Sport AFL The problem with attending an AFL match in 2018

The problem with attending an AFL match in 2018

Fans desperately needed a breather after the frenetic action in the Cats-Hawks clash. Photo: Getty
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I don’t know about you but I go to the MCG to watch the footy. And I’m not remotely interested in the attempts of two fans trying to kick a ball into an oversized McDonald’s coffee cup. 

Unfortunately, if you go to the footy now, you can’t avoid the ‘game day experience’.

A day at the footy is now so completely stage-managed that it feels like about the only thing the marketing departments of each club aren’t throwing at us is some peace and quiet during the breaks at the end of each quarter. 

If you ask me, some time for pause and reflection is something we desperately need.

After all, footy is a stressful sport to watch.

We tie ourselves up in knots watching it. Each moment feels important. We hang on every tackle, every umpiring decision, every shot at goal as though it were earth-shatteringly important.

And by half-time, we desperately need some respite from the tension.

This was the feeling I had on Easter Monday at the MCG.

Geelong and Hawthorn had kicked 19 goals between them in a thrilling first half. 

And Gary Ablett Jr, Joel Selwood and Patrick Dangerfield were playing together for the first time, battling the evil forces of Hawthorn’s perfectly executed defensive zone.

It was engrossing stuff but once the half-time siren sounded, it was time for a break. A chance to a pop a throat lozenge and dry sweaty palms. Maybe get the thermos out and, God forbid, check in with the friends and family around them.

Geelong’s marketing department had other ideas, though.

They accounted for every spare moment of that half-time break as though it was an itinerary for a visit from one of the members of the royal family. We were bombarded with visual and auditory noise from beginning to end.

It started with an emcee shouting into a microphone and was punctuated with a few hard rock songs ringing out over the PA. Nick Dal Santo shared a few thoughts in a thinly veiled Maccas cross-promotion and finally, of course, there was crowd participation in the form of children awkwardly dancing to music.

The whole half-time break was tiring and cringeworthy and almost deafening … but there was no way to opt out.

Some tried, by quietly reading their Footy Record or shooting off a text message but were instantly exposed by Geelong’s new Candid Camera inspired innovation, ‘Distracto Cam’, which basically involves 70,000 people laughing at the one poor bloke who isn’t paying attention to the big screen. How dare he?

This is not just a dig at Geelong’s marketing department. Every club does the same thing. I’m a Richmond fan and we inflict our own brand of cringeworthy marketing tripe on spectators during our home games. 

Last week, at half-time in our opening fixture, we all paused to watch a middle-aged man try to win himself a footy jumper by outrunning a computer-generated Jeep. You could feel the passing of time.

Why did they feel they needed to entertain us? We were quite happy just to talk amongst ourselves about how good we were last year. It’s what we’ve been doing for the last six months and we love it.

Other sports just aren’t like footy in this way.

There’s always ample time to chat with friends, eat a sandwich, or apply your sunscreen at the cricket, for example. During a slow session you might even find a few spare moments to construct a beer snake or start a Mexican wave. 

Soccer demands a bit more focus and produces ‘moments’ that can definitely feel like history itself is being written, but even the most ardent round-ball enthusiast will admit that they check out intermittently during a game.

When the centre-back is passing it back and forth with his full-backs it’s generally safe to look away.

We don’t have that luxury in footy, though. There’s no ‘in-game breather’.

We need half-time like a 12-year-old kid needs recess. We need to stretch, walk around, have a drink and blow off some steam with the people around us.

I’m not suggesting there’s no room for a little extra entertainment as part of the price of admission.

I’ll happily endure Gavin Wanganeen turning the crank on an air-raid siren at a Bombers game or the Taiko drums that beat every time the Tigers run out at home games now.

But can the marketing department at each club please just schedule a few moments of quiet time for our racing hearts to return to normal during the quarter and half-time breaks?

Jeff is the former Richmond mascot Tiggy and is just getting his hearing back after Monday’s assault on his ears.