Looking down on life at the G

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TERRY BROWN finds himself sky high in the stands at the G, peering over vast rows of empty seats at tiny figures who might just be playing football:

THE best General Admission seats in the Ponsford Stand have epic views – of St Ig’s, Box Hill and the International Space Station.Looking down past the 43,000 empty better MCG seats, you might also try to see the footy? Go on. You might as well. It is there somewhere. Look? Something moved! It would help – fans anyway – if they shaved numbers into the top of players heads or stencilled the bald ones. Probably that’s coming.

But what else for supercharging the spectacle as appreciated from near earth orbit in Row EE? Pump those tiny players full of helium? Get Steve Dank to make them bigger, like ginormous big? Columbian Dugong growth hormones, mate? Good as! Who knows? Anything could happen? The AFL world is mutating like a Chernobyl radiologist on a charred chops, formaldehyde and Camels diet.

Who knows what weirdness will pop up, drop off or fall out next? The coffee queue at the G is already longer than the beer one. I rest my case. But, still, there is nothing like being at the game, even if you’re 200 metres from the Punt Rd goals, throwing chips down to the Goshawks, wincing each time a helicopter goes past, trying to See Or Hear Anything Properly.

Yep, there sure is nothing like being at the game – for missing half of it. Nobody can see 200 metres across the G except Razor Ray. (He can do it with his eyes closed.) And so, on Sunday, I squinted with joy to see a distant Sherrin airborne around the Magpies’ 50, sailing, sailing away. It was too big to be a Goshawk anyway, unless Steve Dank has been practising on them? I eyeballed the closest screen expecting the customary confirmation of my worst fears through the blurry slow-mo goal, rigged review, goal reversal and inevitable Hawthorn free and 50m.

Or, maybe six points of hope in a dark and troubled season?

But no. I just got franked – and I got pissed off. The MCG replay showed not players and poles but four giant animated hotdogs, swaying in their pink rubberiness, pretending to be goal and point posts.

A little footy curled up lazily from the bottom and sent an extra wobble through one. Nothing violent. Better than the usual scalding and beheading they get. Is it a goal? Are the Pies alive? Well, who knows? They didn’t show the actual kick shaving the stick (if it even did?), just a cartoon reenactment by a sponsored bit of homogenised and stabilised cartoon carcass. Trump has Sean Spicer in a bush. The AFL has an umpiring spokesausage.

I’m not sure who wins that race. Anyway, all that interpretive, animated sausage yoga signalled a behind on the board and a few that need kicking. Can’t the AFL leave two goddam season-defining seconds unsullied? And in a fake news world, in a close one, why would you ask anyone to trust an eyeless frankfurt? At first, I thought it might have been a mistake, that Channel 7 advertised for its own Sam Newman and a tasteless smallgood got the gig. Easy mistake. But the truth behind those hotdogs is so unsavoury it should be extruded into an intestine. Live footy is now one big ad! In the bowels of the AFL – long suffering ones if they get endless free hotdogs – a team sponsored by Ritalin and Caffeine Colonics thinks these things up and convinces itself, somehow, it is value-adding footy with all this great adding stuff. It is finding new and bullshit ways to ram ads down our necks when we least expect, want, need or even understand them.

You’d think it’s not possible, when every MCG surface is already secreting signage and vomiting video? (Except the MCC Members’ signature 10,000 empty seats.) The jumpers have ads. The goal posts have ads. There are ads on the grass. The umps are, ahem, sponsored by an optical firm who think that’s good marketing? If the AFL could get those seagulls to stay still …

The AFL creatives are relentless and they have drunk the Kool Aid, which I can mention in this rant because it is not an AFL sponsor and thereby deserves our support. And their trick is to gaslight fans and themselves into thinking the ads aren’t really ads. In modern marketing, there are no shoppers or, boo, advertisers. Oh no. There are only partners and valued members of the premiership family cult. MCG goals are powered by energy firms and injuries by Pharmacy Shed (not its real name) as the premiership family scream over each other to be heard, just like a real family.

Contractually, if the ground falls silent for five seconds now, a sound panel operator is hurled off Light Tower 3 towards a large supermarket-sponsored activities centre he’d hope would include inflatables. Not so much those pointy circus tents. There are no upmarket audio sponsors though, or if there are, they’re not saying in any particularly audible way. From the cheap seats behind all the empty ones, sponsored interviews sound like gagged hostages escaping down a drain. You can’t hear the panel operator scream, but there’s also an up-side.

You can’t hear Nickelback or 10CC. (The MCG music archive is a mix tape found in a stolen Datsun 120Y. If it is yours please claim it at Gate 1 immediately, for everyone’s sake.) Footy at the ‘G has become a giant fluoro barf bag of ads, mullet-music, public kissing, underwater interviews and such sponsored dross. If they value add the experience any more, there won’t be any experience left! But, heh, heh, unlike Nickelback, advertising does have its place at the footy.

Take a careful note, fans, of the corporate box signage for profligate firms to avoid. Imagine their comfy seats, glass glasses, warmth and wing views. Look, there’s that poor power company that wept when I left and then stalked me like Glenn Close. And those broke, shattered, ruined taxi companies? They’ve got a box, but half would turn up at the Docklands?

Hey, that telco charging $10 for one lousy gig of data’s got a box! You will find several banks who pay 0.01 per cent on your savings and charge 18 per cent on your card have a box to which you will never be invited. Not a good look, really.

Not something I’d want to advertise.


Author: Terry Brown

TERRY BROWN worked for many years as a general reporter, columnist and colour writer at The Sun and Herald Sun. He is now an academic lecturing in journalism and is an unpublished novelist.



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