1967rugby

Though Penn Rugby had a stellar trip to Bermuda earlier this March, it wasn't the first time the Quakers went down south, as Oliver Larmi reflects on his memorable 1967 trip with the program.

Photo: Courtesy of Oliver Larmi

Editor's Note: Over St. Patrick's Day weekend this year, Penn club men's rugby made history by competing in the Ariel Re Bermuda 7s tournament — the team's first international trip this century. One alumnus from the 1967 squad which played in Bermuda, Oliver Larmi PhD '71, accompanied the 2017 team on its venture down south as a volunteer official, and he reflected on his experiences with us.

Upon my arrival this March 16, a Bermudian asked, "Is this your first time in Bermuda?" 

"No," I said. "I come here every 50 years!"

I allowed that I that led Penn Rugby to Bermuda in 1967 as team captain and coach. Then, I was a Penn teaching fellow in philosophy, eligible to play club sports. I came from Dartmouth Rugby [ed. note: perennially the top program in Ivy League men's rugby] where I made the 1960 Spring Break California tour, went on to score two "A" team tries against Villanova, and rose to "C" team captain with prominent Ivy footballers in the backfield.

My Penn teammates elected me captain in 1965, and I soon brought the Dartmouth spirit of Spring Break rugby to the club. One time we toured southern universities like Virginia and Duke, the next Bermuda, and finally, the Bahamas.

We financed this out of pocket. On my modest grad stipend, I even sold my body for the cause to Penn Medicine research, enduring a catherization through my groin.

In Bermuda, my young wife and I were hosted by the Captain of the Bermuda Club, and my teammates by other members. We played four games in six days, losing to the Bermuda Club, the Police Club, and the Teachers'. We ended on a high note finally by beating the Bermuda All-Stars. 

In between, we buzzed around the island on light motor bikes. Meeting Norm Dahlgren '68 coming the other way, we told of great views of the sea and craggy shore we had just left. "Been there already," he quipped, as he motored off. On the beach we enjoyed the sea and sun. Other collegians next to me and my wife were aghast when I pulled out a pile of blue books to grade. Their looks betrayed them, imagining their professors grading their work at the same time.

Patrick Norton '69 didn't see one of his blue books in the pile. Besides being my teammate in Bermuda, and my sucessor as team captain, he was one of my Ancient Philosophy students. Pat went on to be a Rhodes Scholar and successful lawyer serving in the Reagan White House.

50 years later, I was still able to cross the goal line in Bermuda legitimately — this time as a volunteer Penn touch judge where I helped determine whether conversion kicks were good or not. Penn star players like Alex Salazar and Nick Biden ran me ragged as I had to run behind the posts after the 21 tries  the team made in its six matches. It won four and lost two in massing well over 100 points, making it the Bowl [consolation trophy] winner of the tournament.

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