It’s hard to believe that just last weekend we were watching AFL matches and debating whether the game should continue or be postponed.
Now, the players have accepted massive pay cuts and in the case of the AFL and several clubs, 80% of employees have lost their jobs. Coaches, admin staff, the merchandise department, accounting, sponsorship, member services, physios; no one was spared the wrath of the miserable economic stress that goes hand-in-hand with a pandemic currently staring down the AFL and society in general.
I know its hard to focus on the importance of sport in such bleak times in the world, but I can’t help but think of what the AFL offers us everyday Australians during these dark times. Not just a distraction, but a respite from the heavy weight each person must be carrying.
Am I essential?
Are my relatives safe?
What steps will the government take next?
When will this all be over?
Why don’t we have Jacinda Ardern as our Prime Minister (but, at least we aren’t saddled with Donal Trump)?
But back to footy.
I wrote an article last year about my experiences watching football and what the game meant to me in the lead up to the finals. For me, it’s not just a sport; it’s a way of life. From my local club to the AFL, my love affair with the game conquers all (except when my wife puts her foot down).
Footy offers us the ultimate reward for our small sacrifices. The sheer exhilaration we feel when our team forges ahead in the last quarter, the nailbiting moments when we just manage to hang on, and the complete and unbridled joy when that siren rings out, prompting grown adults to cry, hug complete strangers and share in a joy rarely felt in any walk of life other than as a supporter of our teams. It is a part of who we are. It is part of our national culture. Our history is focused on where you were for great sporting moments.
Do you remember the big moments? Lockett’s 130oth goal, Buddy’s 100th goal in 2008, Matthew Scarlett’s toe-poke, Dom Sheed’s ice in his veins, or the day Ablett Snr and Salmon went goal for goal at the MCG?
It is so woven into the fabric of our lives that in the absence of live footy, our broadcasters have come up with a range of efforts to slate our need for it.
Well, they’re trying, at least.
From live re-calls of previous matches to straight re-runs of the clashes the game has seen, they are throwing the kitchen sink at us, and we will eat it up. Hell, I am absolutely enthralled by one betting company’s live streams of the seasons fixture being digitally simulated with some half-assed commentary.
My point is that, when I think about everything going on in the world right now, I say to myself “Just wait”.
Just hang in there, Nick… and you guys hang in there with me. For one day in the future, whether close or distant, 2020 or 2021, it doesn’t matter, footy will return.
WE WILL BE BACK…
Back on our way to the great stadia of this land. The MCG, Optus Stadium, Adelaide Oval, the SCG, the Gabba, even GMHBA.
One and all we’ll come. In plain clothing, or draped in team apparel, or suits adorned by a club scarf, maybe with a footy record in hand, filled with hope and anticipation of that first bounce – the roar of the crowd, the umpire holding the ball aloft. There is nothing else like it.
We will be marching together, back to the place where legends are made and nothing else matters but the 44 gladiators taking the field.
Everyone involved in the AFL has put their hand up to ensure the game survives, and I know that when that time comes, and I get the chance, I’ll be there.
I’ll be there to show them exactly why they scraped and scrounged for every cost-saving measure and extra dollar.
It is so we would have something to come back to.
But until then, I’ll be patient. I’ll watch the old games, listen to the new commentary and read the new takes on subjects we’ve already discussed. I’m a football lover, and once we get the all-clear, the time for staying the inside like a responsible Australian will be over.
Footy will return, and may God help whoever stands in my way of attending.