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South Wales Evening Post column, January 19, 2024

Robert Lloyd PR, Media and Marketing Consultancy News, Newspaper columns South Wales Evening Post column, January 19, 2024

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South Wales Evening Post column, January 19, 2024

Posted By RobertLloyd58

LET me be totally frank: I’m appalled, irritated, exasperated, wounded, infuriated, slightly tearful and a more than a little angry.

In short, I’m upset.

The lightning bolt news that Louis Rees-Zammit is quitting Rugby Union to try his hand at playing American Football came as a massive shock.

Why, oh, why didn’t he give me a ring to ask ‘my’ opinion before making such a bold move?

The 22-year-old will be getting on a plane to Miami, Florida, today, without getting the benefit of my massive sporting knowledge.

I’m gutted.

He’s missing out on my personal experience of American Football – and I’m also miffed because I felt we had started to build a close connection.

Let me explain . . .

Have you ever heard of the theory of six degrees of separation?

It’s simple really. The theory says that we are all linked by chains of acquaintance . . . and we are just six introductions away from any other person on the planet!

In short, I am less than half a dozen handshakes away from Vladimir Putin – should I want to shake the naughty scamp’s hand.

With LRZ, I’ve come very close to shaking his hand.

My son occupied the apartment above LRZ’s in Cardiff.

One evening, LRZ’s takeaway meal was delivered to Lloyd Junior’s door rather than the rugby star’s apartment.

Possible legal action prevents me from disclosing whether the takeaway was consumed ‘on site’ or re-delivered to the correct address.

Doubtless, there are people out there who will reject the six degrees of separation theory, saying that it is impossible in a world of nearly eight billion people.

But evidence gathered by computing giants Microsoft (some 15 years ago, in fact) suggests that it is true.

And, of course, anyone who has played the parlour game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon will know it to be true.

As an aside, the actor Kevin Bacon actually thought the six degrees craze would die out, but when it didn’t he launched a website, sixdegrees.org, bringing together people interested in helping good causes.

But . . I digress . . . the six degrees thing isn’t my main bone of contention with LRZ.

Of much more importance is the fact that LRZ has missed the opportunity to access my knowledge of American Football.

More than 40 years ago I was part of the revolution which brought American Football from its native United States of America to Britain

Indeed, back in the 1980s, at 5’6’ and 10 stone six pounds, I took the field of play as a triallist for the Swansea Dragons American Football team.

At the time, the words rushing, red zone, sack, offensive line, incompletion, drive and end zone meant nothing to me.

The lexicon of American Football could have been written in Hungarian, such was my level of comprehension of the sport.

But all that was to change when my then sports editor, a man with a wicked sense of humour, called me aside one afternoon.

“You play rugby, don’t you? American Football’s roughly the same thing. Get up to Morfa and write 2,000 words by Thursday.”

True, I played rugby (frequently and usually badly) for Nantgaredig RFC in the Towy Valley.

But, I had a suspicion (probably soundly based on fact) that American Football was an entirely different thing.

The Swansea Dragons were based at the old Morfa Stadium, across the river from where the Swansea.com stadium now stands.

My knowledge of the game was not extensive, but I did, at the very least, count an American Football player as a friend.

Albie Evans (now, sadly, no longer with us) was a former New Dock Stars and Llanelli Wanderers rugby union player who had, remarkably, found himself with the New England Patriots in Boston in 1971.

The genesis of this particular Albie adventure lay in a stunt pulled by a Boston

radio station, who staged a ‘Superfoot’ competition in the UK to find the very best goal-kickers.

Albie was one of the winners and found himself on a plane to the USA. He returned with stories galore.

Probably the most important and relevant story was the one which explained that a career as a goalkicker in American Football was less likely (than any other on-field position) to end in serious injury.

The dangers of playing American Football had been flagged up to me before the Swansea trial.

I studied the names of famous American Football players of the time. There was a man called John Riggins – a player nicknamed The Diesel for the comparison to a runaway train. And, of course, there was William “The Refrigerator” Perry.

Neither were on the field the night I trialled at Morfa Stadium – but there were a few lookalikes.

They were helpful in the kit room, where the ‘armour’ of the day represented a bigger challenge than assembling an IKEA desk without an allen key.

The helmet itself was a two-man job. Basically, it was a case of placing the helmet on your head and then getting someone with a bicycle pump to inflate the bladder inside to the point where your head felt like it was going to explode.

My trial instructions were simple: ‘You’re a wide receiver.’

The words cheered me a little as the word ‘wide’ suggested I would be well away from any trouble.

The one thing no-one explained to me is that when you are ‘contained’ within all the so-called ‘safety gear’ you can’t actually see a lot. Your peripheral vision is drastically reduced.

In rugby, when you see the tackle coming you can brace for impact. In American Football, you don’t always see the express train coming down the track.

My trial lasted nine seconds.

I spent the rest of the trial session on the physiotherapist’s treatment table and was promptly carted off to A&E at Morriston Hospital for X-rays. I ‘escaped’ with a badly twisted and bruised ankle.

More than 40 years later, I am still mentally scarred by the experience.

But I still think it’s sad LRZ is departing today without getting some first-hand American Football knowledge from yours truly.

I’m less annoyed than I was when I started writing this column, so (on behalf of most sports fans) I’d like to wish LRZ ‘pob lwc’ in Florida. I think he’ll need it.

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Written by RobertLloyd58

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