Three Up, Three Down: Guyana rugby sevens favor Guinness over Kool-Aid


The mission for Guyana's rugby sevens team this weekend was twofold: Improve on last year's encouraging performance and return to the Commonwealth without the foreign journalists asking about Jim Jones.

It didn't look promising right from the start.

The rugby neophytes were overwhelmed 49-0 in a flurry of England tries and beer belches in the first match of the USA Sevens Las Vegas on Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium.

It wasn't a totally unexpected result. In the run-up to the match, Guyana captain Theo Henry compared the matchup to David vs. Goliath, had there been rugby in the Valley of Elah. Still, it had to be a bitter result for the South Americans; the United Kingdom had ruled Guyana from 1899 to 1966.

Guyana lost its second match in pool play to Argentina, 47-0.

"We expected to keep the score line to a minimum," Guyanese back Elwin Chase said, sounding a lot like former Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella when Carlos Zambrano was in one of his moods, if Piniella spoke with a thick British-Caribbean accent.

"We drew against France last year," Chase said. "We were hoping to equal that or better that this year."

In its last pool play match Saturday, Guyana lost to France, 57-7.

By then, a foreign journalist -- me -- already had asked about Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple and the poisoned Kool-Aid of 1978.

Chase, 27, who worked in a bakery to buy school supplies -- his father had died when Elwin was 9 -- started laughing. Not that the Jonestown Massacre is a matter that ordinarily solicits mirth, but because he could see the question coming from left field, or the rugby pitch equivalent.

Guyana, Chase said, "is a beautiful country. We have lots of resources; the people are warm and welcoming. There's loads of nice stuff."

The bauxite and gold mines, for instance. Those are nice, if you work in them and the environmentalists don't complain.

But, Chase added, "We are not so fortunate to have loads of people playing rugby. In Guyana, we have only three clubs. We have more people in these stands than we have players in Guyana."

It should be noted that at 9:34 a.m., when the England-Guyana match began with a rugby hangover exacerbating ocean liner whistle blast, there weren't many people in the stands.

In speaking with Chase, I learned that Eddy Grant, the reggae music star from MTV's early days, was born in Guyana; we even sang a few bars of "Electric Avenue" together.

The grandfather of Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira also was born there. And, no, even if the expression "drink the Kool-Aid" originated in Guyana, the country's rugby players, who are less popular than the country's cricket players, don't care for it much.

"We drink mostly Guinness," Chase said, laughing some more.

This time it was the foreign journalist who should have seen that one coming.

THREE UP

■ The first major league baseball game I covered was Atlanta Braves vs. Houston Astros in the Astrodome in 1982. I was kinda nervous. Braves manager Chuck Tanner, who died Friday, made me feel less nervous. He made me feel like Peter Gammons, or one of the other big-time baseball writers. Except he called me "young man."

■ No. 14 Wisconsin 71, No. 1 (and previously undefeated) Ohio State 67. UNLV's 68-65 victory over the Badgers in November just got a whole lot bigger.

■ In the interview afterward, Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan did not mention that Kevin Kruger was allowed to transfer from Arizona State to UNLV before the 2006-07 season thanks to a lousy rule that since has been rescinded. Maybe Ryan is finally over it.

THREE DOWN

■ UNLV was picked fifth (among seven teams) in the Mountain West Conference preseason baseball poll by league coaches and media. Which only proves the league coaches and media don't know first-year Rebels coach Tim Chambers very well.

■ Commissioner Michael Huyghue says the keys to turning things around in the financially strapped United Football League (two seasons, roughly $82 million in losses) are a revised business model that calls for a reduction in costs, an increase in TV revenue and identifying new corporate sponsors and investors. Oh, yeah, and a really, really big red-ink eraser.

■ Las Vegas Locomotives vs. Florida Tuskers -- er, Virginia Destroyers -- at the UNLV Dome in 20??. Why not? We can meet for a beer before the game, at one of the fern bars in the middle of campus where the softball field used to be.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352.

 

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