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Woody Paige: Glendale Raptors rugby club joins legion of Colorado pro sports teams

May 22, 2018 Updated: May 22, 2018 at 6:27 pm
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GLENDALE, CO - APRIL 21: Glendale Raptors vs Austin Elite at Infinity Park on April 21, 2018 in Glendale, Colorado. (Photo by Seth McConnell via GlendaleRaptors.com)

Roll over, Rox. The only undefeated pro team in Colorado is the Glendale Raptors, and their best player is - y'all ready for this? - Harley Davidson. And they play just a few blocks from Shotgun Willie's.

As Jules Verne would conjecture, there have been 20,000 leagues under the C of the state flag.

So it seems.

I've written columns about most of them.

To name a few initial leagues: NFL, AFL, USFL, ABA, NBA, NBL, WHA, NHL, WHL, CHL, IHL, USHL, WCHL, MLB, AA, PCL, WL, PL, LFL, IPFL, IFC, NFFL, PIFL, APFL, MCHL, MLL, NLL, NASL, PASL, MASC, IVA, WTT, RDL, USL, ABL, NIFL, NBADL, IFL, PRL, IBA, MSC.

Did Stan Kroenke own franchises in all those leagues?

Who will ever forget Steel Workers, Rage, Crush, Calvary, Cutthroats, Crusaders, Caribous, Comets, Dynamos, Dynamite, Dream, Dynasty, Xplosion, Invaders, Aviators, Gold Kings, Venom (Venom?), Blizzard, Ice, Chill, Storm, Inferno, 14ers and the Pikes Peak Derby Dames?

Pro Rodeo League, National Women's Basketball League, World Team Tennis, Major Arena Soccer League, West Coast Hockey League and the International Volleyball Association featuring the Denver Comets - whose owners and executives were arrested after a 1979 game by authorities in "Operation Spike'' on charges of marijuana and cocaine trafficking.

Colorado professional teams have been based in Denver, Colorado Springs, Loveland, Aurora, Pueblo, Greeley and Grand Junction.

Welcome Colorado's newest team and professional league: The Raptors of Major League Rugby.

You literally don't know what you're missing.

The Little Team That Could from Glendale - an independent municipality of 0.6 square miles surrounded on all sides by Denver and with the approximate population of the altitude (5,280) - is in first place in the MLR's inaugural season with a 4-0 record, and the 25-year-old Davidson, a winger-fullback from Boise, Idaho - is tied for third in the league in tries (football translation: touchdowns) with three.

Harley Davidson sure can motor.

RugbyTown USA has hosted national championships and prestigious Churchill Cups in its nifty 5,000-seat Infinity Park, and Glendale is seeking to win the first MLR title and one of several for Colorado "major-league'' teams (including the Broncos, the Avalanche, the Rapids and, of course, the old Denver Racquets). If so, people will be dancing on the tables of its famous strip club and the 40 other bars and (mostly chain) restaurants in the former dairy farm community.

Having seen games of almost 50 sports leagues, who have come and go, or stayed - and rugby in four countries over 43 years, I certainly had to become a witness at a recent Raptors' match. They had started with 41-26, 19-15 and 36-29 victories, and were facing the pesky San Diego Legion. (Other league teams are in Seattle, Houston, Austin, Salt Lake City and New Orleans, and at least three more cities will join MLR next season.)

With a player salary cap of about $350,000, and others paid on a per-game basis, the Raptors' roster includes several players who grew up in the Denver area (and Seth Halliman from Colorado Springs) and others from New Zealand, Samoa, Australia, South Africa, Malaysia, Argentina, England and Ireland.

Major League Rugby's blueprint is based on Major League Soccer, according to Clint Fairchild, one of the Raptors' owners and an Aussie who grew up in The Outback. "We know this is going to be a long process, mate. Most Americans don't understand the game or the rules, and we are emphasizing young people and others who are looking for an alternative football.''

Rugby is an amalgamation of U.S. and Australian Rules football, soccer and full-contact mud wrestling in the backyard - without a helmet, timeouts, holding or end zone theatrics.

A penalty was called for "excessive scrummaging.''

Down 21-10, the pride of Glendale rallied late for a 31-27 over weary San Diego.

And the Raps have joined the legion and legend of Colorado pro sports teams.

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