My flatmate Belinda’s friend Tony ended up crashing at our place for a few weeks last month while he was waiting for his new lease to begin. How very Three's Company. As a thank you, this past Saturday he invited us to attend an Australian Rules Football game in his company’s corporate box at the MCG, the main sports arena in Melbourne. We're smiling because there's free booze.
People in this part of the country are absolutely mad about AFL, a.k.a. the footy, so I had been meaning to check out a game. The sport is fairly similar to Gaelic football and is something like a cross between soccer and basketball. The field is round (I had no idea!) and enormous, and each team has 15 players on the field at a time. The goal consists of four uprights and you score by dropkicking the ball between them- getting it between the inner two posts earns 6 points and between an outer post is worth 1 point. I had thought the players would be stocky rugby types, but not at all- it’s a fast paced game with a lot of running, jumping, and some mauling, and the players are incredibly fit in addition to being huge. The uniforms are quite snug and have fun stripey socks- I reckon they were designed by a gay man. I mean, look. One thing I really liked about the game is that it’s nearly continuous action- play rarely stops, and if it does, it’s only for a few seconds. Even better, the officials hardly ever call penalties, which means there’s no sense in diving (the worst aspect of professional soccer) or exaggerating to try to draw a foul (one of the most annoying things about the NBA), because unless someone punches you in the face (and maybe not even then), the ref ain’t blowing the whistle. Some more footy notes:
When the ball goes out of bounds, the referee turns his back to the field and hucks it over his shoulder to put it back into play. Crazy!
The other strange thing about the game was the flock of seagulls that were constantly on the field. When play gets close they fly around and move to another part of the field, but I think they live in the stadium, as no one else seemed to find their presence unusual at all.
Tailgating doesn’t exist here, and sounds sort of ridiculous when you explain it to people unfamiliar with the concept: “Well, you get to the game a few hours early and sit around in the parking lot and grill food and drink beers. It sounds lame, but in fact, it is AWESOME.”
Lastly, here’s a picture of D and me in our Essendon Bombers gear. (Note my fancy new haircut.)
*what you yell when you want a player to shank a kick. It’s kind of like the Aussie version of shouting “Wide left!”