Footie ruling the airwaves

Yesterday was ANZAC day. A national day for the people of Australia and New Zealand to remember the soldiers, sailors and airmen who have died in the many pointless wars that this world has played host to. A day to remember and acknowledge what they have done for their country, and a chance to pay your respects.

So how would Australia, an incredibly patriotic nation, choose to commemorate this day on the TV. Perhaps with a historic documentary, honoring those who have gone? Perhaps with the coverage of the many dawn services taking part across the country? Or perhaps even with an epic film, depicting a country in wartime?

Don’t be silly. The powers that be decided, on behalf of it’s viewing public, that nothing says respect for the dead more than a 10 hour marathon of sport taking our TV screens hostage. Or should I say 10 hours worth of men in rather fetching hot pants and tight t-shirts, running around in circles and climbing up the backs of other men.

Just to clarify here, for all those having visions of a men’s figure-skating dance off. I’m talking about AFL, or Aussie Rules Football as it’s better known. The nations favourite sport and a game that prides itself on an impressive demonstration of physical strength and ability – though one that still remains a complete mystery to everyone else in the outside world.

I certainly wouldn’t  pretend to know much about AFL, except that it seems to be a mixture of Soccer, Rugby and ‘Fight Club’ – Stone Age style. Created to keep cricketers fit during winter, the game has been played for over a 100 years, with the the first official game taking place in the park-lands of Melbourne in the late 1850’s.

During the course of the game, the 18 players on the team run full pelt around an oval playing field for 80 minutes. During this time, contrary to the name of the game, there don’t appear to be that many rules to follow. Except that is for the one about punch anything that moves or be flattened in return. So it’s actually not that dissimilar to American Football really, but without all of the padding and protective gear.

Certainly not a game for the faint-hearted or the under developed, these players are undoubtedly great athletes, and as fit as it’s possible to be without bursting any major blood vessels. Built like a 3 storey brick outhouse, they could very likely outrun a cheetah, scare it up into a tree and then use their brute strength to bring both the terrified animal and the tree crashing back down again.

While AFL players may be ‘Supermen’ on the field, as with many other sports, some of the ‘star players’ do seem to spend more time featured on the evening news for all the wrong reasons. Like punching each other on and off the field, taking drugs or breaking a fingernail at the pre-game practice session – and so putting themselves out of action for several months while their cuticle heals.

In the last few weeks alone, the Kangaroos were hauled in front of the TV cameras to give a public apology for their rubber chicken ‘sex’ Internet video, and members of the Fremantle Dockers were photographed dressed up as Ku Klux Klan.

Nice going boys, you really do justify why exactly you’re worth your million dollar salaries.

I can’t say I am a massive sporting fan full stop. Well not of those sporting celebrities who are paid disproportionately large amounts of money for spending most their time strutting along the red carpet with a blow up, fame hungry girlfriend on their arm and 6 sports cars parked in the garage at home.

Of course this money for old ‘kick a ball’ rope is hardly something reserved just for the AFL elite. Far from it. The English footballers and their perm-a-tan WAGS have in fact probably perfected the art of complete and utter uselessness, better than any other sporting nation. Well, maybe they’re tied with the Americans, it’s a close call.

Either way, in a time when everyone is frantically scratching around in their bank accounts and trying to find 2 shares to rub together, I’m sure I’m not the only one sick of seeing sportsman acting as if they actually deserve their over-inflated pay packets.

As the AFL season stretches out ahead of us, I have resigned myself to the many nights of good TV viewing that will be interrupted for the good of the game. But while it may be the nations favourite way to pass time, I have to admit I’d rather endure 10 episodes of Bargain Hunt back to back, or sit and watch a freshly painted magnolia wall dry.

And lastly back to the question of whether football should dominate ANZAC day.

I suppose in a country so passionate about it’s sport, it is a fighting tribute. Those soldiers, sailors and airmen did at the end of the day lose their lives to safeguard the freedom of the country, so that people could carry on enjoying sports such as these.

But that said, surely the TV stations could perhaps have aired 1 match instead of the 3 back to back, and then shown some other programmes to mark the day – especially for the 5% of the population who aren’t that interested in watching the game. Just a thought.

igure t

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