Sunday, September 26, 2010
Luck of the Draw
Australia is turning into Jessica Rabbit. You remember her great line, "I'm not bad. I'm just drawn that way."
Well this weekend Oz once again decided to be drawn. Not in the sense of sketched, but in the sense of a tie, no result, no winner and no loser. We're becoming the national equivalent of a pageant on Toddlers and Tiaras where no kid walks away a loser.
You would remember a couple of weeks ago when as a nation we decided we couldn't make up our mind about who should win the national election. So instead we redefined democracy and let a few independent candidates make up our minds for us. These were people who chose not to run in a party - and therefore chose not to have any importance in Parliament. But Aussies love underdogs, and we decided to let them have more importance than anyone else for a couple of weeks.
And of course, they made a mess of their moments in the sun. But that's not what this post is about.
On Saturday we held the Grand Final for the AFL - Aussie Rules football for you Yanks. This is as big as the NFL Super Bowl except for a couple of things. First, the fan enthusiasm here is even greater than the Super Bowl. Consider this. On the day before the game there is always a massive parade in Melbourne. That picture at the top is from the Herald Sun which estimated that about 100,000 folks came out for the parade.
There is some similarity. The game between the Collingwood Magpies and St Kilda Saints was played in front of more than 100,000 people and with massive TV ratings. But despite the parade, the huge crowd at the game, the enormous TV audience - and here's the difference - we don't know who the champion is for this year yet.
Nope. At the end of regulation time, the score was tied. And a drawn match ends just that way, with the score knotted. No extra time, no golden goal, no penalty shootout, no countback, no result. Instead, the exhausted players, and probably equally exhausted fans, will have to get together next weekend and do it all over again. In chess, it would be called a stalemate. Here it's called "bloody ridiculous" by one of the players interviewed after the game.
Ironically, if it happened in the semi-final matches last week, they would have played extra time, but for some reason the league has decided it's more fun (or perhaps more profitable?) to send everyone home and have them come back in a week.
Our friend Wally is a mad keen fan of the Magpies, favorites to win the match. He rang a couple of hours after the match and sounded as deflated as I have ever heard anyone. "Mate," he said, his voice hoarse from too much cheering I assume, "there was no result... no result." It's fairly easy to offer regrets to a friend whose team has lost the big match, but there don't seem to be any convenient phrases to console someone whose team has not lost, they just didn't win.
Of course our major national sport - cricket - has no result so often that it has even developed different words to describe it, kind of the way Eskimos are said to have dozens of word for snow. In cricket, a tie is when both teams end the match with exactly the same number of runs scored. A draw is when the match ends before both sides have had their full turns.
But footy? The championship match? No, I can't believe anyone is happy today that there hasn't been a result. At least the football isn't breaking the draw the way they did with the federal government. If they did, they would have just asked the last place team to decide which of the finalists should get the trophy and given the losers a chance to negotiate with both of the teams before announcing a winner.