64,551. That’s the number of people who witnessed the biggest rugby event to ever take place on U.S. soil while attending the three-day USA Sevens tournament this past weekend in Las Vegas. By the way, that was a record-breaking attendance number (ah, modesty).
I was pitch-side (field-side for non-rugby folks) for the entire event, and the atmosphere was amazing! Fans (some drunk, some sober, all happy) were there representing all of the 16 international nations competing in the tournament, and their passion for the teams was electric. The audience of 30,323 on Saturday, Feb. 11 was the single largest crowd to ever watch a live rugby event in the United States.
I didn’t know much about rugby going into this event, but I’ll be a fan forever after what I witnessed over the weekend. Rugby sevens (a faster paced version of traditional rugby) combines the best elements of football, soccer (without all the wimpy, fake falls) and wrestling. The action is nonstop (14-minute games), there’s tons of scoring, the groups of international fans create an amazing party atmosphere and, ladies, in case you weren’t sold, the players are in phenomenal shape and damn handsome, too! Show of Handsome!
While the total attendance number may not seem huge to those who are used to seeing 100,000 at a college football game, it proves that rugby is finally starting to resonate with an American audience after serving as one of the most popular international sports for generations. This sport is on the precipice of a breakthrough in the U.S., and sports fans would be wise to jump on the bandwagon now.
I, for one, cannot wait until next year’s USA Sevens. This event is perfect for Las Vegas with its huge international appeal, and I look forward to seeing at least 80,000 fans at USA Sevens 2013!