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Day 46: 5 Reasons Why Aussie Rules is More Manly than Pro Football

September 23, 2010

The Australian Football League season comes to a close with their championship game, the Grand Final (Sept. 24th, 9:30pm Pacific).  Aussie Rules has been a pleasant and welcome alternative during the start of Year Without Football to help bridge the gap until hockey season.  For the next couple of days, I want to pay tribute to the sport and highlight it in terms most Americans can appreciate.

The image of the football player in American has become a bit of a character.  The cheerleader-juggling, class-flunking, gallon jug of water-carrying, overbite-cursed, over-massed gridiron grunt is a part of the national caricature: an over-the-top framing of U.S.A. macho.  Throw in a mullet and a “Bush/Cheney” bumper-sticker and you’ve got the international image of “the average American.”

Here’s a few ways that Aussie Rules Football blasts all of that out of the water.

1) Players win freaking medals.

Quick: Name this trophy.

NFL MVP Trophy

Can’t do it?  That’s the award handed out by the Associated Press to the National Football League’s Most Valuable Player.  Yep, THAT’S the MVP Trophy.  Expecting a badass sculpture like the Heisman, Naismith or Hobey Baker?  Nope.  Just a generic football on a stick.

This is the Brownlow Medal, awarded to the Australian Football League’s “fairest and best” athlete.


Initially awarded around the neck, the Brownlow Medal is often converted onto a lapel pin and worn on uniform blazers.  That’s right.  Like a FREAKING WAR MEDAL.  “Congratulations, Badass!  Here’s a Purple Heart!!!”

2) Ball out-of-bounds gets thrown back in and is up for grabs.

If an American football is thrown or fumbled out of bounds, a whistle blows, everybody stops what they’re doing, a bunch of older guys get together and everybody meets up to try again.  Do-over!

The Aussie Rules process is pretty simple.  Ball goes out of bounds?  GET THAT FRIGGIN’ THING BACK IN THERE!  An official retrieves the ball, turns his back to the field and BLINDLY LAUNCHES the thing over his head about 40 feet into the air and back into play.

A great example is shown here to start the final four minutes of last year’s Grand Final between St. Kilda and Geelong.


3) Legitimate hitters

Despite numerous rules, college and professional football is still rife with chop blocks, head-hunting, hits after the whistle, etc.  Instead of condemning unsportsmanlike conduct, commentators will pat the offender’s back and condone the action with a comment like, “Now THAT’S a guy who just wants to play the game and HIT somebody!”

Aussie Rules tackles and collisions tend to be more measured and influential, similar to hockey hits but not as frequent.  Aside from the obvious lack of ANY padding, take note that none of these hits involve any skull-to-skull contact.  The argument has been made that concussions are less frequent in sports like rugby and Aussie Rules because players without helmets are more cautious of the potential danger and tend to have more self-control without hiding behind thick shells and padding.


4) Secure in entertainment choices

I always agreed with the old Bret “The Hitman” Hart line:


“It takes a real man to wear pink to work.”

Can you remember any of the pre-game or even halftime performers from this past Super Bowl?  It was a gut-cringing amble by septagenarians Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend and The Who at halftime.  Pre-game was filled by generic American Idol burnout Nickelback understudy Daughtry.  Why?  Least offensive, I guess.  It’s more important for viewers to say “At least I don’t hate this…”?

Why did I mention the Bret Hart line?  Here’s a photo from the 2005 Grand Final pre-game festivities at the 100,000-seat Melbourne Cricket Grounds:


A beloved Australian national treasure to be sure, but let’s put this in an American perspective.

The Australian Football League decided to entertain spectators and viewers around the world by devoting a solid ten minutes to a 71-YEAR OLD DUDE NAMED BARRY IN A LAVENDER WIG AND PINK RHINESTONE & FEATHER BOA MUUMUU. 

You’ve got to be EXTREMELY secure and confident in your culture to pull that off.  Stand back and consider this: How many people would lose their friggin’ lid if RuPaul sang the National Anthem prior to a Brock Lesnar UFC title defense?

What was the backlash in Australia?  ZERO.  Everyone had a great time, enjoyed Dame Edna’s comedy routine and celebrated a proud countryman to kick off one of the nation’s most eagerly anticipated athletic competitions.

5) Acceptable use of “YOU WANT IT?  GO GET IT.”

Imagine there’s a fumble on the 20-yard-line.  A pile of human mass smothers the ball.  Whistles blow.  Scuffles continue.  The scrum tangles further.  Fingers get bitten.  Eyes get gouged.  All the while, bystanding teammates helplessly attempt to will the decision of officials by weakly pointing an arm in the direction they want the call to go.  60-year-old men attempt to rip apart the pile of feral guts to find one of them possessing an obscured object the size of a small baby.  THEN…some guys in a video booth watch 3 or four camera angles to confirm or overturn the decision.  They recover!  They’ll take over…WHEN WE COME BACK! 

Total elapsed time: 7-10 minutes.

Aussie Rules: Possession up for grabs?  Ref blows a whistle, everybody gets up.  Ref takes the ball and SLAMS it into the ground.  Ball flies 30 feet into the air.  It’s yours if you can get it.

Total elapsed time: 10-15 seconds.  I’ll get a sandwich later.

Honorable mention: Even referees are badass.

Aside from Ed Hochuli’s guns, the only time you notice a football referee is when they blow a call or when a field umpire gets JACKED UP in the defensive backfield.  Aussie Rules umps, meanwhile, occasionally make better plays than anyone on either side.



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