It is winter in Australia which means that it is football season it Australia. And by football, I don’t mean steroid stuffed giants in full body armor standing around for three plus hours, nor overpaid Brazilians kicking a round ball around for an hour and a half in the quest for a nil-nil draw. No, I’m talking about that odd game that you may have seen during a spell of insomnia that involves thirty skinny Australians occasionally kicking a rugby ball in between bouts of beating the crap out of each other.
Ah, footy. For a couple of years now, I’ve been trying to develop a passion for the game with only minimal success. Why bother, you sensibly ask? A couple of good reasons. First of all, tea time conversation topics. I work for a pretty ‘blokey’ school and was advised early on in my employment to choose a team as it would make Monday morning tea conversations flow a lot more easily.
True that. Most of the words bouncing around the walls of the tea room on Monday morning are ones like ‘Crows‘, ‘Power‘, ‘Cats‘, ‘Magpies‘, and so on. Over the last couple of years I’ve been able to learn the jargon well enough to feign interest, but I still don’t care that much about who’s atop the ladder or the weekly Crows crisis.
Secondly, and more importantly, I’m on a mission to give my kids a true blue upbringing despite being the children of immigrants. They’re boys. Aussie boys like sports. Aussie sports are cricket and footy (at least in SA and Victoria). Now we’ve got no problem with cricket, I took to cricket straightaway. It’s baseball, more or less, so no problems. (No worries.)
But this damned football, or footy as the locals call it, is just a bit too bizarre for my taste. Far too much punting. And I don’t understand why they haven’t developed the forward pass. I mean, I know Australia tends to lag a bit behind their North American and European cousins in adopting technology, but the forward pass has been around since 1906.
Whatever. We need a team. How to pick a team if you don’t really care for the game? Well, I figured it out – let the kid decide.
Now, without getting too inside footy, we’ve got a couple of AFL (major league) clubs in Adelaide – the Crows and the Power – both of whom suck. They also play in one of the worst stadiums I’ve ever seen and charge an obscene amount of money to sit in the rain and watch bad teams lose badly.
But we’ve also got the South Australian National Football League, a collection of local teams that would be kind of homologous to a AAA baseball league. They play at smaller ovals around the city, charge $10 for adults and nothing for kids and, best of all, let you go out on the pitch during the quarter breaks and kick your ball around. The latter, for a two year old, is the clincher.
A couple of weekends ago, Boy Z and I headed off to watch the Sturt Double Blues play host to the Glenelg Tigers, the two closest clubs to our house. I made the decision before we went that whoever won this game would be ‘our team’. But while we were watching, I had a moment of genius – ask the boy who he liked.
“Boy Z”, I said, “the blue ones are the Blues and the black ones are the Tigers. Who do we like?” Maybe an unfair question, because Boy Z knows that ‘tigers’ are fierce giant cats and ‘blue’ is just the colour of our Mazda hatchback.
Ti-ers it is my boy. Ti-ers it is. We’ve got ourselves a team.
We’ve been to a handful of games now and everything is now Tigers. He wants to wear his ‘Tigers’ shirt every day. We’ve hunted down ‘Tigers’ socks, although a few sizes too big. Stupid Australian sizes. He sleeps with his ‘Tigers’ football. We have endless conversations about the next time we’re going to see ‘Tigers football’. (Answer – the next time it isn’t raining on game day).
And I’m actually starting to like the game myself.