Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Bingham Cup 2008: Hero's Dream Lives On

I've posted here several times about a man named Mark Bingham. In previous post I told readers who he was and how he changed my life forever in an incredibly positive way. Even though Mark died over six years ago he's still making an impact on not just me but on the entire world.

In the next several days, Dublin Ireland will be hosting The Bingham Cup. The Bingham Cup is an international rugby competition named in remembrance of Mark Bingham.
Mark died at age 31 on September 11, 2001, on board United Airlines flight 93. He is believed to have been one of the four passengers who stormed the cockpit to prevent the hijackers from using the plane to kill hundreds or thousands of additional victims. In a phone call to his mother, Alice Hoagland, shortly before the plane went down, he told her, "some of us here are going to try to do something."

At 6ft 4in and 225 pounds, Mark loved playing the sport of rugby. After playing through high school and for the University of California Berkeley, Mark, along with several other friends, started a rugby team called The San Francisco Fog.
The Fog was a first of it's kind rugby team. Mark was an incredible rugby player who happened to be gay. He envisioned a team of players made up of total diversity. Unlike many teams of many sports in this country, it made no difference if you were gay, straight or bisexual. All were welcome without the fear of discrimination.
Mark Bingham lost his life soon after the San Francisco Fog was organized.

Mark didn't live to see the several new rugby teams following the Fog's lead such as the N.Y.'s Gotham Knights, The Boston Ironsides and the Washington Renegades. Soon there were several diverse rugby teams not only in the United States but all over the world.

In his honor, the International Gay Rugby Association started a biannual competition and named it The Bingham Cup and was first hosted by Mark's team, the San Francisco Fog, in 2002.
That year, eight teams traveled to California for the very first biannual Bingham Cup.
In 2004 The Bingham Cup, which was held in England, saw the teams grow from eight to twenty teams from four countries.
In 2006 the number of teams grew for the New York held event. Twenty-nine teams from six countries came together along with the very first women's league, also made up of diverse members.
I attended the games that year. I was awestruck by what I saw. I watched these people not only play to win but more importantly, they played to be heard. The message was loud in clear. It shouted, "We are all the same. We play as hard, as fast and with the same heart as anybody out there."

This week over thirty teams arrived in Dublin, Ireland to play for The Bingham Cup. I wasn't able to attend the games this time round but I received an e-mail from Mark's mother Alice in which she told me she would keep me up to date with the events in the following days. I told her that even though I'm not standing there with them, I'll be there in heart and soul.

On September 11, 2001 Mark stood up along with a make shift team of players, not on a rugby field but on a boeing 757, and they looked fear in the eyes and made a difference.
This weekend in his honor, over thirty teams of gay and bi-sexual men and women are standing up and facing fear in the form of ignorance and hate in the eye and are saying we are all the same, on and off the field and like Mark and his team on United Flight 93, they too will make a difference.

(Mark Bingham and his Mother Alice in 2001)

No comments: