Friday, February 6, 2009

Don't stop the carnival

All day long, a bizarre cavalcade of strangely dressed
people has passed my window, making their way down
the Aro Valley and on into the city, bound for the
rugby sevens tournament in Wellington’s stadium.
Some are dressed as cavemen, some appear to be
wearing only fig-leaves, others have outfitted
themselves in cardboard boxes. All are in groups with
themed apparel ranging from the egregious to the
outrageous; many clutch in their hands the cans of
refreshment distinctive to their kind. A carnival mood
prevails. The circus, you might say, is in town.

The original sevens tournaments didn’t inspire this
sort of carry-on—what has happened over the past few
years to bring out such a strain of exhibitionism in
Young People Today? It suggests that we Kiwis are not
the stodgy plodders that some say we are; that inside
each of us beats the heart of a jester who needs only the
safety of crowds to start capering in cap and bells and
behaving madly. Thank God for it, I say. It calls to mind
the medieval European custom of having one day in the
year when the usual social order was mocked and
caricatured, and the Lord of Misrule or the Abbot of
Unreason presided over various forms of bacchanalia.
This ancient impulse, dormant in New Zealand breasts
for far too long, has been released by the Spirit of the
Sevens.

One needs to think only of the old Athletic Park days,
when grim-faced legions in coats and sou’westers
sullenly endured the on-field savagery for 40 minutes
before grimly queueing for hot dogs and then—those that
hadn’t succumbed to hypothermia by this point—grimly
enduring another 40 minutes with only the occasional
grunt to signify approbation or restlessness—one needs,
I say, to only think of such days to feel that this sentence
has gone on for far too long, and if there was a point to
it, alas, I've forgotten. Go the sevens.

4 comments:

Giovanni said...

It calls to mind the medieval European custom of having one day in the year when the usual social order was mocked and caricatured, and the Lord of Misrule or the Abbot of Unreason presided over various forms of bacchanalia.

No, it really, really doesn't. Dressing up and doing a lot of drinking in an appointed venue, at a pre-determined time, at considerable financial cost in front of a uber-sponsored televised sport governed by a rigid set of strictly enforced rules is, if anything, the opposite of a medieval carnival, and mocks and caricatures absolutely nothing at all.

Not that I've got anything against this fine sporting and social event, mind. And go Kenya.

Old Geezer said...

You must have been at a different Athletic Park from me. Crowds in the 50s, 60s and 70s were quite capable of singing, drinking, joking, shouting and lobbing pies at the ref (hot dogs? what danged furrin import are they?). The difference is that rugby was always a winter game and the Southerly roared through Athletic Park in winter, whereas the newfangled Sevens are held in summer, and costumes are possible. Wellington was never as grim as journos like to mythologise.

Robyn said...

The Sevens fans might be wearing costumes, but there's an odd conformity to the costumes. It seems that the standard way to do a Sevens costume is to get a group of friends and to all wear the same costume.

Sometimes it kind of makes sense, like the Seven Dwarfs or a police squad, but it's usually the curious situation of a dozen Fred Flintstones, a gaggle of go-go girls or a melee of sexy pirates, all dressed identically.

It seems that New Zealanders like to dress up and go bit mental, but also like the comfort to be able to blend into a crowd and not stand out too much.

Giovanni said...

Sometimes it kind of makes sense, like the Seven Dwarfs or a police squad, but it's usually the curious situation of a dozen Fred Flintstones, a gaggle of go-go girls or a melee of sexy pirates, all dressed identically.

Ah, but think of the savings.