Flat White

“In any weather you will see us with a grin, risking head and shin”

30 September 2019

6:20 PM

30 September 2019

6:20 PM

As the roar of the crowd and the smell of the liniment fades into memories, it occurs to me that “the more things change, the more they stay the same”.

Once upon a time, the main appeal of Aussie Rules was that there weren’t any. Rules, that is. The teams that won most often were those that were better at marking and kicking the ball. What went on outside of those two actions was a mystery for most and thus the “charm of uncertainty” prevailed.

Well of course (as with everything) the post-modernists took over. The rulebook, which in the old days was more of a leaflet than a book, was expanded to the point, where today it roughly equates to the thickness of The Gutenberg Bible.

There have also been changes over the years with regard to what occurs in the bleachers (an old American term used to describe cheap bench seats). One doesn’t see them much anymore these days but some clubs use them quite often on Thursday nights, where one hears them refer to their “extended bench”.

The spectacle of an AFL match these days has few peers (some would say none). There are however occasions when a game registers a high reading on the boredom metre and some in the crowd will turn elsewhere for entertainment. They will start to make assessments of the IQ of another spectator and such like, especially if they are displaying offensive articles of clothing, such as the wrong colours.

As an extension of the administrators’ penchant for managing player behaviour, this year saw the deployment of anger management counsellors to mingle and provide advice, as they saw fit, to overly exuberant supporters.

An even more colourful distraction has emerged in recent years. A cursory look at archival photographs suggests that the crowd, in days of yore, were mostly men, who looked as though they were on their way to officiate as best man at a wedding, so formerly were they dressed. These days we are frequently treated to visions of gold lame’ jackets or fans made up to look more like a tiger or a kangaroo than the real thing.

To be a knowledgeable spectator these days it is necessary to have a degree in either physiology, ergonomics or bio-metrics. A little psychology also helps when trying to decipher intent, as in the case of the infamous DOOB – deliberate out of bounds, if you live north of Albury – among others.

There was a time when a footballer was rarely referred to as an athlete. Frequently they had the physique and fitness of the local darts champion down the pub, but if he could mark, kick and cope with the rough and tumble that went on in between, then he’d get a start in a team somewhere around the town.

The modern players are indeed magnificent athletes and some are living, mobile works of art, perhaps a bonus for those who are of certain “artistic” sensibilities. The spectacle has changed and most will say for the better, however my viewing habits have not.

As my wife and I sit and watch this stuff, she will exclaim, “what was that for?” and my response is “no idea, I don’t know the rules.”

Try as they may, the gods of the game have failed, for the “charm of uncertainty” lingers still.

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