: ( i know the picture is him at the Blades, but i couldn’t find one of him playing on sunday…)

    

But the Overall game MVP was well deserved, and awarded to Duncan Flack. Despite not scoring, the reliable Running back pounded the ball up and down the middle of the field, recording his first 100 yard performance for quite some time.

    

So, next on the agenda is East Kent Mavericks in two weeks time. Go Gladiators!

 

 

 

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The return….

April 1, 2008

Ok, so i’ll hold my had up and admit, it’s taken some time for me to update the blog. I’ve been busy, what with training, and social events, and player registrations (when people can be bothered), but that’s no excuse for poor workmanship, so i consider myself thoroughly berated. Bearing in mind the hoards of you who have requested that i update it (“hoards” equating to 5 people) i can tell that my contribution is valued above all others! So, with that in mind, i thought i’d give a brief overview of things that have happened since the last update, and my perspective on where we are now…So, i suppose the first thing to say was that after being let down by the US All Stars this year we had a mad panic to find another team to play us in the preseason. If you ask me, that just proves that there’s no such thing as an American “star”. More like American Drama Queens if you ask me, but that’s a conversation for another day (what’s that? Me? Bitter about Americans? Well, i got pancaked by one when i played in the US, but that only happened once, and the next play i took him down! Not that i’m one to hold a grudge…)Many teams were mentioned as possible opponents, and we scoured the BAFL ranks for opposition worthy of the trip to our illustrious home ground. Such prominent and exceptional teams as the Chiltern Cheetahs, Reading Renegades, and even the Shropshire Revolution were mentioned, but each of them were clearly far too overwhelmed at the prospect of facing the blue and gold wrecking machine in their own back yard. Well, in truth most had other plans at Easter, but i like to think they could have come if they’d wanted to – they just didn’t fancy trying an Easter Egg hunt with broken legs…In the end, each of the committee had to bite the bullet and invite they who must not be named… (for those unsure of who i’m referring to, think local rivals, who wear a sort of maroon colour – i mean seriously, who wears maroon? It’s so 1982….). So with that the Ip***ch Car****ls (even typing the name leaves a bad taste in the mouth) agreed to come to fortress Broad Lane and take on Coach Roberts’ Barmy Army.

The weather leading up to the game was somewhat inclement, and at one point, after dusk, three intrepid club men were reduced to emptying bucket after bucket of water from the drains in order to try to allow the pitch to dry. Snow, sleet, hail, and ever more rain ensued, and as we all sat comfortably indoors on Friday the phone rang. I answered it with trepidation…

“Tom, it’s Dave. We have to call the game off…”

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! I’m pretty sure the guys in Ipswich could hear my reaction from here. Despite pleading to reconsider, Dave eloquently pitched the argument that we play football and not water polo, and so the field would not be suitable. Reluctantly i agreed, and sent out notification to everyone. Despair and anguish settled over Colchester over Easter, and tensions ran high at training the following day.

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But, despite this miserable pre-season, the social side of the club is stronger than ever. We’ve held the first quiz night of the year, as well as the inaugural Rookies and Legends night, both were fairly well attended, and hopefully will allow the social side of the club to grow and grow. So, the quiz night – our dear old friend Eric from our Wednesday night quiz agreed to take the reigns and he didn’t disappoint. Sure enough, Eric’s quiz was impeccable, and the teams there all left happy. Despite only making a small profit, i think that the entire night was worthwhile just for Tommy Clarke’s input on our team. When faced with any question, Tommy would immediately agree with whichever suggestion was voiced first, vehemently throwing his support behind it, regardless of what it was. So, let me set the scene… tension is high, silence around the room, Eric’s commanding presence dominationg as it always does. He raises the microphone to his lips and, in his long Stoke drawl utters, “Who lives in a ‘very grand house in the middle of a beach tree’ in the Hundred Acre Wood?”

Adam Burrows, in his infinite wisdom immediately says “Well that’s easy, it was Eeyore, the donkey”. Tommy jumps in.. “Absolutely, top shout that Rugby, got to be Eeyore, stick it down.” Duncan pauses before asking, “Are you sure? That doesn’t make sense to me.”

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 “Absolutely, it’s Eeyore, no doubt about it!”, Tommy retorts.

“I’m not convinced” I reply. “I’m with Duncan here, that doesn’t make sense.”

“I’m telling you, it’s Eeyore, i’d stake my reputation on it!” Tommy exclaims. “How can you say it doesn’t make sense!”

“Well,” Duncan replies, “He said at the start of the round that the next 10 questions were all related to pigs. So, logically the answer would be Piglet…”

Tommy sits back in his chair, somewhat dumbstruck, and waits for the next question to re-assert himself further…

However, I’m perhaps being a little harsh on Tommy – he did pretty well helping me with the Rookies and Legends night. He came shopping with me, and proceeded to stock up his own freezer. I let him choose some sort of sweet component for the buffet, and he opted for Giant Chocolate Discs, insisting that they’d go down a storm. I disagreed, and we had a little wager that my Honey and Mustard sausages would go down better than his chocolate discs. Needless to say, within an hour, my sausages had disappeared, and at the end of the night there was a black bag full of chocolate discs…

On the subject of the Rookies and Legends night, all in all i think it was a great success. I mean, let’s face it, you know it’s been a good night when Rick Rotondo starts talking about licking a Mr. Whippy on the toilet… I mean, be honest, it’s an image you never even considered, but now you’re left wondering how you ever survived without it…

Rick was a great speaker – animated, enthusiastic, interesting and most of all a guy that people see and respect. He’s a guy that people aspire to be like, and he raises the level of those around him. Our second speaker, Coach Roberts, may not fulfil all those criteria at the moment, but let’s face it, not all of us have a story about ice cream in the lavatory!

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We managed to award almost all the shirts for our rookie class too – 20+ guys receiving their first Gladiators jersey. It’s a great achievement and we have high hopes for all of them. However, we also hope that next year’s group can drink, because this year they got stuffed in the Rookies vs. Legends boat race…

But, social events aren’t the only thing we’ve been organising this year… So far we’ve managed to pay a visit to Manningtree school, where our first 2008 mascot (Harry Hornsby) is a pupil. We conducted 4 PE lessons, and managed not to injure any kids in the process (despite really wanting to in the case of some of the year 10s!). As a result we’ve had a big picture in the Evening Gazette, as well as being featured on Anglia News (hopefully i’ll have a copy of this shortly, and i’ll try to post it if i can). So, three things have come out of that… firstly, we’re famous! Secondly, we know that Dave missed his calling in life, and should have been a teacher, and finally that Tommy Clarke and Adam Burrows must never, ever, ever be left in control of 15 year old girls…

gmschoolblog1.jpg  gmschoolblog2.jpg  gmschoolblog3.jpg Also on the horizon are the first ever Gladiators online advertisements. That’s right, Rick Rotondo – Sloppy Joes Quality Control, has been filmed and is currently in post-production as we speak. Rick (or the angry gay pirate as he was affectionately nicknamed at the shoot) managed to tear Sloppy Joes to pieces, and you could tell from the glint in his eyes that he loved every minute of it. Tommy Clarke flew over tables, and then flew over them again so we could film him without him laughing. He got thrown up against a wall a dozen times because he couldn’t grasp the petrified expression he needed to make (fortunately Rugby was there to help, and immediately suggested that Tommy use his “happy face”. Having seen it first hand, Burrows knew exactly what it looked like, and as it transpired, the grimace Tommy makes on the vinegar strokes is the look of pure terror… Rugby himself got creamed – well, Salad creamed. Mind you, Rick also gave me a good dose of cream on the face… as he slammed my head into a large cake. Brad Stevenson got to get all greased up, as he had his head driven into the hotplate, and then, as Tommy got dragged backwards up the stairs, we knew we were on a winner! Again, once these are release, i’ll try to post them up here…

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So, with all of this stuff out of the way we’re looking at the new season. 10 games, 10 chances to make an impression, 10 chances to show BAFL that we mean business, and most importantly, 10 chances for Duncan to moan about his blocking…

However, not everyone will be able to play the first game. Mainly because they haven’t completed their fricking registration forms! It’s not rocket science, and i’ve given them enough warning… Sometimes i wonder if people ever actually listen, and what goes through their heads whilst i’m talking…

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Anyway, rant over for now.

So,the season continues and promises to be as long as our committee meetings (after 4 meetings, we’ve averaged 5 hours 15 mins per meeting, and never finished before 1am), but we’re a well oiled machine and we’re ready for it… I hope!