Wednesday, November 11, 2015

AFL Grand Final 2015: A Very Australian Afternoon

I apologize because I am way behind with informing my tens of readers about this very Australian event that the Mister and I "attended" several weeks ago.

On October 3, Australians were tuned to their sets for this year's AFL Grand Final. Australian football (footy) is NOT like American football, not even a little bit, but like American football, Australians have a team and they are fiercely loyal to that team throughout the season. Unlike American football fans, though, footy fans don't necessarily choose their teams according to their geographical location or the location of their hometown. As soon as we landed we were asked "How long have you been here? Which footy team do you support?" by almost every Australian we met. Since I had no clue Australian football even existed before July 19, and Tyler had only just started his research before we moved, we had no idea which team we went for (though we quickly learned not to say we root for anyone because here "root" is colloquial for a VERY different activity). Essentially you choose your team at random. Some people support the underdogs, some stick to familial ties, other just like the team or a key player and that's how they choose.

Anyway, Grand Final time comes around and I still have no idea how the game is played but we figured since the big game was happening in Melbourne we couldn't miss this opportunity to hang with the locals. Here's what I know about footy after watching the game:

1. It is played on a cricket oval. The game was held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG or "The G"), which is one of lots of stadiums in the Richmond area of the city. Cricket grounds are ovals, and I guessed since there was a plethora of cricket grounds in this British colony, the locals made use of what they had when they invented this game. Here's the confusing part: There is no standard size for cricket grounds, so some are larger than others which means each game of AFL looks different.

2. It is essentially an elaborate game of keep-away. That's the best I can get from the many minutes I watched. It honestly looks like a game that was invented on a playground by some kids with nothing but a rugby ball and a LOT of energy to burn. The players never. stop. running. And there is so much JUMPING! The players are Amazonian, their legs have to be so long to keep up with the competition!

And that's it! That's all I could surmise. Ok, I gleaned something about different points being awarded for the ball being kicked through one of the FOUR uprights as opposed to rolling through...and that none of the coaches are on the field, instead having guys in pink shirts run around on the field with the players yelling instructions sent to them through earpieces, but that's it! If you want the details and a bit of AFL history and have 30 minutes to spare, here is a handy video from the AFL.

What I really enjoyed about the day was the company we kept and getting to see the old familiar sight of sports fans in a bar cheering on their team. We were at a bar only a few blocks from the MCG, so the excitement of the game was palpable and it was really cool to be so close to the action. Even though the rules were impossible for me to decipher, sports fans are the same everywhere and easy to read. We stood around in this massive-for-being-in-the-city beer garden, yelling at the screen from time to time and just enjoying meeting new friends.

Just like many NFL fans, Australians like to drink with their sports, and the Grand Final was no exception. Everyone was very well behaved, and I especially enjoyed the group standing behind us that had their own version of a game of Wizard Staff going on where they collectively built a tower of their beer cups as the afternoon progressed.

Tyler and I aren't big drinkers, but we joined our friends for an obligatory post-binge meal of Mexican goodness at a restaurant around the corner from the bar before catching the train home with a bunch of sweaty, tired AFL fans.

Even though it was just over a month ago, so much has changed since the Grand Final in Australia. Summer is creeping up on us here and Ty and I have already finished our first semester of grad school! It's crazy how different things are, yet somethings are very much the same.

Vicariously yours,

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