Over the last several years, various NZU games organising committees have tried to stress the importance of the competition over the social side of the games. Almost exactly 10 years ago, B grade teams were denied from playing, as they were normally the troublemakers. They were allowed in again, obviously. This year, again, University Sport New Zealand (USNZ) is trying to put the emphasis on what happens on the field, rather than off. This makes sense: sponsors (except liquor brands) will be more attracted to excellence and glory than to drunken embarrassments, and the games are expensive.
Making sense is one thing, though – having a firm grip on reality is another. Do you plan to come back from the Games brimming with wholesome stories of vigourous games of rugger fought, won and lost with honour on the field? Telling jolly tales of hockey sticks battling in the early April afternoon? Are you going to get on the bus to head back to Wellington at the end of the weekend feeling alive with the thrill of amateur sport, ready to sing Ten guitars all the way from Dunedin to Picton?
No. You’re going to have the hangover from ‘Nam. You’re going to wish that there were only very, very straight smooth roads in the South island and you’re going to buy a pie at every service station you stop at. And while you might talk about the amazing last second game-winning try you scored, you’ll probably have some other scores to talk about too. The rookie on your squad hooking up with a newbie from the Canterbury squad and getting so drunk on their first trip away from home that your team will never be welcome at that restaurant again.
I’ve been to five of the last eight NZU games and not a single story that I still remember has anything to do with what happened during the competition proper. Instead, Christchurch ’99 found us in a restaurant that sported the names “Rude Girls” and “Strong Boys” on the toilet doors. First years pole-danced and fell down the stairs into the street. One of our senior male squad members threw up in the “Rude Girls” cubicle and had to be escorted into the hostel, leaving a trail of regurgitated carnage in his wake. We returned to the hostel in possession of a Something Construction road barrier, and built an amplifier out of road cones. Then played Five Hundred all night. Yee-ha.
Wellington 2000 saw the final night party (at someone’s flat; the home-ground advantage) graced with the presence of an enormous dead duck, taken from the Chinese restaurant we’d been at earlier. Trophies were drunk from; team banners were worn and never seen again. A slight step up from Wellington ’98, which sparked did they/didn’t they discussions about any number of people for weeks (years, actually, but what else are we going to talk about?).
Essentially, to rehash an old theme, and without wanting to sound like a Styx song – actually, fuck it. Here goes: the memories you make in your time here are most likely going to have little to do with achievement, but rather the people you are with when you achieve. The friends you have and make now are most likely the ones you’ll have for the rest of your life. So I hope you like them. The Games are important to the universities and the organisers for how they reflect on them, so bear that in mind, but also think about why they’re important to you. I suspect you have slightly different priorities.
And, of course, it goes without saying that you don’t have to get drunk to enjoy the games. But everyone else is.