The Philadelphia Gryphons Rugby Football Club went to Nashville the last week of May to compete in the bi-annual Bingham Cup. With them went the Hoagland Cup that they captured in 2014 in Sydney, Australia. And while they came back to Philly this time without a cup or bowl, they returned with plenty of memories.
Pool play was tough. The first competition was against the East Coast champion Washington Renegades and resulted in a 17-0 loss. The afternoon game was against the Bingham Cup 2014 second-place team from Sydney, the Brisbane Hustlers. Even though outmatched, the Gryphons played a defensively solid game but again were unable to score.
In the end, they were knocked out of contention in the first regular round of play. A win to end pool play put them in contention for the Bingham Shield, but the Gryphons were not able to score a try in their first competition, losing 5-0. Complete scoring and results can be found at thethirdhalfonline.com.
But it was not all fun and games. There were also friends and family! Family members from around the country converged on Nashville to see their sons, brothers, uncles and nephews compete internationally. And per custom, Mark Bingham’s mom, Alice Hoagland, was in attendance for the opening ceremonies, the first day of play, a special screening of “The Rugby Player” and was generally honored and included in almost every team’s photo.
We felt it fitting to pay respects on our way to Nashville (via Louisville) for the Bingham Cup so our journey included a short, moving side trip to Shanksville, about halfway between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, where Bingham and 39 other innocents lost their lives on Sept. 11. The site is now a National Memorial and part of the U.S. National Park Service. The visitor center opened on Sept. 10, 2015.
The walkway leading to the main exhibit chillingly brings to life the power of this exhibit, as it traces the Flight 93 flight path. A timeline along the black jagged wall brings visitors to the moment of impact as you approach the observation deck overlooking the site of the crash. A large boulder marks the lonely spot.
The day we were there was emotionally compounded by the gray, overcast skies, light rain and the wind occasionally whistling through the silence as if it could blow away the pain and sadness.
Bids for the 2018 Bingham Cup are under way. But wherever it may be played, Shanksville will always be nearby.
The life of Mark Bingham — through video clips, photographs and interviews, including a crash-site visit and comments by his mom Alice Hoagland — was chronicled in the 2013 documentary “The Rugby Player.”