You Bet Your Boots

You Bet Your Boots

I first started playing rugby when I was in high school. I actually managed to get a game in this past season. I love the sport. “Thinking man’s football”, my university coach would call it.

About ten years ago I was in need of a new pair of cleats. I had been wearing a black pair with white stripes but one of the seams in the right cleat let go. I got through the game by wrapping duct tape around it. Not knowing how many seasons I had left in me, I didn’t want to buy a really expensive pair. I settled on the B grade. They were black with yellow stripes.

A year later I was still playing. Mid-way through the season my left cleat bit the dust (so much for buying the cheaper pair). I was in a bit of a dilemma. Do I purchase yet another pair? What if this was my last season? I wouldn’t get my money’s worth out of them.

A thought then occurred to me. Why not wear the left foot from my previous pair (yes, I still had them) and the right cleat from this pair? Problem solved. The fact that the stripes were different colours wasn’t a big deal. It’s not like a rugby game is a showcase of fashion.

I was playing hooker that season. The hooker is positioned in the middle of the front row of the scrum. His job is to hook the ball back toward his team after it is rolled in by the scrum-half. This is done by extending the right foot forward and striking the ball backwards.

A few weeks later one of the young players on our team approached me and said, “I see you wear a different cleat on your striking foot. May I ask why?”

Tell you what. You buy me a beer after the game and I’ll explain.”

At the clubhouse the fellow approached me. He had two bottles of beer and handed me one. “So, what’s the story with the different cleat?”

I know he was expecting me to tell him that the right cleat was somehow crafted specifically for the purpose of hooking the ball; that it provided some sort of advantage. I told him the actual story. He looked disappointed. His only response was, “Oh.” I thanked him for the beer.

Two weeks later we were playing again. After the game, a fellow who played for the opposition came up to me and asked the same question. I told him that if he bought me a beer at the clubhouse I would tell him the story.

Shortly after we arrived he handed me a beer. I told him the story.

When I finished, he stared at me for a few seconds than said, “So, you’re just a cheap bugger.”

That’s it. Thanks for the beer.”

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