Contributed by: Wesley Hull
Humanity is a resilient species. We adapt and find ways to move forward. Despite the current doom and gloom surrounding the coronavirus, we will again find a way to meet the challenges we are now facing as the pandemic spreads its reach.
It seems that the same might be said about aspects of Australian football.
Whilst the commentary from the three completed AFL matches to date has surrounded rule changes, some changes may be more profound over time. The shorter quarters have won the approval of fans, players, clubs and the media.
The sixteen-minute quarter is changing how players are managed across a game, leading to less fatigue and greater impact of players across four quarters. Essendon’s Dylan Shiel said as much when he said the shorter quarters suit his high running style of play. Others have chorused similar thoughts.
Some commentators have also suggested that the kicking at goal is better without crowd noise. Harder to argue when I write this and the score on the television sees Adelaide with six straight goals to Sydney’s four. Even though crowds will be back, perhaps the players can learn from the technique changes that saw such accuracy.
However, perhaps the greatest positive has been the higher exposure of the game through more televised matches, especially in the United States. With up to three games more a week scheduled for cable television across America, the exposure of the game has increased, and so has the reaction to it.
According to www.news.com.au , “as American sports fans self-isolate in their homes, their attention has shifted towards the only sport remaining on television — Australian Rules football.”
Nic Savage reports that, “most international sporting competitions have been postponed or cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak, including but not limited to the NBA, English Premier League, F1 and Super Rugby.”
“As sports enthusiasts desperately search for something to watch amid a global health crisis, the American community have surprisingly turned their attention to Australian rules football.”
Due to the lack of other sports to telecast, Fox Sports 1 is playing all AFL matches so far with more to come. It is certainly having a positive impact on American audiences. Pat McAfee is an American Football analyst with his own show on YouTube and various podcasts. He has declared Aussie Rules his “new favourite game”. “I’ve watched one quarter of Aussie rules Football and I already know that this sport was supposed to be my calling back in the day,”
He even wanted to buy Essendon star, Jake Stringer’s jersey. “…is it a sleeveless as wellω”
Savage’s article goes on to cite a variety of responses from Twitter and other social media as Americans are turned onto our game in far greater numbers than ever before.
During Fox Footy’s coverage of Essendon vs. Fremantle, Collingwood President Eddie McGuire revealed News Corp CEO Robert Thomson was watching the AFL round one match from New York.
Dozens of other American sporting fans have voiced their new-found love for AFL on Twitter. One sporting fan posted: “I have no idea what is going on but it’s quite possibly the most entertained that I’ve been for days”.
Another gentleman posted: “This s**t kinda lit. Still haven’t figured out how they score yet.”
One more said: “This is an awesome sport. You should totally try it out if you’re an American soccer fan. It’s way more free-flowing than rugby or American football”.
Sport has provided a source of comfort and familiarity during a scary period for many. One American tweeted, “Aussie rules football may be my lifeline from this dystopian nightmare”.
A second fan said: “Do not talk to me while the Australian Football League is one, it is literally all I have in life now”.
Another posted: “Apparently all we need to get the US sporting public into AFL is a good ol’ global pandemic”.
Whilst there is widespread condemnation o the AFL’s decision to go ahead with the season, and plenty of critics of rules and most other aspects of the game, the footy is serving a purpose.
As James McKern stated in his article, also on the www.news.com.au website, “in these chaotic times we're all looking for any piece of normality we can get our hands on and having live sport is just what is needed.”
True in Australia, and true, it seems, in America as well.
Perhaps Collingwood's Mason Cox, as an American, can have the final word (from Twitter) - "It is weird to think but this might be @AFL best opportuinity at growing the game worldwide..."
Picture Credit: www.pacific.epeak.in Michael Wilson, AFL Photos
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