Footy. What a game.
Does the word excitement mean anything to you?
Well, it took on a new meaning for me as I attended my first Australian Football League (AFL) game last Saturday night.
The game featured the Adelaide Crows against the Brisbane Lions. I’m not a supporter of either team and just wanted to see a good game.
But, not everyone in the grandstand was like me. I think I belonged to a decided minority of “let’s see a good game.” Most of the people in the grandstand had a definite preference. As such, they wanted to see their team win. And, they let you know it. When the Crows scored, you quickly discovered where the Crows fans were sitting; they would pop up into the air like toast out of the toaster! These same people didn’t move when the Lions managed to score.
In the end the Crows fans went home with big smiles as their team demolished the Lions. The score was completely lopsided as it appeared the Crows were able to score at will.
But, that didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the evening. I thoroughly enjoyed watching these amazing athletes run up and down the field at breakneck speed, making diving catches, spectacular kicks and rough – but clean – tackles.
I also got a sense of how important this game is to Australians. It’s like no other game I’ve seen; pure Aussie. For instance, I noticed these guys wearing orange jumpers running onto the field chasing after players.
“Who are those guys?” I asked my new footy friend Ray from Marlborough, Qld, but now working out at Uluru – The Rock.
“They run out and tell players to come off. That’s how they call for substitutes on each side.” He explained.
To me, the whole concept was foreign. The idea that you’d have other people running around the field during play seemed crazy. But, it all worked quite well. It all went smoothly. Everyone saw it as a normal part of the game. I was finally left to admit to myself, “These guys know what they’re doing!”
And, the Aussie concept of “fairness” was present. This concept where you can only truly win if you play fair. If you cheat, you lose. You may have more points on the board, but you still lose. It’s a challenge for me to put my finger on exactly how this showed up in the game, but it did; I could somehow feel it.
Maybe it was the way the referees carried out their duties with such enthusiasm and pride. The referees seems to be a prominent part of the game. From the first bounce of the ball, to the behind the back throw-ins, to the elegant and precise hand gestures that come after each point is scored, the referees were a critical part of the theater unfolding before me on the playing field.
And, players and fans alike seem to expect big things from the referees. Expected them to make tough calls. Expected them to enforce the unwritten “fairness” rule.
My first AFL game. A truly Aussie experience. I highly recommend it to everyone.