Monday, 11 February 2013

Bourgeois Anthropology - Middle Class Handwringing Edition

It's funny, you live in the universe, but you never do these things until someone comes to visit
Still waiting for South action, and thus I made my debut appearances at the water polo and international cricket in the one weekend. My old Perth Glory supporting mate Chris Egan was in town last week. So that meant taking a chance that the world hadn't succumbed to nuclear apocalypse since the end of the last VPL season, and actually going outside and doing things. I managed to live to tell the tale - but only just. So think of this entry as a variation of last year's tennis escapade.

Water Polo at Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre
The UWA Torpedoes (men's and women's teams) were in town to take on the Victoria Tigers. I'm not quite sure what person thought that a tiger would be the best mascot for an aquatic sports team. The Tigers won both matches, the men's game a little more comfortably then the women's, but neither match was a blowout.

Anyway, it's quite a nice little set up they have going there at MSAC. Shot clocks, sponsor boards, scoreboard. I could have done without the continuous commentary though. I wouldn't have minded elaboration on scorers and ejections, but the rest seemed superfluous. They had a match program, and in retrospect I should have picked one up. Gold coin donation seemed fair. The team and player intros included bizarre clapping ceremony.

As for the sport of water polo itself, I'm sure it's a hell of a lot of fun to play for the participants, but like my opinion of field hockey, I reckon it's just another inferior version of soccer. There's a very limited range of scoring methods, and limited ways of moving the ball. Still, the fast breaks and bounced shots were exciting to watch, the constant minor fouls not so much.

Perhaps it would have been more exciting with some flares and ethnic tension. But then again, wouldn't everything?

I also learned that former Fremantle Dockers coach Gerard Neesham - and his water polo background - is the progenitor of flooding in Australian rules football. There's something for Steven Alomes to follow up on.

Paisley Park Prattle
Trundled over to see Altona East's seniors and ressies in their first friendlies for the season. Ressie lost to Melbourne University 9-0, so some work to do there. The seniors won 2 or 3 nil, I wasn't paying that much attention. Found out how Andrew Nabbout got the call up to Melbourne Victory ahead of several other possible. No disrespect to Nabbout, but it appears there's serious issues with talent identification in Australian soccer.

Prior To Yesterday
My only experiences of watching cricket live in the flesh - apart from seeing the odd ball bowled while my train was stopped was at South Kensington station on a summer Saturday - was at some regional junior representative match, and one day's play of Carlton's fourths against Footscray fourths at Tony Dodemaide Oval. So even though I know rules, histories, players and all the other hoopla, this experience was new to me.

Embracing Your Inner Billboard
Mike Hussey cardboard sheets sponsored by a bank. A tea break on field dance session sponsored by a brewer. Faux watermelon hats sponsored by a telecommunications company. And best of all, said telco handing out free clip on radios which were able to access either the ABC's and Channel Nine's commentary. Which was hilarious considering that outside the ground another variation of said radio was being sold at $20 a pop.

Future NFL Hall of Famers
Commiserations to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who almost made it to the end of the match without getting kicked out. After having thrown an American football three times from the bottom of M10 - including one which smashed into the signage on the second deck - he wandered back to his seat as if nothing had happened. A little bit later on, it looked like he'd been escorted out, only to return a few minutes later.

As blokes were being thrown out left, right and centre, our group was wondering how the hell Brady was still in the venue. Later on during the evening, he moved around to the bottom of section M8 or M9 and threw the ball again, after posing with the ball for about half a minute. Eventually, his luck ran out, somewhat amazingly after he had taken off his jersey and tried to go incognito. It took until 10:15 for the Old Bill to finally get rid of him for good - perhaps they were waiting for Brady's mate Brian Urlacher to get out of the picture.

Fat Kid Messenger Services
One of the two off-field highlights was the use of a fat kid for the purposes of picking up chicks. Some blokes from the front row sent this kid to pass on a message to an attractive woman about 20 rows back. Kid became an instant legend.

Footy's Almost Back!
The roll call of footy jumpers I saw.
  • 1x St Kilda
  • 1x Footscray
  • 1x Collingwood, heading back towards Flinders Street before the match.
  • 1x Geelong, with matching shorts.
  • 1x Essendon - as soon as he appeared in M11, the 'Essendon are drug cheats' chant started.
  • 1x Sydney, dressed as Warwick Capper, including shorts which left nothing to the imagination.
Kostume Kapers
For some reason the marketing gurus at Cricket Australia thought it would be a good idea to encourage people to dress up in costumes, because goodness knows it's not the like actual game matters in any way. There were some good efforts, but where I was sitting, it seemed like an extra reason to get drunk for most of those people. Some of the more notable efforts in our vicinity included:
  • Warwick Capper - see above.
  • Spiderman - when not drinking, he spent a good portion of the match performing an incredibly annoying dance, trying ever so hard to get on camera. He succeeded.
  • A wizard, but not Gandalf or Harry Potter related.
  • About 5-6 blokes dressed in Jamaican bobsled outfits ala the film Cool Runnings, but sadly without anyone in the role of John Candy.
  • Some bloke wearing a pretty crap wedding dress.
  • Wonder Woman - perhaps unusually (considering the usual demographic of nerd dress up shenanigans), she was actually a woman.
  • Bananas in Pyjamas
  • The bloke in an obviously very hot and sweaty panda suit, on whose face one could read a ton of regret about wearing that suit on such a warm day.
Sneaky Sound System
Still going, still crap.

Pitch Invasions
Just the one individual. Tried to take on security, did not get far.

One bloke stripped down to nothing. He got turfed out. Later on, one bloke thought he'd be a bit of smartarse, and started having a go at two of the female coppers as they were going back up the stairs, by beginning a slow and sleazy striptease routine. Unfortunately for him, the most veteran police offer on duty came up from behind and grabbed his arms as he was about to lose his jacket - and the beauty of it was that everyone saw it coming but him. Even I had to laugh at that.

Western Australians
Along with Chris, I was with several other Perth Glory fans at this match. I hope no one mistook me for a Western Australian while they went off their nut every time a Western Australian player did anything. They were quite excited by Adam Voges' maiden international century. I liked Johnson Charles' equivalent effort a little better, but at that stage not many people were watching.

The Actual Match
In the sections we were in, the on field contest seemed incidental. You read newspaper reports about the bad behaviour, but it's worth getting a look at it first hand. As a newbie from a soccer background, several things struck me as significant.

I never realised how boring this game is.
Firstly, the way the rowdy patrons actually put some effort into getting thrown out was fascinating, like they were actually aiming for that result. They drink a lot and drink quickly (one group enjoyed smashing the empty plastic cups against each other's faces). The attempt to curtail the drinking culture by not opening the bars (or food) outlets on the bottom of the lower deck did not work at all. One bloke near me (whose mates had already been thrown out) threw an empty Pringles cylinder, and then followed it up with an empty Coke bottle. He tried to feign ignorance but it was no use, and he didn't put up much of a fight when he got spotted and asked to leave. I wonder if he and others like him will get charged the $563 on the spot fine for throwing items.

The second thing was how little fight most people - including bystanders - put up in trying to avoid being evicted. If that happened in a soccer crowd, I can easily imagine other people quickly becoming involved out of a sense of camaraderie. Here, while not dobbing in their fellow supporters, most seemed perfectly willing to let them be evicted. Indeed the well known chant 'you're going home in the back of a divvy van' seemed to undermine the notion that someone tried to put forward yesterday, that the performance of disobedience was an indicator of Australians' natural distrust and dislike of authority.

Thirdly, the different reactions of the police and security. The police seemed to laugh a lot of the incidents off. The security seemed to take more of an interest in trying to control matters, though that may have been because they tended to be targeted more by the antics of the fans. As the night wore on, so did the frequency of people getting booted out, with scarcely a ten minute period going by without one or more people being escorted out.

I can see why certain people want to get rid of this format of the game. Eight hours of meaningless play, low crowds, attracting mostly people who see it as an opportunity to get tanked. But it was good to get to a game. Unfortunately, cricket is a game in the wrong era. It's not suited to a culture that lacks patience and has no time for it anyway. Attempts to convince its constituents otherwise, by speeding up the game and taking every semblance of nuance out of it, just seem pathetic to me. They might as well convert to baseball.

1 comment:

  1. As Fred Negro would say, what a top Oz Rock night.


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