Friends, I have a confession to make: I have never been to any sort of public sports event (kiddie soccer league games don’t count), until yesterday that is. I didn’t start my spectator sport experiences by watching ice hockey, soccer, baseball or football, but AFL: Aussie rules footy. Of course I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but luckily I had a patient friend explaining the rules to me. Apparently it’s a lot about shouting obscurities and drinking beer, and for girls rating the players.
The following is what I gathered about the rules of footy. These are by no means absolute truths, so if you know better, feel free to correct me. Like other team sports, footy game consists of two teams of several players, who run around in an oval field hitting each other, trying to get an oval shaped ball between one of 4 poles that look like they’re from Harry Potter (creating 3 goals: the middle one worth 6 points, the outer ones 1 point) by kicking or throwing it in. One is not allowed to run with the ball into the goals, and running with the ball altogether is prohibited; however it is possible to run the whole field-length if bouncing the ball on the ground every now and then – I witnessed this in the enticing melbourne vs. Essendon game. If a player catches the ball from the air, they get a free toss. If there is a big rumble where the ball gets stuck, the referees get to throw it to re-start the action. There are quite a few dudes in yellow shirts, who toss the ball back into the game, backwards, after it’s gone outside the field (perhaps to the audience). A couple of pink shirted people also run around, providing players with drinks (water?) and strategy tips from the coach. There are 4 quarters, each lasting something between 25 minutes and 32 minutes, and in-between the quarters the audience can enjoy entertainment such as little kids playing footy (and mutilating each other).
For me, the best part of the whole show was hearing the cheering and other shouting from the crowd. Stuff like “C’mon melbourne, they’re not even a real team” and “Josh, take off your pants!” surely kept us entertained. At first I felt bad for the players who kept on smashing to the ground, but after a while I got used to it. Apparently neither melbourne nor Essendon are any good, but at the end the game turned out to be very interesting. It was a tie until 2 mins before the end of the game, when Essendon scored the winning goal. Suspension at its’ best!