Wow! As of 2020, Major League Rugby has a New England team: The Free Jacks. Their new home is in Weymouth, Massachusetts.
“Okay, John, why all the excitement; are you a rugby fan?”
Glad you asked. I grew up in Weymouth and that’s where I started my professional career in the alcohol industry. Weymouth is still the home of ‘my local’, The Union Brewhouse on Washington Street – like most New Englanders my roots run deep in my hometown heritage.
Rugby is one of those sports I have always “known of.” I could identify it on television or if I saw a ball, but I have no clue how the game is played or what the rules are. Nonetheless, I was excited because they chose Union Point in Weymouth as their venue for all home games.
“The New England Free Jack’s coming to Weymouth, you say?! Sounds great. Oh, and we are making their official IPA? Even better!” My excitement was palatable, possibly over-the-top based on the reaction of my co-workers. Well, it’s not every day that your hometown is the designated spot for a professional sports team and you will be making their IPA! I ran out and secured season tickets the first day they were available.
On March 14th I traveled from Maine, my new home, down to Weymouth to get lunch before what was to be the first Free Jacks’ home game. News of our collaboration with The Free Jacks was well received in the late weeks of winter. Bars and pubs relished the idea of hosting televised skirmishes, and several bars throughout New England were set to host watch parties and pour Free Jacks’ IPA. Alas, it already had been announced that Major League Rugby was put on a 30-day hold to help fight COVID-19. That didn’t stop me from making the trip, going by the Union Brewhouse to enjoy a fresh Free Jacks IPA and make sure EVERYONE knew the story*: “New England has a major league rugby team, the Free Jacks, and they are playing in Weymouth, MA!”
News would come down a few days later that MLR would be ending their 2020 inaugural season. This decision was made as a precaution to their fans, players and families in response to the current pandemic. I, like many devoted MLR fans I was surprised to learn live in New England, will not get to see the Free Jacks play a home game in 2020.
Fortunately – and with little surprise – these rugby guys are innovative and proactive. They are hosting virtual games, a rugby academy, and tutorials on-line. This gives us the ability to watch and learn a sport that we may not know well. For the seasoned fans, this is just more team output to build their fervor behind. By the start of 2021 New England will dominate another sport with the most passionate, knowledgeable fan base in the United States. I’m pumped and will be feeding my enthusiasm with a few virtual games while tipping back some delicious pints of Free Jacks IPA.
While safely restocking your provisions, Free Jacks IPA can be found at your favorite beverage outlet!
*This trip occurred before the state of emergency and social distancing measures were put in place.