Philadelphia is famous for many things. The more historically and culturally astute among us are, of course, aware of the city’s significance. From the middle of the nineteenth century Philadelphia was the second largest metropolis in the British Empire (behind London), and as a cultural and intellectual ‘hotspot’ the city naturally became an epicentre for American revolutionaries throughout the War of Independence. Perhaps most significantly, the Declaration of Independence was signed at the Second Continental Congress, which took place in the city.
Understandably, therefore, I was excited to visit ‘Philly’. When I asked some of my team-mates what they were most excited about, the responses I received were, well, more varied. ‘The Rocky Steps’ was a popular answer. Some salivated over the famous Cheese Steaks. Others rhythmically chanted the ‘Fresh Prince’ theme tune. However, by far the most common response was, simply, a bed. At long last, after a week of sofa-surfing, rogue rats, and the odd keg-stand, our arrival in the ‘City of Brotherly Love’, also brought with it the first hotel room that any of us (management aside) had experienced on tour. With this in mind, everyone was anxious to arrive, if not to imbibe culture or to engulf Cheese Steak, simply for a good kip. Naturally, the bus journey seemed short Although, this may also be due to the high-quality banter provided by the players (101.9 Ferret FM is now ranked the most popular radio station on the East Coast of America, and their Kiwi weatherman has shot to international stardom via YouTube).
Upon arrival in Philly, the promise of our own bed, however, proved to be just that: a promise. As we were handed our room keys we were told that we would all be sharing our beds with a team-mate, giving a whole new meaning to the ‘City of Brotherly Love’. The lads quickly dropped off their stuff and headed to the Talen Energy Stadium for our team run, in preparation for our big game against the Collegiate All-American team.
Later that afternoon the squad had the chance to explore some of the city. Some of the lads B-lined off into the horizon to run up the famous ‘Rocky Steps’, doing their best Sly Stalone impression (though there were some howlers flying around). A larger contingent made its way into the city for a bite to eat, Reading Terminal Market seemed the place to be, and Cheese Steaks were, inevitably, the flavour of the day.
Our match against the Collegiate All-Americans was played just outside of the city, at the Talen Energy stadium. Frankly, this is an unbelievable facility, and a great chance for the squad to play ambitiously against a fiercely competitive USA side. Some individuals were stifled somewhat by the scorching heat, and cries of a slippery ball. Yet the dogged second-half performance marked a definite improvement from our last game against Mystic River.
A narrow win meant cause for celebration, and celebrate in style we did. As our match was a curtain raiser for the Saracens v Newcastle premiership fixture, the sponsors of the event graciously allowed us use of the corporate facilities to watch the game. Some of the big new arrivals at OURFC used this as a chance to catch up with old friends at their respective clubs. Seb Haddock got a chance to touch base with George Kruis, his sister’s ex-boyfriend (which I am sure was nice). Of course, Ed David also famously went to school with Saracen-superstar Maro Itoje. It was strange that they did not really talk to each other, given that Ed had spent time over the past few seasons professing that they were such close friends.
On Sunday, before moving on to West Point Military Academy, the squad had a final chance to explore the city. A special shout out has to go to Dylan McGagh and Sam Edgerley who ran the Philadelphia half-marathon that morning. A seriously impressive feat, made even more so given that Dylan actually ran in a pair of Birkenstock sandals. Yet, special congratulations have to go to Red-Edge. After a fantastic performance in energy sapping heat the day before, and definitely nursing a hangover having drunk his first beer since arriving in Oxford, the ‘handbrake’ (as he is now affectionately known) ran a blistering time!
Kieran Ball (DPhil History, Trinity).