I watched the footy Grand Finals over the weekend. "Footy" refers to Australian-rules football, a sport invented to keep cricket players fit during the off-season and now the biggest thing going in Victoria (100,016 fans showed up at the stadium on Saturday).
The game is, as all British sports are, largely incomprehensible. It is also incredibly undignified. It's played with a football, and you can tackle people; but you can't run more than 10 meters with the ball. Instead, you move it down field by kicking it.
Soccer has a certain elegance, with its graceful trajectories and immense control over the very predictable ball. You can run the length of a soccer field, chasing the ball with kicks, while dodging enemy players and seeking a shooting position.
Needless to say, you can't do this with a football. As soon as it touches the ground it caroms off in a completely random direction. It does this every time it touches the ground.
So footy starts out looking like football: the ball flies through the air from player to player (though kicked instead of passed), but as soon as a catch is missed, it degenerates into the spectacle of a thirty-odd grown men scrambling around like lunatics. They're large and scary men, so I wouldn't say that part out loud, but it's true.
The teams were St. Kilda's Saints and Collingwood's Magpies. Collingwood occupies the same social rung as the Dallas Cowboys: the team everyone loves to hate. They got an early lead and held it until the very end, when the Saints kicked 3 goals in a row and caught up.
Then the impossible happened: in the last two minutes, the score became tied. The teams fought hard but no more points appeared before the final whistle. I turned to my brother-in-law and asked how long the over-time play would be.
The answer was, a whole new game. That's right, next week the teams have to come back and play a whole new game. Apparently ties don't happen enough for anyone to have figured out how to fix it (r decide that it needed fixing). So the Aussie version of the Superbowl has to be redone.
Sometimes it feels like the whole country is run by amateurs.
But of course, that feels right at home for me. The frontier spirit, which actually lasted only twenty years but defined how Americans wanted to think of themselves, still smells fresh in Australia. No wonder so many Yanks idolize the place.