Northern California Rugby Football Union Referee Society | The Great Awakening
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The Great Awakening

“I’m afraid we shall waste an awful lot of time.”

“Don’t worry,” answered Snufkin, “we shall have wonderful dreams, and when we wake up it’ll be spring.”

-Tove Jansson, Finn Family Moomintroll

Well, summer, at least.  It has been a while since the Centurion has called for a report to the Senate.  Much has befallen and much has changed, yet much has stayed the same.   A great plague has kept Pelicanland in its suffocating grip and while it has loosened a bit, we are still not clear of danger.   And yet.  And yet. And yet…

There is hope.    A miracle of modern science has put both tried and true techniques along cutting edge technologies to produce not only one, but several vaccines to combat this evil, this virus, this SARS-CoV-2, better known as COVID-19.   Vaccination rates are rising and while the Delta variant is fighting back the vaccines are proving superior and winning the battle.   Infection rates in Pelicanland have dropped to the level that we can finally play rugby again.

Let me say this one more time:  we can finally play rugby again.   But this is not guaranteed to continue.   If you are not vaccinated I strongly urge you to get one as soon as possible – these vaccines are the best defense we have against the virus.

But yes, rugby is back.  It has been a long time coming and more than a year of training in our living rooms and back yards has finally been rewarded with open fields and green grass.  Well, the grass would be green if we weren’t in such a vicious drought, but you can’t have everything.   And yet…

We are playing rugby.  7s tournaments are happening and people are running and tackling and sweating and all that goes with it and it is glorious.   I refereed at the Carslburg Cup 2 weeks ago and after I wrote the following:  I am sunburnt. I am tired. My legs are sore. My toes are cramping… and I haven’t been this happy in 18 months. Saturday was a rugby day for the first time since the winter of 2020.

It has been a long time coming and I am ecstatic that we are able to participate in The Game Played In Heaven once again, but I give a final warning.   When this started back in March 2020 not a lot was known about COVID-19 aside from the common factors that all coronaviruses share so at that time Hail Pelicus reported: 

The coronavirus is incredibly infectious and has a long incubation period so that means that people can feel perfectly healthy yet still be transmitting the disease.   Add to that the fact that many people – mostly the young and healthy – exhibit only mild symptoms so don’t realize that they may be carriers.   This means that the coronavirus WILL spread and spread rapidly and is it statistically certain that it has spread well beyond the current hot spots already.   If it becomes as omnipresent as the flu the death toll will be staggering.

I feel horrible that I was correct with this prediction.  The death toll has indeed been staggering.  While we know much more about the virus now than we did then and are much better at combating it the Delta variant has proven that the words above are still applicable.  We have won a battle but we have still not won the war.  Vigilance is still needed.  If you haven’t yet, get a vaccine.

A Day In The Life Of Hail Pelicus

So what has the editorial staff of Hail Pelicus been doing these last 18 months?   Well, probably much the same as everyone.  I read the news today, oh boy, as well as the comics I read daily and then I went to work, remotely from my desk at home.  My time hasn’t been all work and no rugby, however, as MLR followed the lead of other professional sports and started playing matches  – in empty stadiums at the beginning and then gradually letting fans in.

So with matches going on and commentators needing content, one Dallen Stanford, lead MLR commentator and Verity Explains enthusiast, asked me to help him with his metaphors.  The first thing I told him was that he mostly dealt with similes, not metaphors, but he then snarled something at me in Afrikaans (don’t’ believe the nice guy image he presents on TV) and told me to get on with the word play.  That is how I became CCO (Chief Comparison Officer) of the Dallen Stanford Crack Metaphor Team.   While I can not legally tell you which similes of mine Dallen used in his broadcasts let me tell you the blooper reel of rejected similes would be worthy of a show in and of itself.

Assignments and Refs

With the bankruptcy of USA Rugby the contract with Whostheref has been cancelled.   Then COVID hit so there were no games to assign.   Now USA Rugby seems to be pushing a new system called SportLoMo but the learned Executive Committee has not bought into this platform yet.  One of the main reasons (I hope) is that currently there is no mechanism or API for uploading match reports.   Hail Pelicus is, and always has been from its inception, been at its core a match reporting vehicle.  In the early days it was merely a list of scores, but soon added match reports written by the referees themselves, then Pelicus Scriptoris started adding commentary until it evolved into the mighty organ it is today.   While I am sure HP will continue to evolve with the times I refuse to devolve and frankly do not have time to sort through emails sent directly to me with match reports, as poor Pelicus Scriptoris had to do back in the day.   Until this is resolved Hail Pelicus is in an uncertain state.   With no match reports this becomes essentially a blog where I pontificate on various subjects, often only tangentially related to rugby in Northern California (see above).

Nobody wants that.   Not even me.

Until that happy day when we can agree on a modern assignment system please pay close attention to the emails you get from Pete Smith as there have been some 7s tournaments with a distinct lack of referees.   Put your hand up and let him know that you are available.   Soon enough there will be more games and asking Pete to run down every referee in the society is a bridge too far.

Comstock Requiem

While it has been many months since the last HP time has not stood still.  Unfortunately, that means that Northern California lost another legend back in March.  Mike Comstock, whom I always assumed was indestructible, passed away.   While it is late, I felt the passing of such a man needed to be acknowledged.   Please see the tributes below:

(Written by Austin Brewin)

It is with a heavy heart I report that Mike Comstock died of heart attack yesterday, March 31st.

His loss has left a deep hole in the soul of our universe. Mike was a passionate, compassionate man endowed with a huge capacity to have fun.

He was born in Oakland, CA on July 27th, 1948, the eldest of 2 children of Louis Comstock and Melba Jean, who predeceased him.  Mike is survived by his wife of over 4 decades, Kathy (Rooney), sons Christopher (Brie), and their children Halei (12), Keegan (10) and Finn (6) of Fresno, son Brian (Sarah), and their children Will (8) and Andrew (6) of Kanas City, and son Kevin of Walnut Creek, as well as his younger sister, Mary.

Mike attended Sacred Heart grade school in Oakland, St Mary’s High School in Berkeley, UC Davis where he was an Economy major, then received his Masters in Business finance from Golden Gate University.   Mike played football at both St Mary’s HS and UC Davis.

In the early 1970s, SFRC provided the opposition for the Davis Rugby club in their annual Picnic Day festivities. The Club sent a mix of first team and younger players, always being competitive and enjoying the circus – like atmosphere of the day.  We met Mike and his Davis teammates featuring a highly emotional coach, an outrageous team captain who was in the Veterinary School and hooker we only knew as “Demon”(Barry Buhler) a talented UK born faculty fly half, and an outstanding flanker – Mike Comstock.

If ever I was sorry for an assigned referee, it would have been for this game.

In 1977, SFRC toured New Zealand for 3 unforgettable weeks.  Mike joined the tour, playing flanker and congenial ambassador. When we returned, Mike left the Contra Costa Cowboys to stay with the more competitive SFRC.   Sometime along the way we moved him into the front row, primarily as a Tight Head Prop where he remained until his last appearance on the field.   Like all good Tight Heads, he was strong and fiercely competitive with w an attitude.

Mike was a bigger than life icon who reminded me of Homer’s Ulysses.   A formidable Warrior, he heard the Sirens and headed their call.  Mike donned the jersey of every team west of the Rockies needing a prop on any given day. There were times when Kathy wished she could deafen him.

Mike was my company book keeper for many years. We rejoiced when we could play rugby or party together, and comforted each other when life’s burdens threatened to overwhelm us. We last spoke about 10 days ago and planned to have lunch after he and Kathy returned from visiting the Kansas City Comstocks.

Those of us whose lives have interacted with Mike join his family in grieving for the sudden loss of our dear friend.

(Written by Dr Bruce Carter)

Mike Comstock died of a heart attack at the end of March. Mike was a legend in NorCal rugby and beyond, being an inveterate tourist. He wanted to play long enough to play with his son and then continued to play prop, the entire game for the firsts, after his son has retired. He played non-old-boy rugby into his sixties. He was a great guy, playing for SF and SFGG and their affiliates and feeder teams, having played at UC Davis.

Telling my wife about Mike’s recent passing, I related my favorite Comstock story. It speaks precisely to some of the things I liked about him and summarizes our relationship. It also epitomizes the generally good player-referee relations enjoyed by those who ply our great sport.

Linda said, “You should send that to whoever told you.” Having long since learned to follow her advice, I present the following.

In September 1988 I broke my hand, requiring surgery, and could not play for six weeks. The first event on the calendar was the Reno tournament played in Sparks in October. Early Saturday morning I found head ref Dan Hickey and presented myself as a novice referee.

Dan knew me as a rugby whore, playing multiple positions for multiple teams, and reasonably figured that I would ref at a similar level. My first-ever assigned match was thus Reno Old Boys and City Old Boys.  Old boys.  Out of season.  At altitude.  At eight AM. With some who had not been to bed.  I grew up in Vegas enough to know when the deck is stacked against me.  Sure enough. At the first lineout, the front Reno player took the throwing of the ball as his cue to punch Mike Comstock right in the face. Because there were a lot of big guys in the immediate vicinity, a lot of grappling occurred but nothing else reportable.

Recall that I’m the FNG. I’d apparently been paying more attention to football and basketball officials than to those in rugby: at one point I’d interposed myself between Mike and his assailant.  I threw the other guy out. This was pre-red cards. You just tossed people. I told him I was potentially saving his life.

Several hours later Mike came over to the ref tent, knowing I would be wondering what the punch was for. He explained that it was just the usual getting in of retribution first, prop-to-prop, intensified by some undoubtedly imagined slight that Mike had theoretically inflicted upon this other fellow six months ago at a different tournament.

Then Mike said, “I think you are going to be a good ref. But I have to give you some advice.”   I already knew Mike well enough to know that he was that sort of prop who could school a skinny ref nine ways to Sunday. But this was to be very good advice.

“Don’t ever get between two players who want to fight. I like you and I damn near killed you.”

This Week’s Photo

The return of rugby is a wonderful thing.

Hail, Pelicus!
For the Senate
Pelicus Pedem Referre

James Hinkin
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