Once upon a time there was a competition, a tournament, a gathering of the finest in the land, a congregation of young folk in their prime years, a pilgrimage to the land of the yellow seats. People came from far and wide to see who could look the silliest. People came from far and wide to see who could get the drunkest, to see who could have the most sex and to see who could get their ugly mug on the telly.
The Wellington Sevens is an event on the IRB Sevens circuit, that also served as a weekend of mayhem for those who wanted an escape from their everyday lives, a bit of fun. It has lived a double existence for much of its life, trying to balance the actual on field competition and the competition(s) stated above.
To think that the Wellington Sevens was anything less than a massive party is extremely dumb. Like nek level dumb. But in my opinion during the peak years of the Wellington Sevens, the off field and on field action co-existed beautifully. If you ask a few punters who have had copious amounts of fun at the Sevens, they'll tell you they had no idea about what happened on the field. They didn't need to.
The pictures told their own story. The underdogs would draw rapturous applause from the crowds. The smaller, local teams like Fiji, Samoa and Tonga had strong, vibrant support in the stands. A packed Westpac stadium turned in to disco during breaks in play and the crowd would clap their hands, cheering loudly anytime anything awesome happened on the field. Sure, the crowd didn't know the names of all the players but who does!? The mere fact that the on field action dictated how the crowd would react, how they would feel and impact the general vibe of the stadium shows a co-existence between the two.
The Wellington Sevens is now nothing much. There's another tournament that has provided a fresh buzz throughout the land of the long white cloud, the Auckland Nines. The Wellington Sevens would still be going strong had it and the people of the land not stood on its toes, competing with the Nines and offering a bit of variety. Instead, people have flocked to the Nines.
While people who make important decisions tried to figure out what the Wellington Sevens was, someone came in the front door and took everything worth a buck. For some reason they tried to clean up the Wellington Sevens, they tried to make it exactly what it wasn't. Even the slightest sniff of the fun police is enough to keep punters away. They could have embraced it, ensured that people were given a safe place to escape. Instead they wanted it to resemble sterile, germ free, family friendly slightly less drunken rampaging disco.
Sometimes, sympathy fills my noggin. Poor Wellington Sevens, going down the drain because there's another dog in town. But then I remember what the Wellington Sevens was and I laugh, because the fun police stepped in. I have no doubt in my mind that the Sevens and Nines can both take place and sell out, maybe the Sevens will get back on the wagon once the novelty of the Nines wears off.
The Wellington Sevens used to be so much fun. I don't know why, but the sudden rise in people who wanted to voice their concerns about just how much fun the Wellington Sevens was, ended up being deadly. You want to revive the Wellington Sevens? Don't act like it's about who plays when you sit there saying how no one cares what happens on the field, Sonny Bill Williams won't help. Just accept what the Wellington Sevens was and revert back to what it was. Pretending it's something it isn't is the very reason why no one now cares.