The other day I took time out from my writing frenzy (deadline looming) and went to my annual Aussie Rules Football Grand Final barbecue. Friends of mine have held it for the last 20+ years, and I never miss. It's spring here, and every year their garden provides a wonderful welcome.
The barbie (barbecue) starts at lunch time, then the footie (football) starts at 2.30. It finishes some time around 5, and then there's more nibbling and grazing and then around 8 or 9, more snags (sausages — yes, you're getting a crash course in Australian slang) come out and the leftovers are polished off and the party continues on into the night.
It's always a good night — even though our team, Collingwood, lost by a whisker when the other team scored a goal in the last few minutes of the game.
We were sad about the loss, but there's always a big fire in the back yard, over which we barbecue, and into which we stare, and around which we talk and that's always a wonderful part of the night — for me, anyway. I do love a good fire. And I get to catch up with people I only see once a year.
There are always musicians and live music (generally Irish) and good company and good food — everyone brings salads or desserts or whatever to share. I bring the same thing every year — two big cheese and leek pies — sort of Greek — and get into trouble if I try to vary it. (And no, that's not the American pie in the heading. Read on . . . )
I don't really follow the football, but I always like the stories that go with it. This year one of the stories I liked was about Mason Cox, a player a couple of people at the party were calling "the giant" — he's really tall. Just under 7 ft. And since a lot of AFL football is about men leaping high to take a mark (catch the ball and get a free kick) his height gives him an advantage. (click on this link to see some amazing photos.)
Turns out Mason Cox is from Texas. He used to play basketball but now he's here playing AFL (aussie rules) football. And playing it really well — he was a star in the finals.
One of the guys at the party, Colin, is a mad keen Collingwood supporter and a very friendly guy who talks to everyone, and always has. Anyway, at some stage he ran into an American couple who were visiting Australia, and being Colin, he started to talk to them. It turned out they were Mason Cox's parents and had come over to watch him play.
Of course they got an enthusiastic rave from Colin. They seemed amazed that their son was so beloved. Apparently they knew nothing about aussie rules football, had never even heard of it until their son started playing it. And he'd only heard of it and played his first match a few years ago.
The Collingwood fans love him, and he already has a nickname — "American Pie."
That's a play on words.
The Collingwood Football team symbol is the magpie — black and white are their team colours — and because Australians have a penchant for giving nicknames to everything, the team is also called the maggies, or the pies, pies being short for magpies.
Supporters will yell "Carn the pies" meaning "Come on the Magpies."
So Mason Cox is an American "pie." Cute, eh?
You can see him in action here.
I blogged some years ago about Aussie rules football, and concluded it with some quotes from an affectionately satirical poem about Aussie rules football called Life Cycle, by Bruce Dawe. It starts:
When children are born in Victoria
they are wrapped in club-colours, laid in beribboned cots,
having already begun a lifetime's barracking.
Carn, they cry, Carn … feebly at first
while parents playfully tussle with them
for possession of a rusk: Ah, he's a little Tiger!
(A few explanations: Victoria (my state) is the home of Aussie Rules. Barracking means 'rooting for' (a term that means something different in Australia. 'Carn' is a corruption of "come on" so "Carn the Tigers" is cheering on the team of Richmond, whose colors are black and yellow and whose symbol is the tiger.)
The poem continues...
They will not grow old as those from the more northern States grow old,
for them it will always be three-quarter-time
with the scores level and the wind advantage in the final term,
But the dance forever the same - the elderly still
loyally crying Carn … Carn … (if feebly) unto the very end,
having seen in the six-foot recruit from Eaglehawk their hope of salvation.
Only now it's no longer a six-foot recruit from a small country town (Eaglehawk), but a seven footer from Texas. Nice story, eh? More about the "American Pie" here with some good pics.
So what about you? Do you follow football or any other sport? Do you have an annual get-together with friends? For a sporting event or some other occasion? What's your favorite kind of party?