The art of the AFL Grand Final party
Football parties can be enormous fun but they can also see people at cross purposes. In my case, I usually head back to Adelaide.
My brother generously throws open his house offering a fine spread of food and beverages and importantly, two televisions - one inside for the more hard-core among us who want to really watch the match, and the other outside for assorted toddlers and parents, and those suspiciously agnostic types who seem content to talk right through the action.
Perhaps 30 or more people will turn up - an event no doubt replicated a thousand times across the city and anywhere the game is followed.
Overall, it’s a great time to catch up with the family and friends one sees all too rarely. But all in good time - it is generally agreed that no discussion of life and related issues need occur before game and certainly not once the players have taken the field.
There will be plenty of time for such matters during what a fellow fan calls “The Great Nothingness’’ - that period immediately after the GF when it suddenly hits home that footy - saviour of the wet weekend and the greatest reality show ever made - is over for 6 months.
Such TV based gatherings are common in these days of the national competition even though more often than not, one’s own team is not in the big match. Genuine fans of the code don’t let that stop them enjoying the day.
This year however, for this scribe, the venue for watching the game will be the nation’s capital.
Canberra is an odd place when it comes to football. Locals, when they use the term, often mean something different altogether. And I’m not talking soccer either. The term “football’’ is routinely deployed to describe both rugby union and rugby league - neither of which, let’s be clear, have any claim on the term. Nor are they anything like as good but that’s another argument entirely.
Of course how and where you watch the Grand Final is critical to your enjoyment. Low level tensions can arise.
For example, some people favour music and other non-football related frivolities before the clash.
Hard-core fans go the other way. Taking in all the preliminary discussion is important. Some may have even watched the North Melbourne Breakfast and even the classic Grand Finals marathon the night before.
Explaining these principles to those not conversant with AFL culture is a largely fruitless exercise. For example, caught in Sydney for the ALP National Conference a few weeks back, your correspondent and a friend, traipsed to the only pub in the inner-city showing the Crows/Cats encounter.
As advertised, the pub was showing the game but do you think you could hear it? The bar staff could not have been less interested and claimed the volume was already on full. Bollocks. For some reason, without sound, you can’t really see it properly either - it’s as if you’re watching through lunch wrapper. In short, you need atmosphere.
Mind you, not all pub experiences are like this. Last year, thanks to our peripatetic PM, the venue for watching the GF was a Fifth Avenue bar in New York. Packed with eager football aficionados, this multi-screened bar was fully set up - definitely the place to be at three in the morning - even if the Cats did disappoint.
The problem of being surrounded by non-fans provokes some interesting responses in those savouring the dying minutes of the season.
For example, today, possibly even as you read this, your columnist will be ensconced in what its owner has proudly decreed: ``The Incubus’‘.
This temporary sanctum of suburban exclusivity is tailor-made for the enjoyment of the game to the exclusion of all else. Entry comes with conditions so strict they make the annual Budget lock-up seem relaxed.
The host, a passionate Carlton fan (despite his SA roots) has even gone to the trouble of laying out the rules. I reproduce them here on the off chance you want to cut them out and stick them to your fridge door today:
“The Incubus: (Rules apply strictly from 2pm until presentation of Norm Smith Medal and the Cup)
1. No talking (unless related directly to the game, screaming at umpire, marvelling at genius etc).
2. No natural light (ensures there is no screen glare or awareness of an outside world).
3. No phones.
4. No catering after the game starts. (Pre-game catering must be simple, chops, chips, beer, frankfurts etc).
5. No frivolity such as Roy & HG commentary, female comments about men in shorts, or anything else to detract from the sanctity of the occasion.
NB: No more than five people, three is considered optimum.”
Naturally, these conditions have been happily accepted because, at the end of the day, who would want it otherwise?
Next week we’ll be back to politics but for now, like everything else, that can wait.
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