One of life’s great pleasures used to be going to the footy with family or mates, barracking and participating in the banter, and discussing the game at the breaks. Not any more. The loud music, the ads and the stupid spruiker combine to ensure that any conversation during the breaks is near impossible. The moving fence ads are a constant and annoying distraction and the moronic, US-style, electronic goal zingers are incredibly irritating. To quote the Coodabeens – “get rid of it”.
So writes John Gerrard of Rosanna. He was doing so in response to Brendan O’Riley’s recent column in the Melbourne newspaper that once was a broadsheet. The latter’s words made me very sad – and they were supported by a Caroline Wilson tirade (Caro’s Arrow) the following Monday night on ‘Footy Classified’. Later other commentators, including Martin Flanagan, joined in the chorus. To my mind our great game can stand on its own as a spectacle without the necessity of the embellishments we have come to associate with the travesty of a sport that is American gridiron. With the exception of Port’s ‘Never Tear Us Apart’, from what I can discern from the small screen, none of the recent additions to jazz up the game day experience have succeeded in making it a better spectacle in any way. They’ve only served to get people’s backs up and diminish it. What we love about Aussie Rules, in terms of witnessing the game first hand at the highest level, at least at the ‘G, is being taken away from us. The average punter is being pushed aside, with the sport being handed over to the big end of town – where the money is. If it continues, it means a visit to watch a game at the home of footy will no longer be on my agenda for a trip to Yarra City.
On an associated note, thanks to the bean counters at Southern Cross, we here in Tassie are now subjected to inane ads after every goal. I know this has been the usual practice of its mother network for some time but, gee, it ruins the game as a pleasurable way to spend a weekend night. In a recent match a team had a run-on, kicking three goals in less than a couple a minutes – and every time the flow was buggered by someone yelling at me to buy a car. The same ad, break after break – only a moron would be convinced by that to rush out and buy the product! I am now considering Foxtel as a result. I suspect thousands of others across the island are making the same decision. But it seems going to the match itself would have been no better – someone would still be yelling at me to buy a car.
I love our indigenous game. To my mind it stands as one of the greatest sporting spectacles on the planet. And, please don’t listen to those of my generation who harp on about how much better it was back in the old days. I reckon it’s every bit as good, if not better, despite all the changes in the way teams play it these days. Not so long ago I watched a couple of grand finals on DVD back to back. The first was Hawthorn’s ’08 triumph over hot favourites, the Cats. I closely followed that up (I must have been blessed with time that day) with the ’89 classic between the same combatants, praised as one of the great GFs of all time. Honestly, appraising the two, in the latter the players looked as though they were running on the spot, in the former they were Energiser bunnies. There was no comparison. I know some complain about the roving scrums that seem to dominate some matches, but when that is dispensed with for open, free-flowing footy, such as most top teams play when on song, it is exhilarating to watch. And there are still the freaks of the game, if not so much the characters – Stevie J, Ablett, Buddy, Cyril dancing through packs, Jeremy Howe reaching for the heavens. There’s still the hard nuts to marvel at with their courage and then there’s power forwards taking pack grabs and converting. Remember back to those cold winter days on suburban glue-pots – there was little finesse in those games of yore either. Want to go back to that? And this season, to top it off, as well as having our fair share of cracker games, the unexpected is cropping up – the Saints great comeback, GWS defeating the reigning premiers and the Doggies showing they are back in town beating the Swans. There’s the drama over, at this stage, Mickey’s lamentable Blues and the Tigers are still causing their long suffering supporters on-going frustration. Don’t tell me there’s not plenty of spice left in proceedings to enthuse any true lover of Australian Rules.
So please AFL hierarchy take heed. We’re told that wussiest game of all is on the march, scooping our youngsters into its arms with the cry of ‘no contact here’. Soccer – don’t get me started. Through the ineptitude in taking away the atmosphere that has been part and parcel of our magic game we run the risk of driving the masses towards that wretched farce where games are decided by who can swan dive and feign injury the best. Give real footy back to the people please.
Brendan O”Reilly on how the AFL is killing footy for the fans = http://www.theage.com.au/comment/how-the-afl-is-killing-footy-for-the-fans-20150508-ggw7di.html
Greg Baum on the same subject = http://www.theage.com.au/afl/afl-news/gameday-no-experience-necessary-20150515-gh2qug.html
Martin Flanagan on the same subject = http://www.theage.com.au/afl/afl-news/afl-marketing-fiction-of-its-own-making-with-flashing-lights-20150515-gh1hj7