It's winter in Australia, and the AFL football season is well under way. My husband is an AFL fan from way back and he wants me to share his enthusiasm for the game. The Gold Coast now has its own team coming into the big league next year. I'm not the sporty type, but somehow the Gold Coast having a football team in the national competition has appealed to my sense of patriotism. So I treaded carefully into what I've always considered to be a male domain. This reluctant member attended a game last Saturday and I discovered AFL is more than football.
While I sat in our folding chairs on the hill, (the club's football ground is under construction in Carrara), a cold southerly breeze nipped at my ear lobes that made me shiver. What I gained from coming to the football and getting cold had better be worth it. To my surprise, I discovered I could watch the football and the crowd. AFL is a fast moving game and I can't always see the action at the far end of the field, so when the play was too fast and the distance too long, I honed in to what was going on around me.
Families with young children tossed mini-footballs; older kids watched the footy and wrestled each other when they got bored; and fanatic footy fans discussed the game plan, which was double dutch to me. What impacted me the most was the way the people at the footy related to other people in all kinds of ways. Husbands and wives, couples, grandmas and grandads were there discussing the game, or more importantly, in the pauses in the action they talked about issues that were important to them. Snippets of conversation pricked up my ears. I learned many juicy tidbits about members of their family or friends. I didn't have my notebook with me last week to make note of these conversations, but I will next time.
What I learned last Saturday was that even though some people were at the footy, they talked much about everything and little about football. They discussed the problems Joey was having trying to fit in at school; Sally's disappointment she wasn't chosen for the ballet competition; John and Casey's marriage problems and how they were hoping to overcome their financial problems; and how they were they going to get mum and dad into a retirement home with care, etc.
So football serves more than one purpose. I learnt what it means to be a football player and to be part of the team. I also learnt there are real life issues behind the people who attend the football. By listening carefully I heard how people interacted with each other. I realised I could use their experiences to build the characters of my stories and in doing so make the characters real people living in real relationships.
What about you, do you go to the football to watch the action on the field? Do you go with a friend to clear what's bothering you off your chest? Or do you go just for the fresh air and sunshine? I'd like to hear what football means to you.