Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Obetz: American Rugby Capitol of Schadenfreude

Players for Ohio getting in a workout. Like the choice of location, Ohio is going to pleasantly surprise fans this year. 

By Henry Best

For months we all sat on the edge of our seats.  Our fingers sore from clicking refresh on PRO Rugby's facebook page, home to just about every major announcement for this league—classic millennial.  Starting on the day of the big reveal in November, the American rugby community speculated and debated where the six  five franchises would be located.  We all nodded along as the different locations came rolling in: Sacramento: makes sense given the strong rugby presence and success of the USL's Sacramento Republic,  San Francisco: solid choice with the strong Bay Area Rugby (Samu Manoa, am I right?),  San Diego: one earthquake can destroy this entire league.

And then silence.  At this point any suspense had greatly diminished.  The likely subjects were fairly obvious: Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, Denver, and of course any of the colossal American metropolitan areas also had a decent chance.

Instead this happened:

Take the jump to read more.

We are happy to announce Ohio as our fourth team for PRO Rugby's upcoming inaugural season. Ohio will play its matches in the city of Obetz. We thank the City of Obetz for their help in making a team in Ohio possible. We are excited about building the stadium experience and hopefully this model will allow for expansion in other areas of the country that do not have existing venues that fit the rugby match criteria.
Obetz?  Isn't that what Sarah Palin says to her sassy friend Betsy: “Oh Betz, that's not how you use a frying pan, you silly goose!”  Building the stadium experience?  There is no stadium.  Is this professional sport as modern art?  Ohio already picks the president, why not (insert preferred locality closer to my house here)?

Laugh off Obetz at your own risk.  The Village of Obetz has the potential to become our league's Green Bay (if Green Bay were a lot closer to Milwaukee and no where near a major body of water).  There may not be a stadium now, but the Village of Obetz recently purchased a local racetrack which could be the site of a future venue.  Obetz also hosts an annual Zucchini Festival which in the past has hosted Bret Michaels of Rock of Love fame and almost hosted country singer Clint Black, but he injured himself in Canada prior to the event.

Now that we've all had time to come to terms with the existence of Obetz, Ohio here's a quick rundown of some things to know:

Location: PRO Rugby did a solid job of picking a convenient South Columbus location.  Obetz straddles I-270, the outer-belt, providing easy transportation to and from games.  Memorial Park itself is nestled off Alum Creek Drive, one of the main roads through town, right by Exit 49.

History: Obetz was founded in 1838 as a stagecoach station in support of the larger nearby communities of Canal Winchester, and Groveport.  The village is named after Charles Obetz, however, who he was, why it is named after him, and whether or not he actually lived there is unclear.

Adult Beverages:  Go north on Alum Creek Drive.  It will be on the left.

Logic:  On the surface this seems like a weird move.  The kind of place a semi-pro league would play.  But, Obetz is also home to the Columbus Crew training facility which allows Ohio PRO Rugby to have access to high quality training equipment and practice areas.  Also, the potential to influence the construction of a rugby specific stadium (maybe to be shared with a future Crew USL team: pure speculation on my part) is unique among all the current PRO Rugby franchises.  Four teams were founded with the idea of taking advantage of fertile ground and present infrastructure.  Those four likely won't do too much to grow rugby beyond its current footprint.  They exist for stability.  Obetz is a risk, but with risk comes opportunity to grow the game.  Whatever happens, at the end of the day little Obetz has a professional rugby team and Houston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City don't.  To paraphrase a great philosopher: the haters gonna hate, hate, hate...Obetz is gonna shake, shake, shake.

Shake it off.