Monday, June 12, 2017

Closing the circle

It's been a long time coming, but I've finally been to see the "footie" at the "G" - an Australian Rules Football match at the Melbourne Cricket Grounds! I'd been told from first arriving in Oz that sport was the national religion, and, in Victoria, footie in particular. I've seen bits on television and made a half-hearted effort at understanding what was going on - there seem to be few rules, as there are few lines on the pitch. I've met people who've played (including my nephews as tykes doing Auskick), and a woman whose father was a famous footballer, who, she proudly told me, broke every bone in his body (the players have none of the armor of American football players), even his fingers!
But it really is different seeing it live, the vast oval below you, seventy thousand fans around you, and unbelievably energetic long-legged players racing one way and another far below, the ball changing sides constantly, the scale of things alternating between graceful long kicks, elegant passing and tangled scrimages. The word "balletic" recurs in people's praise of the game (at least among the people I know), and beyond the moments when a bunch of men rise, Kierkegaard-style, into the air to catch a kicked ball, there is a grace and a fluid joy to the whole thing - quite the antithesis of the US' static pointillistic national sports (except basketball and hockey, I suppose). The teams playing were Collingwood vs. Melbourne, and underdog Melbourne squeaked out a victory against the fearsome Collingwood, so that was nice, too.

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