One of the very first “Australian” things I learned about upon arriving in Oz was their obsession with Australian Rules Football (confusingly referred to as footy). From day one, I knew that if I wanted to be able to hold any kind of sport conversation with an Aussie I would HAVE to pick a team. I can’t tell you how many times over my first few weeks here I was asked who my team was. I had to do the old shoulder raise, head tilt, “dunno” response for a solid month or two before I decided I really did need to just PICK one.
So I started asking around. Naturally one of my good friends here was an obvious choice for inside information on who best to support. Surely she wouldn’t lead me astray…right? Well, if you ask most ANY Aussie who their team is, chances are they will have a VERY strong opinion, and my friend was no different. “Collingwood. There’s no question. You support Collingwood.” Well, okay, that was easy enough…I can go with that, I thought. I still felt I needed a second opinion just to be sure of my decision before I locked in my team for life here. (My indecision, however, didn’t stop said friend from gleefully presenting me as a Collingwood fan from that day on).
Over the next few weeks I found subtle ways to bring footy teams into the conversation (it’s not hard, most water cooler chatter starts or ends with whose team won last night). I came to find out that while most people have a differing opinion on which team I should pick (Go Bulldogs because you are a student at VU, go Melbourne because you live in Melbourne, go Geelong because I’m for Geelong), they all seemed to agree on the one team I should NOT pick—yep, you guessed it- Collingwood.
Here are a few of the reasons I was given for not picking them:
“Everyone hates them.”
“They are all bogans!”
“The fans don’t have any teeth”
When I finally met another Collingwood supporter, I was able to tease out the anti-collingwood vibes I was getting. Apparently, they are one of the more popular teams (though, evidently not around where I am!), but you either love them or you hate them. Well, anyone reading this from back home would know that I’m a Duke Blue Devil’s fan at heart, and while we are obviously the best college basketball team around (2015 National Champions *ahem*), you either love ‘em or you hate ‘em. There is no in-between. And I must admit, that’s one of the things that I love about Duke. There is never a dull moment in a college basketball conversation because EVERYONE has something to say about Duke. From what I gather, that’s the general feel of Collingwood as well.
Besides, the rebellious side of me just wants to pick the team everyone else says not to….just to keep things fun.
So friends, at long last I made it to a Collingwood game at the MCG Stadium. The stadium was massive, and the crowd was an impressive 70k+.
We had fantastic seats in the members area of the stadium (thanks to an Aussie friend with connections). Evidently in order to earn the right to purchase member tickets, your name sits on a waiting list for a couple decades. You then still have to toss out a few hundred dollars a year on top of that. Yikes! Thankfully the seats themselves were relatively cheap and we had a whole group of the Sport Science first year PhD students going.
We downed a couple beers pre-game because, as we found out, beers are not allowed within the members area (what???). They serve them in glass mugs…but I’d take a solo cup that can travel to my seat any day!
All in all it was a great game to watch, even though Collingwood didn’t pull out the Victory. I now have an AFL team to support. And for the benefit of my American friends back home, you may have noticed I have entirely avoided using the word “root for” when describing which team I support. In Australia they do not say root for a team…and just in general, if you ever come down under, never EVER talk about rooting. For anything. You will get very strange looks and trust me when I say that it does not mean what you think it means….