Last Friday night, as I sat freezing with my Dad in the upper stands of the MCG watching my beloved Blues have their arses kicked by Hawthorn, I overheard a fellow Carlton supporter ask himself, “What the fuck am I doing here?”.
In a small way, I could understand his point.
Surely I would’ve been having just as much fun watching Yarran kick straight to an opponent were I in a nice cozy pub drinking wine from an actual glass? Or even better yet, I could’ve stayed home, not acknowledged the fact that my teams season was done and dusted and just watched Snog, Marry, Avoid instead.
But no! The reason I was there is because I love Football and seeing a game with my Dad is a big deal. It’s not often that we have the time and means to both get down to the Footy so we try to make the most of every opportunity.
However our irregular attendance has meant that Dad and I are not like all the other football supporters. We’ve become part of a very special group that I like to call “The Out-of-Towners”.
For the Out-of-Towners, Football isn’t just a game; it’s an EVENT. It’s been locked in, planned out and anticipated for months in advance. While the Out-of-Towner’s respective teams will be up early, finalizing a game plan; so will their uncool fans as they double check parking options, public transport schedules, ETA’s and food supplies (soup, tim-tams, ham rolls, muesli bars and of course, little sausages in a flask). They will then spend the next hour fixing every badge, flag and random bit of merchandise to their limited edition Guernsey so that no one within a 10k radius will be able to mistake what team they’re barracking for. But just to top things off, scarves will be hung out of their car windows as the hurtle towards the game 6 hours before kickoff, giving them time to get a good seat and try and remember who all their players are. The Out-of-Towners bring ponchos.
Now to be honest, I don’t mind being an Out-of-Towner. I thoroughly enjoy my football experience even when I’m yelling out “BALL!” at all the wrong moments and falling down steps at The MCG. But last year Dad and I got to see what life was like in a completely parallel universe and I got to witness a very different breed of football supporter… THE MEMBERS!
It all happened one sunnier-than-usual Sunday afternoon in June as Dad and I headed to Etihad for the Carlton vs. Sydney clash. We were running late (Someone had fucked up the travel schedule!!) and had been so flustered we hadn’t pre-selected which gate/stand/and seat we’d head towards. So we bolted through the first door we could find and without thinking just grabbed the closest seats to the ground as possible. But as we got ready to smear a load of blue and white paint onto our cheeks, we began to think something might have been wrong.
First of all, these were amazing seats. The best I’ve ever been in. Yet for some reason, no one seemed to be filling them up. We were alone in our row when the upper levels of the stadium were obviously packed out. Hmm.
Secondly, of the few scarce people that were in this golden area, none of them seemed to be wearing Carlton lunchboxes on their heads like Dad and I, or carrying a year’s supply of fruit cake that their mums had packed for them. Where were all the other Out-of-Towners like us?
Nevertheless we settled in. Dad started looking through the guide and figuring out slurs he could yell at the opposition based on their last names and I headed to the toilet for the first of 20 times because I’m a girl.
30 minutes later I made my way back to Dad, having taken a detour to the canteen to get pies in case we got hungry. But instead of berating me for forgetting the sauce (what was I thinking?) Dad was starring, foggy-eyed at someone in the stands. He noticed my arrival and with a panicked look attempted to communicate something to me through a series of eyebrow raises and incomprehensible sounds.
“Eegin! Eegan Ale eez e-ind uz”
“Dad! Stop talking through your teeth!”
“Sorry, I just didn’t want anyone to hear me. Megan Gale is behind us!”
And by-gum he was right. But not only was she behind us, she was 5 rows behind us. Meaning we had much better seats than her. Now I didn’t want to jump to conclusions, but I kind of figured that if we were sitting in better seats than the model that’s dating one of the team’s players, we we’re probably in the wrong spot. We were in THE MEMBERS!
Dad freaked out and wanted to leave immediately, lest we get kicked out, fined or yelled at by Chris Judd. But I flatly refused. Somehow, we’d managed to get this far undetected and I saw this as a sign from the football Gods (Kernahan and Koutoufides) that we were meant to be here. So I sat down, folded my arms and flatly refused to budge. Eventually, Dad began to calm down and enjoy the game, only getting worried again when someone official-looking would pass nearby and we’d have to start riffing about our yachts and the NASDAQ to look like we fit in.
Quarter after fabulous quarter came and went, and as the final siren sounded, Dad and I cheered, though I’m not sure whether it’s because our team had won or because we’d gotten away with kidnapping two very expensive seats.
As we began the long trip home, Dad waxed lyrical about the day when I’d finally marry Marc Murphy (Or any of the guys from Carlton, really. We’re both not fussy) and we’d both get our very own seats in the members. But to be completely honest, I’m not so sure if that’s the way I’d want it to go.
It was great to see what life was like on the other side. But I’d noticed a few things I wasn’t too sure I liked. Most of the members didn’t rock up till halfway through the first quarter, hardly any were wearing football colours and when Captain Carlton, out loveable mascot, came around at half time doing cartwheels, not one of the members ran up for a signature. What?
And although I’m never a fan of people who get drunk, aggressive and too sweary at the games, one of the main reasons I love going to the Football is to be surrounded by the “Oohs!”, “Ahhs!” and “Boo’s” as an umpire takes too long to make a decision. The view was certainly second to none in our cheeky member’s chairs, but the atmosphere that I crave just wasn’t there.
So for now things can stay the way they are. I’m happy to be an Out-of-Towner and see my three or so games a year in my cheap and crowded seats, where I can yell out all the wrong things, use binoculars to look at all the player’s butts and wear my outdated and now hated Fevola Jumper.