I have enjoyed watching several AFL games over the past few years – but even this limited interest has recently waned. The dominance of match reports, sick, injured and drunk player reports, tribunal hearings, tipping guides and, most recently, events associated with the suspension of Ben Cousins, that have dominated the Melbourne public media over the past weeks, leave me suffering from footie indigestion. Moreover, with only a month of autumn gone, the footie season has only just started.
It is not only boring – the obsession with AFL is an indictment of what is an asinine aspect of Melbourne’s culture and of course, part of the general Australian obsession with sport.
I tire of the AFL dominating news broadcasts and lunchtime conversations. I don’t care if players in this game get suspended, suffer injuries, make love with other team-player’s wives, fight in bars, stick white powder up their noses, go into rehab or get sympathy messages from Shane Warne. I don’t care if Melbourne is, or is not, the sporting capital of Australia. AFL is a sporting game and, beyond the game itself, players are unworthy of the attention given to them.
Indeed, I suspect many of them might not enjoy the media spotlight. Certainly the egos it helps build seem unhealthy. Very plausibly the over-exposure is partly a sickness associated with the incentives facing commercial television. Interviewing players and describing the details of the latest scandal or poor performance is a cheap way of filling out spaces between advertisements in news programs and I suspect, despite the vast sums cited, a relatively cheap way of filling out other programming time as well. Commercial television news in Melbourne is dominated by football reporting. Moreover, the sickness is creeping into the ABC’s television coverage and, like a southern-based cane toad invasion, has spread Australia-wide.
This obsession is partly exaggerated. It does not fairly reflect demand – 2.5 million Australians attended AFL matches last year but 2.7 million attended the theatre. About the same number of people watched Rugby League as went to a classical music concert while more went to a dance performance. The ‘couch potatoes’ who stayed at home prefer movies and sport to the football.
OK I am overstating the issue a bit and being somewhat hypocritical. I am, in fact, a fan of watching cricket – although not of talking about it or hearing gossip about Shane Warne’s mobile phone bills. On TV, I only watch cricket intensively over the Xmas break. And I don’t really dislike football – indeed I’ll start taking my son top AusKick over the next few weeks. It is just that there is an overexposure to the trivia associated with football. I am completely disinterested in such detail and have convex preferences – my tastes don’t specialise to a single form of entertainment.
How to change things? I am unsure – the Anti-Football League has recently been reconstituted. (97)