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Aussie Rules Fight Songs are Bizarro

July 29, 2010

Australian Rules Football: Combining the open play and footwork of soccer, the high-scoring potential of basketball, the kicking skills of football and rugby…and the musical integrity of a karaoke machine.

If your time zone agrees with the schedule, Aussie Rules is a great sport to connect to.  The announcers balance enthusiastic homerism with appropriate pacing.  The clock is continuous with four 20-minute quarters, providing ample break time.  Stadiums are packed in either new or enormous stadiums, such as the 100,000 seat Melbourne Cricket Grounds.  One of my favorite aspects of the sport: injury time doesn’t end with a whistle, but a blaring foghorn, like a basketball buzzer but fiercer. (Click to the 1:00 mark)

The Australian Football League (AFL) has so much “win”, so it’s such a shame that my main contention with the sport is almost too much to overcome.

Some of the most godawful, ear-belching songs on the planet.

Each club in the AFL has it’s own song.  And just like the NFL, fans are reluctant to admit how horrible they are.  Think “San Diego Superchargers” is bad?  Blinded by cheese when you hear “Fly, Eagles, Fly”?  Try to hold back laughter when you hear the lyrics, “And when think the Dolphins, you’re thinkin’ Super Bowl”?  At least those are original at heart.  Of the 18 clubs, only two are original compositions.

That’s like saying your kid’s finger painting is an original composition.  Example: Port Adelaide…

Are they trying to intimidate an opponent or advertise a carpet-cleaning service?

There’s another subset of club songs derived from early 20th Century showtunes, assumably open domain.  Example: Essendon, based on ragtime standard “Keep Your Sunny Side Up”.  Imagine a baby version of “Meet the Mets” sitting beside his crazy, senile Grandpa as the elder rambles incoherently about how Archduke Franz Ferdinand probably had it coming to him.  This song is that Grandpa.

The next group, which shows how little these teams care about the meaning of the original tune.  These are straight-up anthems and patriotic tunes stolen from OTHER COUNTRIES.  The Brisbane Lions cheer to the French National Anthem.  Hawthorn Tigers sing along with Yankee Doodle and Adelaide Crows alter the words of the U.S. Marines’ Hymn (which itself is based ona  French opera written in 1858).  Hell, the Sydney Swans outright LIFTED the Notre Dame Victory March!

This Equals This

Finally, there’s the category of poorly-chosen classical music converted into Australian cheese polka.  In theory, it sounds kinda bad-ass.  However, the mere association with an Aussie Rules club instantly negates whatever intimidating effect a piece has.  That’s how Stavinsky’s “Song of the Boatmen” goes from creepy death castle/final boss theme…to this travesty adapted by the Fremantle Dockers:

Look, I’m not trying to slam Aussie Rules; I think it’s awesome and it’ll certainly help fill out some Fridays and Saturdays through late September.  But if you’re gonna do a club theme, it loses its bite if it’s contrived.  College fight songs are usually pretty spot-on in this respect.  Is there a league by-law that forbids the Australian Football clubs from adapting Waltzing Matilda?  Or would doing so inflict significant and irreparable damage to the song?

If you must swipe a song or fall back on a standard, at least try to make a sensical connection.  St. Kilda, much like the New Orleans Saints, got it right.



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