Andy Mills, 61, stood on the sideline bleeding from twin abrasions on his knees. Nearby, a gray-haired man walked gingerly off the field, his arm buried to the elbow in a bag of ice.
The cuts, bruises, and scrapes were exhibited with grins by the Harvard Business School alumni who gathered Saturday in the concrete horseshoe of Harvard Stadium to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their rugby team.
Many of them — in their 60s and 70s and some nearing the culminations of prominent careers — had traveled from around the world to once again pile into scrums with former teammates.
“Some of these guys are titans of industry, but when they get back here they’re 28, 30 years old again and they’re as crude as the rest of us. They take off their boardroom faces,” said Regan Turner, 33, who graduated just last year from the business school and returned for his first reunion.
Under an overcast morning sky, the oldest of the rugby alumni gathered in a hodgepodge of crimson jerseys spanning five decades before the first game of the day. They slapped one another’s backs, greeted old friends by nickname, and strapped on knee braces.
The rules were slightly adjusted to mitigate damage to aging limbs, but men like Chuck Hill, who at 76 was the oldest player, were horse-collar tackled just like their 50-year-old teammates.
“The joke is, can you get enough people between you that you have enough knees, elbows, and body parts to survive?” said Robert “Bo” Manly, 60.
Two Scots, Jim Johnston and Morris McInnes, founded the
Harvard Business School ruby team in September 1963.
Past their playing days, the pair watched as Mills caught a pass and sprinted into a rare open patch of turf. With nothing between him and the end zone, Mills looked sure to score before he tripped and his tall frame fell to the ground, earning raucous cheers from his friends.
“That’s all I’m going to hear about tonight,” he said later.
Mike Rush, the president of the HBS Old Boys Rugby Association, stood 6 inches above the next tallest man and presided over Saturday’s game in tight black shorts and shirt with a ship captain’s hat stuck over his silver-white hair.
“All right, boys, it’s the last 15 minutes of your lives, get out there,” he yelled as he herded the group back onto the field after a brief break in play.
Despite his trip, Mills left the field with bragging rights. His nimble dash between two opponents capped off a fluid series of passes up the left sideline and led to the game’s final try, and a victory for his team.
“There’s no sport like rugby,” Johnston said. “There’s room for big fat guys, there’s room for tall skinny guys who can’t catch a ball. It’s a tough game and then you go off and have a drink together.”
Correction: Because of a photographer’s error, Gene
Skowronski’s name was misspelled in a photo caption in an earlier version of this story.