The Irish bar I’m in smells of cauliflower cheese and I’m about to start watching the Super Bowl in New York City.
I have no idea about NFL. The beers line up in front of us. The barman hears our accents and describes game plays. A crowd gathers around everyone trying to teach us. I duck and weave under the bodies and sit back in the booth. I spill my beer on my notes. Tom Brady is mentioned in hushed tones. It’s said he earns 10 million per year plus per year. He looks like the sweet-faced boy he is from San Mateo, California.
I’m a long way from home. Tonight back in Melbourne, it’s the opening round of the AFL Women’s Competition and two women’s teams are about to run on to the oval at Princes Park, in Melbourne. This is after years of frustration, deliberation, and negotiation about building a women’s league. It will be the first game of the season, played in front of a crowd of under 1000 people in a rickety old stadium. Superbowl is being played a whiz-bang stadium in Minneapolis complete with cheerleaders, brass bands, and hooting fans.
By comparison, the AFL Women’s League still feels like a fledgling grassroots contest. There’s passion and wonder and disbelief in the player’s eyes. Like they’re grateful to be there. And realising their time has come. Australian sport may never be the same.
Of course, I’m taking through my whatsits! I know nothing about sport- though I pretend I do.
Meanwhile, back at the Irish bar in New York, we watch an ex Mouseketeer onstage in Minneapolis, and the crowd goes nuts. The halftime entertainment seems to take over from the game. People watch it more for the ads. They say an advertising slot in Super Bowl costs millions. This year, its Tide and car ads and Justin Timberlake. I’m caught up in the frenzy, swaying at the bar cheering on the Patriots.
Six weeks later, I’m home and at the Melbourne Cricket Ground watching a game between Melbourne and Geelong. One daughter wears the colours of Melbourne, the other of Geelong. Its a long way from the well-oiled machine of the NFL, the hoo ha of the brass band, the dorky organ music and the cheerleaders. Instead, there’s a crowd of diehard fans and two people in animal suits: Half-Cat and a red and blue Demon. Maybe it’s not that far removed from American sport after all.
But whether it’s here or there, it’s really all about the sport, the competition, the endurance and the skill. It all starts with a kid kicking a ball or throwing a javelin or getting up at 5am for swimming squad. And from that, great things can come.For a much more expert opinion about sport (ie they know what they are talking about!)check out the following:
@kirbykirbybee An AFL expert
@HollingsY– A cricket tragic
@ButlerOnTheAir- My US sports correspondent.