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By Matt McCarthy
NEW YORK — The clans have united to bring you the New York Rugby Club's top-notch NY 7s Tournament at Randall's Island Fields this weekend.
Since the late 1950s, this steeped-in-tradition extravaganza has fallen on the Saturday after Thanksgiving... It has always served one helping of tasty rugby after the next. This year will be even more compelling, however, because FloRugby's live-streaming of the event has brought together the aforementioned clans (or rugby pundits/personalities), including Alex Goff, John Broker, Brian Sheehy, Joe Kelly, and yours truly. Sheehy, Kelly, and I also played together for the NYRC, so we’re very familiar with the weekend.
Yet it’s the talent on the pitch, the NYC backdrop, and colorful characters that travel to the Big Apple, year-in and year-out, that make this tournament worthy of your attention. As someone that has been to all but one NY 7s since 1987, here are some reasons to come out and participate … or watch on FloRugby.
We used to have the tournament in Central Park. People would come by on horseback. Tourists would stop and stare. Mounted Police made sure all was copacetic, especially when the Russians came to our fair city. These weren’t your Millennial Ruskies — these were the Cold War types.
In a scene that could have played in "Moscow On The Hudson" or a "Stripes 3" rendition, the Russian coach, decked out in in his black KGB trench coat, came to the check-in table. He was holding a deflated ball and gesturing for a pump. Those of us at the table nodded to him and to each other. I signaled for him to follow me to our rented cube truck. He did. I opened the cab door, reached in, and handed him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a baggie.
All but coach Vlad laughed. He stared a death stare my way and stormed off. Hey, coach, if you’re reading this I have two words for you: 1980 Olympics.
Being in NYC this time of year is pretty special. The holiday decorations are in full bloom, the crisp air has everyone on the front foot, and the long weekend has even the crustiest of New Yorkers almost smiling. For those in town for the rugby, there’s a look of wonder and shared appreciation for the tournament. Not only did they take a road trip to the coolest city on the planet, but they also did it to play rugby, with no guarantee of anything close to Miami or Vegas weather.
From the Canadian squad The Hoffs — all playing with David Hasselhoff-inspired wigs — to the team in the cow suits, there is no shortage of envy-inducing creativity when it comes to club kits. Heck, the NYRC Old Stars' best looks were off the pitch, as Derek “Hayseed” DeLapp.
Aside from being a mini-adventure and a blast, the NY 7s has become a tournament of quality rugby. The premier pitch is serious, all day long. Women, men, youth… all good. It’s a great time to see Eagles present, past, and future up close. And you see it all with one of the world’s best backdrops majestically drawing you in — the Manhattan skyline.
— Matt McCarthy is a longtime rugby interviewer, journalist, and commentator, who is the host of Rugby Wrap Up and also has worked with FloRugby as an announcer for several events, including the Boys High School Rugby National Championships.