When the footy is at the MCG, the stadium is normally a constant buzz of noise with intermittent bursts of eruptive, shuddering roars. The atmosphere is a bit otherworldly; a hypnotic rhythm with shock value. It first draws you into the game, and then gives a tingling exhilaration up your spine. It’s spell has been cast over millions over more than a century.
I’ve enjoyed some great times at the MCG, even though my team has lost considerably more than it’s won in my time watching them. When you lose, you’re often amongst a crowd of people that are feeling your pain. When you are amongst a crowd, you can lose your head a bit and vent some of your frustrations when things aren’t going right.
These frustrations can be in the game, or they can be what’s happening in your life. Either way, you get to vent. You also get to do this on the long commute home, or over a beer with your mate. Often a trip to the footy can be therapeutic. A win will obviously have you on top of the world, and a loss will give you a chance to analyse the hell out of a whole bunch of people you don’t know and will never understand, be it players, coaches or umpires.
With more than 45,000 people there, it shouldn’t have been so silent, and it was really quite eerie. That said, this odd silence did allow the opportunity to hear individual conversations and voices from amongst the throng.
There was the kid around 10-12 years of age that seemed to know every AFL catchphrase used in the media. He was there with his Mum, and was telling her about “inside-mids” and commenting to her about the side getting “smashed at the clearances”, while also telling her that his “Supercoach team was having a great night.”
“That’s great, mate,” was her response, making me doubt everything my Mum has ever said in praise of me.
The Eagles fans were funny. One of them at one point complained to his mate about a free kick that should have been awarded, when it actually had been awarded. His complaint was that it had been paid by the wrong umpire. “It was right in front of him. If it gets paid at one end you have to pay it at the other!” This despite the fact that the player offended against had the ball in his hands and was having a shot at goal. He seemed oblivious to any double standard going the other way.
At one point, a rather strange run of umpiring decisions led to a shot for goal by Scott Selwood. A Richmond supporter put his hands out in consternation and asked with the tone of a man who’d been asked to explain Strng Theory, “What the hell was that about?” An Eagles fan shot back, “It’s ok, mate, it’s only Scott Selwood.” Selwood missed. I turned and gave him a thankful nod, it’s handy having inside information.
At one point a Tigers’ supporter bellowed, “DO SOMETHING, MARIC!!!!” Oh wait, that was me.
There was the Eagles supporter who seemed to be calling all Richmond players and all umpires “Pigs”. There was no explanation for this. “Pig!” he’d yell, and then lie dormant until the next thing that aggravated him before crying out “Pig!” again. He varied from this once, when Jack Riewoldt missed a shot for goal and instead of “Pig”, he said “Wanker”. They say variety is the spice of life.
Gary, my boss from work, who I’d gone with, doesn’t say all that much. He’s the reserved type. A Richmond supporter, he loves Dustin Martin. Dusty didn’t let him down, kicking three trademark goals, the last of which was an outrageous banana from outside the 50 metre line that he had no right to conceive let alone complete. Gaz and I were out of seats with joy, with Gaz bellowing “Dusty!!” and pumping his fists.
Dusty is an awesome spectacle live. Being at the MCG and seeing him avoiding opponents and kicking long for goal makes my membership worth it. In a loss, having a gun put on a display is very helpful. Martin, with his combination of strength, agility, and goal sense is a beauty. He was the sole provider of pure joy for the Richmond fans on the night.
Every team needs someone like this to get excited about when your side is losing. Before Jack Riewoldt and Martin, I had Richo. I wonder who other teams’ fans that have had little success have gotten behind. A concept for another article on another day perhaps?
The Eagles’ supporters didn’t need a hero to get behind, as whilst the second half was playing out and it was obvious their team was going win, they got to settle into getting stuck into the Tigers’ players. Besides, it was cold. One guy behind me said, “Gee, Melbourne’s cold.” It certainly was chilly, and I’d hope that he will go home to WA with a bit of respect for us dills who keep turning up to watch our team’s lose in this cold climate. When their team loses, at least it’s warm.
At one point in the third quarter a Tigers fan opted to move away from a particularly loud, and most likely hip-flask affected Eagle. “I can’t put up with this crap anymore,” he said to his mate before moving about eight seats to his left. “There are 100,000 seats here, mate, I’m sure you’ll find one,” Captain Hip-flask responded. I enjoyed that.
A Tigers’ fan said, “I love Morris’ commitment and effort, I just wish he could play.” Oh wait, that was me again. Gary agreed. “He’s got no clue.” Still, you know you’ll get 100% of very little.
It was an interesting evening listening to the various conversations playing out, and thinking about the relationships and perspectives of the patrons of the great stadium. Everyone comes to the footy for their own reasons and gets something different out of it. I’d prefer the normal hum cum chaos that the footy normally provides, but the lull gave an interesting insight.
I got to see Dusty play out of his skin, the continued perplexity of Tyrone Vickery, laugh at some amusing Eagles’ supporters, and laugh even harder at their ridiculously dated club song. It truly is a great song to sing with a mocking tone. “We’re the Eagles…The West Coast Eagles”. Thanks for clarifying. You might be warm, and you might have won, but we’ve still got the better song.