Monday, April 14, 2008

we are the Navy Blues

We are the Navy Blues
We are the old dark navy Blues
We’re the team that never lets you down
We’re the only team all Carlton knows.

With all the champions
They like to send us
We’ll keep our ends up
And they'll know that they've been playing
Against the famous old dark Blues!

This weekend we visited an iconic local landmark known as the MCG (the Melbourne Cricket Ground) hoping to see the Carton Blues trounce the Collingwood Magpies. I was thrilled – and honestly, a bit surprised – because in fact we saw exactly that! It was the Blues’ first win in 14 games. We take full credit – our attendance clearly inspired my cousin’s team to win their first victory of the season. Collingwood and Carlton have a longstanding rivalry, so this weekend’s win was particularly satisfying.

Given that we were at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, you might suppose we were watching, well, cricket. In fact the sport was Australian Rules Football (“Footie”), a game which resembles nothing so much as soccer played with a rugby ball with passes and plays reminiscent of American Football.

The AFL (Australian Football League) was established in Melbourne and most of the teams are still based here. Consequently, Australia’s largest national sport has a peculiarly local flavor. The teams maintain strong connections to the suburbs and neighborhoods in which they are based. The Carlton Blues, for example, have an historic connection with the Italian immigrant community (though ironically, my Italian immigrant family has historically supported St. Kilda). Imagine what it would be like if Somerville, Lexington, Allston, the North End, Cambridge, and Southie each had their own baseball teams, but these teams had national prominence.

For someone used to the hyper-commercial, flashy, inflated, and expensive beast that is American Football, the Australian Football League is refreshingly relaxed and down-to-earth. Tickets are comparatively reasonable in price. The halftime show consisted of a dozen mini footie games being played all over the field by pint-sized participants in the AFL’s after-school sports program. They even had adorably re-sized goal posts.

The highlight, of course, was seeing my cousin play. Andy is the son of my mother’s first cousin (for those of you who know Matt, Andy is Matt’s younger brother). Andy plays Midfield (I say like I know what that means). I’m very much enjoying being related to a famous sports star. The taxi driver who brought us home from Ikea the other day was very impressed and gave us a discounted fare. I proudly show off my fan button to the people at work, and I hear there are little figurines of Andy available in a gift shop somewhere. Figurines! My cousin has merchandise. The possibilities for mischief are endless. What would you do to (gently!) tease your cousin if you had access to his action figure?

The final score for Sunday’s game was 111 to 88. Carlton fans cheered and sang the teams song (lyrics above) over and over again while Magpie supporters slunk out of the stadium. As we were leaving Andy’s dad told us that we will now need to come to all of Carlton’s games for the rest of the season since we clearly bring the team good luck.

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