“You can get used to being hit in the face,” says high school coach Dan Smith, “Once you get used to it, it’s not a big deal.”
No one ever imagines a story quite like this one, about a person with such zest for life and selflessness. The Rugby Player, a documentary film by Director Scott Gracheff, is an eye opening, heartfelt film about the athlete and hero, Mark Bingham.
Born Jerry Bingham in Ariz., his mother Alice Hoagland, quickly changed his name to Kerry at age two, when his parents divorced. The single mother and son moved one more time to Monterrey, Calif. but unhappy with his first name, he asked if he could change his name to Mark.
This documentary introduces us to a very rambunctious and charismatic boy through the stories told by his mother, family, and friends along with film clips taken by Mark himself. He attended Cal State Berkeley on a scholarship in 1988, and in 1991 while playing for the rugby team won the championship for the first time.
“You can achieve anything you want to achieve,” Cal Rugby Coach Jack Clark tells the team.
Bingham was so Cal proud that in 1992, he attacks the Stanford Tree mascot during a game; he doesn’t quite get away since he runs up the stadium and gets arrested and fingerprinted.
This masculine, popular, fraternity president comes out to his friends first and then tells his mother, who shamefully admits that she didn’t take it well at first. She says she heard, “Words … I’m gay … whole bunch of words.”
Dubbed as his gay parents, Bill Hollywood and Steven Gould share that they took to Bingham immediately because he was an, “infectiously happy young man.”
He, Paul Holm (his partner at the time), and a friend were attacked on the Castro in San Francisco, Calif. while walking home one night. They say Bingham went into flight or fight mode and fought off the attacker. Everyone remembers him as sticking up for others many times.
“Mark was very hungry for life.” Holm describes him as “a human Labrador Retriever.”
Bingham starts his own business, travels, even goes to Spain to run with the bulls, and joins San Francisco’s gay Rugby team, The Fog.
Mark Bingham was on Flight 93 on 9/11; he was part of the group that struggled with the hijackers who eventually crashed in Shanksville, PA., captured on the flight data recorder his friends and family recognize his voice.
This movie is more than a collage of a man captured on film, it doubles as a beautiful memorial and it advocates support for LGBTQ athletes.