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Memory by Roger Mazzarella

Re: The 1982 England Tour. When they came over, I was the President of the Midwest RFU and thus in charge of the post game ceremonies. What follows is something that could only happen on a rugby tour.............

We had the usual ties and plaques to give away - but I wanted to give each player something that was uniquely Cleveland. My dad was a Cleveland policeman and was such a stickler for how he looked - he would only wear one of his police shirts for 6 months or so before boxing it up and putting away in the attic. There were easily 100 + shirts up there. So I asked him if I could take 40 or so to give away to the England players. Cleveland Police patches on the sleeve, Mazzarella nameplate on the front. 

After all the official stuff was over at the Cleveland Athletic Club - I gathered all the England players around, told them I ha a special gift for them,  and handed each one a a Cleveland Police shirt. They were much appreciated and several put them on straightaway. Everything finally broke up around midnight and I drove over to my parents house on the west side in Lakewood - the first suburb over the Cleveland line. 

I usually slept in a small room in the very front of our upstairs/downstairs house. About 3 a.m.. I was awakened to a tremendous pounding on the front door down the stairs. Sitting up I saw a lot of white and red flashing lights out in the street.

Coming down the stairs I could make out several figures silhouetted by the lights in front of our large mostly glass front door.  Upon opening the door I was confronted by several uniformed Cleveland and Lakewood cops and a couple of plain clothes detectives. And, also, two members of the England squad in my dad's shirts. An officer said,  "Where is Joe Mazzarella? We want to see him. Get him now."

When my dad came down the stairs everything became clear. The cops had seen the England players carousing on Public Square downtown, and seeing the shirts they figured our house had been robbed or my dad was dead (remember the Mazzarella nameplate;  he was a big deal in the Fraternal Order of Police and president of the Police Credit Union - so everybody knew him).

The fact that the England players were slighly tipsy and being unable to offer a cogent explanation confirmed the police version of what had "probably" occurred. 

Some fast talking by my dad and me calmed the situation and the England players got a squad car ride back to their hotel. I could only imagine the grilling my dad was going to get at the station house and from the neighbors.  He said in a very low, very enunciated voice, "Don't ever ask me to give you anything again."

Roger Mazzarella
Director of Rugby
Bowling Green State University
419-308-4384 (c)