For instance, in my first game of rugby for St. Albert in the 2014 season, I tried to seize the opportunity to tackle an opposing player who was about to kick the ball away. If I had the sense to block the trajectory of the ball rather than make the tackle, or had I stuck to the fundamentals of tackling and kept my head from crossing my opponent's body…well let’s just say I wouldn’t have titanium plates in my face.
Breaking my face was pretty gruesome. Worse yet was that I had underpinned that season to be my big push to make the regional representative team, the Prairie Wolf Pack, and had ultimately prepared by bringing myself to an all-time high of 210 pounds. All that work of force-feeding and lifting heavy in the gym was fractured along with my face; the recovery required two months of non-solid foods, and no strenuous activity that may reopen the fracture lines that were covering my face. As you may imagine, those restrictions were not very conducive for maintaining a 210 pound frame.
The result of the injury was not all tragedy. The inability to work, exercise, or play rugby, afforded me the opportunity to read, which I did often while fastidiously flexing my smile on the right side of my face, as I left reconstructive surgery with somewhat of a droopy face, a countenance that simply would not do.
The most telling tale of the German’s vigor for their football team was the night of the 7-1 slaughter of the Brazilian National Team, where the local beer garden was offering a half-litre of beer for every goal Die Mannschaft (The German National Team) scored. They kept their word, and not a single person, countryman or otherwise, left the garden that night knowing precisely what had just unfolded, but we were all quite raucous about whatever it was that had just transpired. When I landed back in Canada after my extended five week stay in Europe, I was not sure why, but I knew that I had to get back on the horse. I knew I had to get back into the heat of battle with my teammates.
My first practice following the facial fracturing, I was told by my coach that I was not only going to be starting the game on the weekend, but that I would be wearing the number 8, which in rugby terms, means I was set to commandeer the all-important scrum, and face up against one of the biggest men on the other team.
I was an anemic 185 pounds upon my return from Europe, however, in my head, I was a behemoth. I had titanium in my face to shield me from crushing blows, and I had the heart of a lion going into that first game back from injury. I did not just want to return to the game of rugby to impress my teammates, my coach, or my parents. I returned to the game of rugby for myself, to prove that I’m the good man that you can’t keep down. I returned to rugby for me, and it became the greatest lesson that rugby has ever taught me: to claim victory not for any vain reason, but for the victory of self.
My rugby team, the St. Albert Rugby Football Club (SARFC ), claimed the Alberta Cup that year, and went on to do so two more times under two different coaches. The thrill of the three-peat may never have been experienced by me had I let my broken face get me down. Now when I rub my eye and feel the plate and screws right beside my eyebrow, I am not regretful that I stumbled poorly into a tackle and came out asymmetrical. I am proud to have fallen, as it made me get up.