Just prior to heading to Minneapolis to participate in an international tournament in mid June, members of the Atlanta Bucks Rugby Football Club are bringing out their roller skates for a benefit to raise money for the trip.
The Shiny Rugby Balls roller disco party June 12 will be the final fundraiser before the team heads to the Mark Kendall Bingham Memorial Tournament, a.k.a. the Bingham Cup.
Established in 2003, the Atlanta Bucks was formed for “gay and diverse communities” in the area to play the sport of rugby. Gary Durden, who has served as president since 2009, says that the group has around 70 current members.
While the majority are gay men, the group has three female members and some heterosexuals as well. And while some are beginners, others have been playing for several years. The Bucks are part of the International Gay Rugby Association and Board, which fields teams around the world.
One shared goal of all members is to help promote the sport.
“It’s a tough sport to learn,” Durden says. “We all grew up watching football and baseball. We are not used to seeing rugby. When we have new people, we are the ones teaching them to play.”
The Bucks have both a spring and fall league and participate in round robin tournaments throughout the year, some involving other U.S. gay teams. Approximately twice a year they host Rugby 101, which is a great way to meet the team and learn some introductory ball-handling skills, says Durden.
“We play straight teams more than we play gay teams,” he says. “We rarely if ever have any comments. Teams are impressed by us. I feel we gain a lot of respect, dispelling notions of what a gay man is. Sometimes a straight team will play us light until they catch on. When we play them close sometimes you can see a little fear in their eyes.”
The roller disco fundraiser is a repeat of one the Bucks held a few years back.
“We all had a great time when we did it before,” says Durden. “It’s a chance for our guys and everyone to blow off some steam before we leave. Our team’s training hard. I think everyone will have fun.”
Tourney honors 9/11 hero
The Bingham Cup, June 17 – 20, is a biannual international gay rugby tournament named for openly gay Mark Bingham, who played college rugby at the University of California, Berkeley, and helped his team win national championships. Bingham died during the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when he was one of the heroes of United Airlines Flight 93. Passengers fought back and the plane crashed in rural Pennsylvania.
The tournament, first held in 2002, was established to give gay teams a chance to play rugby and compete against other teams. Its location changes every two years.
The Bucks participated in the 2008 event in Dublin, Ireland, and won their division, the Bowl division. They were the only North American team to win a division.
Top photo: In June, the Atlanta Bucks will compete in the biannual Bingham Cup international tournament, after winning their division in the last Bingham tourney. (courtesy ProjectQAtlanta.com)