John Skaro

2 o’clock and all was well

I loved football once.

I used to go with my dad.

Our home ground was the imaginatively named “Western Oval”.

It was bloody windy.

And effin’ freezing.

No surprises, then, that the pies were cold.

More surprising perhaps, astonishing actually, was how the beers sometimes managed to be warm.

The Don Frankfurts were stirred in a simmering cauldron by kiosk ladies who wouldn’t have looked out of place in the ‘Three Witches’ scene from Macbeth.

We had a midfielder – no, a bloody legend if the truth be known – who, urban myth has it, was sometimes fished out of a nightclub in the early hours of Saturday morning and plonked on to the outer wing.  And somehow managed to look like a ballet dancer, while the other players around him twitched involuntarily in the mud like scythe-severed Gippsland worms.

Politically incorrect, but generally funny and harmless jokes abounded in the crowd. Players were called “girls” when they appeared to dodge a robust contest. And feisty little old ladies wielding umbrellas along the boundary fence chuckled at that.

The game started at 2pm on a Saturday afternoon. Along with five other games elsewhere in Melbourne.

You could follow the scores quarter by quarter on the scoreboard, waiting at each break to see whether the team you hated were trailing.  The bastards.

You’d see Geelong go from 1.1.7 at quarter time to 12.11 at half-time, and you knew that God had obviously gone ape shit down at Kardinia Park.

The game finished. You went home, had tea, watched the replay, then Tattslotto.

And then the following Saturday, repeat all of the above.

Except this time at some other feral suburban patch.

We had a midfielder… [who] managed to look like a ballet dancer, while the other players around him twitched involuntarily in the mud like scythe-severed Gippsland worms.

Nowadays, you go to Etihad. Or the MCG.

On Thursday or Friday night.  Or early Saturday afternoon. Or Saturday late-afternoon.  Or Saturday night.  Or early Sunday afternoon.  Or Sunday mid-afternoon.  Or Sunday twilight.

The beer is cold.

But you can’t drink “heavies” after 6pm.  Mind you, you can sink as many glasses of 12 per cent Shiraz as you like.

Or, you can line up until quarter-time for an espresso coffee.

The pies are hot. They’re a bit cheaper since people kicked up a fuss, but you still wonder why things we affectionately used to call “rat coffins” attract more than a gold coin donation.

Especially now that we’re oversubscribed with an embarrassment of exotic superior options.

Prosciutto and Gruyere crepes.  Greek lamb and tzatziki wraps.  Wagyu and aoili burgers.  Nasi Goreng.  Tandoori chicken pizza.  Sushi.

And the players?  Oh, they’re role models these days.

They know exactly what to say and do.  Except when they don’t.

They’re not plumbers or sparkies, or even lawyers or engineers, who happen to enjoy playing a game of footy.

There’s no wind or rain or mud to speak of.  Etihad has a roof.  And the MCG is simply magnificent, one has to admit.

As for the crowds, well, making a joke today is a bit like saying you’ve got a bomb in your bag at airport security.

When my son gets a little too enthused, I tell him to keep the noise down.  Tom’s only 9, but they start throwing you out at around 13 now, so best to be on the safe side.

Funnily enough, despite the myriad epicurean riches on offer, he likes a rat coffin and sauce.

Which takes me back.

I loved footy once.




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