Sport

“Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence. In other words, it is war minus the shooting.”

-George Orwell

Or alternatively:


New Olympic Sport: Synchronised Cocksucking.

With that in mind, let’s triple-jump into the wide, wide world of sports.
Unless you’ve been lucky enough to avoid social-media or…anti-social (?) media recently, you’d know that a global phenomenon is currently underway in England: The Olympic Games, which is only slightly more of an athletic exercise than marketing one.


The REAL Olympic gold…

Australia prides itself on being a leader in the sporting world, and despite figures from the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games corroborating that fact, the 2012 London campaign has been an abysmal effort. Since 2008, Australia has spent about $600 million on Olympic sports, which currently gives us a return-on-investment of…SIX GOLD MEDALS! In Beijing, Australia had the 2nd-best performance on a “gold-medal-to-population” ratio, with the gold medal in that event going to Jamaica. But that probably has more to do with the Caribbean being a landing point for thousands of enslaved West-Africans than Jamaicans living out their own versions of “Cool Runnings”.


A heartwarming film where the black guys do all the manual labour and the fat, white American is in charge. Wait, what? Disney, you sneaky racists!

I am of the unpopular opinion that almost all professional sports are severely over-rated and over-represented in society. Most half-hour news programs dedicate almost a third of their time to sports, and there are 17 sport channels on Foxtel (Australian cable TV). In which other field of endeavour would you find such media coverage? Biology? Mechanical engineering? Environmental news?
The funniest part of sport is hearing fans denigrate other people’s’ favourite sport. “That’s not a sport! My sport is tougher than your sport. SPORRRRRT!!!”. It’s like that Stephen Roberts quote about God: “When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”


But we can all agree: this is not a sport. And what the fuck is “dressage”?

Despite our apparent love for physical activity, Australians are some of the fattest people on earth, with this study claiming that 71% of us are overweight! Maybe we should stop watching sport on tv and actually play it.
So, what does this have to do with Sydney and Melbourne? Well, I want to figure out which city is the sporting capital of Australia.
In Melbourne’s favour, it has five out of the top ten largest stadiums in Australia, while Sydney only has two. The Melbourne Cricket Ground also hosted the 1970 Aussie Rules Grand Final which holds the records for both the Highest Attendance at an Australian Sporting Event (121,696), and Most Number of Mulleted Bogans at a Sporting Event (also 121,696).


          These days it’s just the one.

Sydney held the most recent Olympics in 2000, which is a feat Melbourne accomplished 44 years prior. Both cities have hosted the Commonwealth games (a multi-sport event where Australia destroys England, Canada and much of the third world), and shared hosting duties for the 1992 Cricket World Cup.
Also, both cities have two Twenty/20 cricket teams, and two A-League Soccer teams (Although Western Sydney is yet to play a game and Sydney FC averages just over half the crowd-attendance of Melbourne Victory)
As for Melbourne-invented Australian Football versus Sydney’s English-adopted Rugby League…well, I’ve discussed the issue here and here, and it was a resounding victory to Melbourne.
But which sport is the most popular in terms of participation? Surprisingly, it’s basketball. Paying no heed to our lack of either tall, black men or NBA television coverage, we apparently love the sport, especially Melbourne. But not as much as Stephanie Rice.


“…so then I raped her!”
“LOL Kobe! You’re SO funny!”

What about tennis? Ever heard of the Australian Open Grand Slam? Melbourne.
Formula One? Melbourne.
The only horse race in the world that requires a public holiday for its city? Melbourne Cup.
MotoGP? Melbourne (Well, Phillip Island, two hours from Melbourne)
Golf? Sydney with the Australian Open (Although Melbourne does have the Aus. Masters)
Look, in all sports, there are winners and losers. Except when there’s draw. Whatever, this isn’t soccer. Melbourne wins the gold.

AFL vs. NRL – Part 2

This is it: the finale. As a quick recap, we’re trying to figure out if AFL or NRL is the best football code in Australia, and how they both compare to other countries’ codes. So far, we’ve covered foot skills, hand skills, and tackling. Here are the current standings:

NFL:      20
AFL:      20
NRL:     19
Soccer: 11

As you can see, it’s closer than an Austrian and his daughter at the moment. Let’s delve into the next category!

Speed.

Speed is exciting, whether it’s motorsport or the organic kind. Not just player speed, but speed of the game. NRL does have bursts of speed, when the opposing line is broken, and the guy with the ball has to outrun his opponents like he’s trying out for Apocalypto 2. But the disadvantage of NRL players being so big and strong is that they’re not particularly fast.It’s just not their thing. The average NRL player runs between 5-8 kms per game, whereas AFL players are basically doing twice that distance. AFL seems to be one of the fastest team sports in the world, maybe second only to hurling. NFL has the fastest specialised runners, but the slowest gameplay outside of nursing home bingo. Soccer players have brief flashes of speed, and probably the greatest endurance. Too often, though, the gameplay is just about setting up an opportunity. I want action, dammit! Like 4 goals in 3 minutes, for example:

Speed scores:
AFL: 9/10
NRL: 7/10
Soccer: 5/10
NFL: 3/10

 ‘Wow’ moments.

What does that mean? Well, in every sport, there are rare occasions when you just go “WOW!”, like a crazy touchdown in NFL, a scissor-kick goal in soccer, or maybe a Jordan-esque dunk in NBA. In NRL, I think those moments are when someone gets tackled heavily or maybe a field-long try. However, this might just seem more impressive because the rest of game is as boring as NFL. In AFL, it might be a near-impossible goal to win a grand final, a heavy bump, a spectacular mark, or even this. What I’m trying to say is: AFL for the win.

Wow! scores:
AFL: 10
Soccer: 9
NRL: 8
NFL: 7

Gameplay

NRL is a structured game, with heavy emphasis on forwards holding the line, and backs doing the running. For some reason, NRL supporters think this is a good thing. I know another game that has plenty of structure and involves lining up against each other…


          Not present: excitement.

On the other hand, AFL is free from things like the offside rules and such, so they can invent things like flooding, pressing and other creative moves. Games can be scrappy, defensive, attacking, free-flowing, high-pressure, zoned, etc. I think that means a more interesting game, but NRL supporters can’t seem to grasp anything other than two brick shithouses crashing into each other, gaining “yardage”. Soccer also has a lot of structure and can be very difficult to score, or even attempt to score, which means a lot of frustration. NFL is all about creating and executing complicated and innovative plays, but they work so rarely and there is too much time in between them. Boooring.

Gameplay scores:
AFL: 9
NRL: 7
Soccer: 6
NFL: 5

Atmosphere

Important elements for atmosphere include number of supporters, crowd-noise, stadium size, and general behaviour. Some of these are difficult to quantify, but not attendance figures! (Click on image to enlarge)


                                     Even the Canadians beat NRL!

I’m not saying that popularity equates to game quality, just atmosphere quality. Popularity is actually in NRL’s favour, as it involves Australia’s three most populous states (and heavily dominant in two of them), one territory, and a little country called “New Zullund, broo”. But if popularity means good tv, then apparently MasterChef and The Voice are the pinnacle of entertainment (spoiler alert: they’re not).

“I will never understand why they cook on TV. I can’t smell it. Can’t eat it. Can’t taste it. The end of the show they hold it up to the camera, ‘Well, here it is. You can’t have any. Thanks for watching. Goodbye.'”—Jerry Seinfeld,

I digress. Back to the atmosphere. NFL, in addition to its massive crowds, also features other cool things like Tailgating (where you bbq dead animals and drink beer out the back of your truck before the game), and reasonably thought-out post-match events. Despite all this, soccer wins as I believe it’s the only sport in which supporters have to be segregated, or everyone dies. Win to the AFL

Atmosphere scores:
Soccer: 10
NFL: 9
AFL: 8
NRL: 5

Fights

NRL features the biggest, angriest men in Australia. When you put these guys together in competition, with all their ego and (human growth) hormones, emotions are bound to erupt. So, what do the fights look like?

Whereas NRL fights feature super-heavyweights, the average AFL combatants are more of your light-heavyweights, but they are much more feral. AFL players also seem to love the melee, and there seems to be a greater collection of AFL fights on YouTube. NFL has some ok fights, but they could really learn from NHL. Soccer fights are a joke, except for occasionally when 74 people die in a riot. Win to the NRL.
NHL: 10* (disqualified: we don’t have one half of the needed ingredients for “Ice” Hockey).
NRL 9
AFL 8
NFL 7
Soccer 3 (unless you count riots, then it’s a 10)

Conclusion

Final scores:

AFL:        64
NRL:       55
NFL:        50
Soccer:   47

I think that’s a clear victory for AFL, unless you value tackling or…or…well, that’s pretty much it. Also, AFL is the only sport actually invented in Australia. See you in the comments!

AFL vs. NRL – Part 1.

You knew this was coming.

I’m not sure what’s it’s like for a Sydneysider coming to Melbourne, but as a newly-arrived Melburnian in Sydney, this is the predominant part of my culture-shock. Just for the benefit of any international visitors, the states of New South Wales and Queensland follow rugby league (like the cities of Sydney and Brisbane), while the rest of the country follows Australian Rules Football (originating in Melbourne). Let me preface this post by stating that in AFL I barrack for the Melbourne Demons, which is a polite way of saying “I don’t give much of a shit about AFL”. Sure, it’s great to watch a game with some mates over a couple of beers, but I don’t live and breathe it. A lot of Melburnians do, including my girlfriend who is an unhealthily-addicted Carlton supporter. There are claims that footy shows “passion”, “spirit”, and other such nonsense. In all definitions, it is merely a game. I just think there’s more to life than screaming at grown men chasing a ball. Shouldn’t we be doing something about the world’s financial and environmental crises at the moment?


“Fuck the carbon tax, I wanna watch rich guys fight over nothing!”

However, I might be in the minority here. Each day, countless newspaper pages are glazed with poorly-worded articles from former athletes. And a lot of people really do enjoy their sports, and who am I to challenge them? It turns grown men into emotional teenagers, and emotional teenagers into this:


             …allegedly.

I think that explains that I’m reasonably impartial here. Let the judgement begin!

Firstly,  to the actual sports. If you’re unfamiliar with Australian Football or Rugby League, I’ll try to explain them as best I can for a guy who’s never played a full game of either. AFL, or ‘footy’, is a full-contact game where 18 men per side attempt to kick a football through large goalposts. If you kick a ball and it is caught, or ‘marked’ by a team-mate, they get to kick the ball from that location without being tackled; a ‘free kick’. Passing the ball is done by kicking or handpassing (holding the ball with one hand and hitting it with the other). Also, you must bounce the ball if you’re running with it, like dribbling in basketball. You can only tackle an opponent while they have the ball, and if they can’t dispose of the ball whilst being tackled, you are awarded a free kick. There are other rules, but that’s all you need to know for now. Look, just watch this video:

Now for NRL, or rugby league. Or, somewhat bizarrely, “league”, from the name of its governing body; National Rugby League. By that logic, one could call AFL “league” too. Please leave your rational responses to this statement in the “comments” section.

I don’t know enough about this game to explain it, but that won’t stop me from trying. A team of 13 heavy men take turns holding a ball and barging their way through the other team, so they can place a ball on the ground behind a white line; a ‘try’, similar to an NFL touchdown. Except without padding, of course. You can only pass by throwing the ball backwards, and the teams line up against each other like NFL, as opposed to being spread all over the ground like AFL or soccer.  If you score a try, you get a chance to kick a field goal, again, like NFL. In fact, rugby is pretty much like NFL, except that you have to stomp your way through unprotected man-flesh (no homo). I’m sure there are more rules to the game than that, but I’ll let Anna Mae Bullock elaborate:

So, what have we learned?  For one thing, this might have to be a two-part entry. It’ll take time to get to the heart of these games, to forever determine which code of football is the best. And while we’re at it, we’ll compare Australia’s best to two other versions of football: NFL and Soccer.

Before we do that, let’s quickly explore an issue of semantics:


I propose we rename NRL to Tackleball and NFL to Padded Tackleball to avoid any claims of false advertising.

Ok, ok. Let’s start the in-depth analysis.

Hand skills

In NRL, a fumble can be extremely costly, so the backwards pass and catching it are essential. Also, holding on to the ball with one hand while shoving 110 kilograms of anger out of your way is impressive, but not skillful. NFL is similar to rugby, but with greater speed, distance, accuracy and cute gloves. In AFL, you need to be able to handpass a slippery (real) leather ball in every direction. Marking the ball, often while contested, is also a big part of the game, and can be done like this…

Hand skills scores:
AFL: 8/10
NFL: 7/10
NRL: 6/10
Soccer: DNF

Foot skills

This is where soccer shines. Obviously the best foot skills in the football world, by a large margin. In NRL, you need to be able to…run? Rarely, you need to kick the ball. The NFL is similar, but with black guys running, and even less kicking. In AFL, you need to be able to run while bouncing an oval-shaped ball and evading opponents. Also, you need to precisely kick the ball, often more than 50 metres, to your teammate or through a (large) goal. It can’t really compete with this, though:

Foot skills scores:
Soccer 10/10
AFL 7/10
NFL 4/10
Rugby 3/10

Tackling

There is some absolutely insane tackling in NFL. I know they have their pads and their helmets, but it also seems like they have no rules about almost paralysing blokes. Despite this, it feels like I’m watching UFC with sumo-suits, or a Ferrari with training wheels (patents pending on both these ideas). AFL does have some good tackles, but they are nowhere near as ferocious, as the emphasis is on avoiding the penalty for being tackled. Soccer has the slide-tackle. Hardly worth mentioning. NRL, however, is where you need to be able to surrender your physical well-being and to the biggest, hardest dudes in sport. No question. This is what they’re all about. NRL win.

Tackling scores:
NRL: 10/10
NFL: 9/10
AFL: 5/10
Soccer: 1/10

Well, that’s it for this post. I’ve got another 5 categories for you next time, so we can finally decide which game is crowned “King of Aussie Football”. Here are the standings so far:
NFL:      20
AFL:      20
NRL:     19
Soccer: 11

Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion!