On May 19, 2010, at Infinity Park, in the heart of “Rugbytown USA”, a proclamation was read decreeing June as Rugby Month in Colorado. Acting on behalf of Governor Bill Ritter, Lt. Governor Barbara O”Brien read the proclamation to Glendale Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Dunafon, USA Rugby Men”s National Team Head Coach, Eddie O”Sullivan and a room full of Rugby enthusiasts at the Guinness Try Club. “It is great to have Infinity Park here in Glendale and Colorado, we have a wonderful month of rugby coming up” Said the self-proclaimed “Rugby Mom”. “Rugby is a sport that”s gaining a lot of traction here in Colorado, Infinity Park is the nation”s only municipally-owned rugby stadium and it”s attracting a lot of positive attention”. Attention will continue in June as Infinity Park will again showcase to the rugby world The Churchill Cup, on the 5th, 9th, and 13th. This year the high profile XV-a-side rugby tournament feature teams from U.S., Canada, Russia, England Saxons, France, and Uruguay. It will be the second consecutive year that Infinity Park presents the prestigious games. Other action at Infinity Park in June includes some of the top men”s rugby players in the country competing for the USA Rugby Men”s Club Championships on June 5-6, and the Men”s Collegiate All-Star Championships on June 10 and 12. And of course there will be action from the home team, Glendale Raptors, as well. After Lt. Governor O”Brien spoke, Coach O”Sullivan took to the microphone and underscored what a remarkable achievement Infinity Park has attained in hosting the Churchill Cup for the second straight year and suggested that the crown jewel of rugby venues become the permanent home of the premier event. Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Dunafon also took a turn at the podium and thanked the rugby supporters, visionaries, and those behind the construction of Infinity Park, and extolled the community building that surrounds the sport of rugby that has turned Glendale, Colorado into “RugbyTown USA”. “Rugbytown USA” is now the official title and logo of Glendale. On May 14, “Rugby World” world host Dave Sitton introduced the term to the TV audience watching the first of 8 half-hour programs on the FOX Sports Net. “All of the shows were produced in Glendale” Dunafon said, “Which will be great marketing for Glendale and the heart of Denver.” Ask anyone in the know, and they will credit Dunafon as the driving force behind Affinity Park and “RugbyTwon USA”. “Well, their too kind” Dunafon said, “I”ll tell you that because nobody makes anything happen on their own.” It took an event that happened over a decade ago in Glendale that led Dunafon and friends to Affinity Park and the re-branding of Glendale “Debbie”s (Mathews) business was attacked by another new Carrie Nation movement” Dunafon said, referring to a temperance movement figure in pre-Prohibition America who promoted her viewpoint by vandalizing bars with a hatchet. “They decided they didn”t want Glendale being the home of Shotgun Willie”s, since everyone knew were Shotgun”s was but not Glendale. So I said to the Mayor at the time, “Well change that, brand the city some way positive”. Dunafon said that the idea of a local government trying to dictate how peoples live really got his Irish up. “We had a voter”s drive that tripled the voter role in two weeks and 31 days later they were out of office and we rescinded the ordinance, downsized the government payroll and clean up outdated ordinance with the goal of using commons sense and not controlling people”s lives… It”s a real Libertarian success story- the idea to let the people make their own decisions.” Rugby was relatively unknown to Dunafon growing up in Golden, Colorado. He attended University of Northern Colorado where he lettered in football for four years and was part of the All-Conference team. He signed contracts to play with the Denver Broncos in 1976 and 1977. After the injury riddled two years that put him in the unemployment line he grew a beard and pony tail and traded his house for a sail boat and ended up in British Virgin Islands where he worked as a musician and scuba instructor. It was there that he was introduced to rugby. Dunafon recalled the day, “I was standing on side of a boat and a guy walked up to me on the dock and said “mate you look fit do you play sports… would you fancy a game of footie?” After a bit of cross-cultural interpretation and explanation, Dunafon came to realize the local man was talking about rugby. Dunafon was further baffled when he was instructed to put on a blazer and report to the HMS Cardiff warship to have a pre-game banquet with their opposing team, the British Marines. “You”re going to have a beer and sing a song with your opponent”? he asked his new teammate. The concept of breaking bread instead of breaking heads with your opponent was unfamiliar to Dunafon who was entrenched in the American football mindset. But he did go to the ship. “The Governor of Island was there, the captain of the ship ” it was incredible!” The next day they played rugby. “I was addicted to the sport the minute I played it,” adding with a chuckle, “But they just kicked my butt all over the place.” The camaraderie and greater community aspect of rugby sat well with Dunafon. He found the idea of helping your opponent and sense of fairplay for the greater good of the sport intriguing. It brought back memories of his dad and uncle whom he called, “The original Marlboro Men.” “They were world class cowboys – bull dogging, bronco riders… it was a world where you would help the guy you”re competing with on his horse- haze for him- and you were competing with on another. In contrast, when I played football I learned to hate your opponent.” Eventually Island life wore on Dunafon and it was time to return to the States. “I game back to the states in 93, I was developing a case of A.I.M.S. disease – Acquired Island Mentality Syndrome ” where you find yourself on the same bar stool 10 years later.” Back home, Dunafon continued to play rugby and earned a USA Rugby Level 3 Coaching Certification and coached high school age teams. “I”ve never seen a sport that is better for kids ” it allows for travel, doesn”t cost much to play, you create a real fellowship with your teammates and opponents.” Dunafon added. “Another thing about a mentoring sport ” I call it multi-level mentoring – you”re not always there when a kid needs help, so if you have a community, a rugby village, the old boys and gals who are a part of the club are there, and the know the culture ” it”s like a giant family.” In recent years Dunafon was talked into playing in an “old-timers” tournament, but has now hung up his playing cleats. But there is still plenty to do off the field. “There is always politics and sometimes you feel like Sisyphus pushing a rock up hill, put then you feel the positive – the team is incredible and the energy is just building.” The amazing vision and hard work of Dunafon and his team has become a reality and it continues to unfold. Not only do they have the Affinity Field with accompanying Sports Center, Events Center, and High Altitude Training Center that continue to impressed visitors from around the world, but they have just opened a new practice field and Park and have scheduled to open the World Rugby Hall of Fame in the next few years. Dunafon pointed out “Think about, Canton (football), Cooperstown (baseball), Springfield (basketball), they are all little towns that branded themselves after a sport.” Hey, nothings impossible in RugbyTown USA. www.infinityparkatglendale.com PM The Celtic Connection June 2010