Life happens while you make other plans and at one time Eric Parsons and Stephen Tomasin had other plans. Tomasin was going to graduate from Cardinal Newman in 2012 and play NCAA Division I football. Parsons was going to graduate from Santa Rosa High in 2010 and become a veterinarian.
And then came along this sport called rugby that to the uneducated eye looks like a bunch of aggressive people with their heads down, pushing against each other, all fighting to find and grab that $20 bill on the ground.
"It was something to do in the spring," Tomasin said, "so I could stay in shape for football (at Newman)."
"I'll give it a shot," Parsons said of his casual decision to test the sport four years ago. Back then Parsons was giving it the same emphasis and impact one would after hearing about a good movie. Go see "Die Hard." Go see rugby. Whatever.
Both young men would love to play rugby in New Zealand.
This is what happens when you are young — Parsons is 20, Tomasin is 18 — and flexible, that life is more of an adventure to experience than a blueprint to follow. They went with their hearts, their instincts, their passion, and it took both of them to New Zealand for two weeks in June. It will take Parsons to Ireland, Italy and France in September. It will take Tomasin to London in the fall of 2015.
"If you were to give me a choice now," said Tomasin, the 2011 North Bay League's Football Player of the Year, "of getting a D1 football scholarship or playing rugby, I'd take rugby. Definitely. No question. I wouldn't have gone this far in football."
As an example, Tomasin wouldn't have gone as far as New Zealand to play football. An upcoming sophomore at San Diego State, Tomasin joined Parsons, who will be a senior this fall at Cal Poly, on the USA Rugby Collegiate All-American team that played three games in New Zealand in June.
Parsons and Tomasin didn't know each other until they made the USA team. They also didn't know how small the real world is: Parsons' father, Dean, and Tomasin's mother, Shelly, work together in the Sonoma County planning and resource department. Two of the 28 men on the Under-23 USA team are from Sonoma County. What are the chances of that? And what are the chances that Americans overseas would hear the following two questions?
"How do you like our country? Did you enjoy it?"
That's what Parsons heard when he was in New Zealand. It felt like nearly a mantra to Parsons, the Kiwis so conscious of how they appear to the outside world. Certainly it is a different approach than taken by many Americans who appear more conscious of how they look to one another than to a person from another country.
"They get very offended," Parsons said, "if you don't like them. No, wait, that's not the right word. They would be confused if you didn't like them. Yes, they would be confused."
How could you not like a Kiwi? That's a reputation well-founded. New Zealanders are exceedingly polite, not from insecurity but from a natural ambience to work smoothly together, as if life was a group effort, not a reality television show in which someone must be a star. Ah, but enough reference to America. Rather, this helps describe New Zealand's fixation with rugby.