The Big Issue : Edition 487
culture police Fiona Scott-Norman THE BIG ISSUE 26 JUNE – 9 JULY 2015 29 ILLUSTRATIONBYGREGBAKES;ORIGINALPHOTOGRAPHBYMILESSTANDISH HITTING THE BOUNDARY and many is the time, frankly, I wished I’d ‘caught’ Carlton or Hawthorn instead. But you find your tribe, and St Kilda supporters turned out to be My People. Arty ratbags who chime with the drama and existential angst of never quite getting there, and bond through sneering at the born-to- rule wanker fan base of wealthier, more successful, clubs. Even though the Saints are heartbreakers on the field, and uncontestably ahead in the tally of highly uncoveted wooden spoon awards, that is not why I’m outta here. In the end there was just one too many alleged sexual assaults. One too many scandals. One too many schoolgirls. One too many ‘setting the dwarf on fire at the end of season party’. Sure, there was only ever one of those, but even if you’re in freefall down the ladder it is not okay to blow off steam by setting fire to the hired entertainment. It’s not Game of Thrones. In what culture do these kinds of behaviour take root and flourish? And how on earth can I keep supporting it? The army faces a similar conundrum. Lieutenant General David Morrison’s address, on International Women’s Day in 2013, became an instant classic when he said, ‘The standard you walk past becomes the standard you accept”. High five, David. Once you start unpicking, the whole footy culture unravels like a sweatshop knit. St Kilda is only the thread I started pulling. There’s the ‘supplements’ saga at Essendon. The revolting treatment of Swans legend Adam Goodes, whose crime appears to be being a Narungga man who won’t play nice. He’s just been castigated for doing a war dance to celebrate kicking a goal. During the Indigenous Round. As a tip of the hat to the Flying Boomerangs Indigenous under- 16s squad who made it up. We should be cheering. I can’t walk past racism. The price of being a footy fan is to support your club no matter what. I can’t do it. Want to talk about it at a BBQ? IT TAKES A lot to walk away from supporting footy in Australia. To not have a team, be it AFL, NRL or, at a pinch, the A-League, is to cripple yourself socially. Football is our Lingua Franca. Our great leveller. The conversational passport to social intercourse with any class or creed. If you can bang on about your team and their chances, and rate meat pies according to stadium, you are as Aussie as it’s possible to get. Even if you’re a lady or an Aboriginal person. That’s how powerful it is. Footy literacy is so integral to our national character that it feels negligent to not include it in the citizenship test. We want people to understand and love their new country, but don’t ask them the right questions. “Who do you barrack for?” we should enquire, not dreary old stuff about the House of Representatives.Yes, it’s important for a migrant to know that we don’t vote with a show of hands (actual citizenship question), but in Australia the key allegiance of a man, woman or child is to their team. It’s weird to step away. To stop reading the sports pages. To no longer care. It leaves a gap. I’ve been an avid supporter of St Kilda since I moved to Melbourne in the late 1980s. This was not a natural development, by the way; as an English migrant with artistic pretensions I’d nursed nothing but contempt for Aussie Rules when I lived in Perth. But once you’re in Melbourne, well, the definition of BBQ stopper is admitting you wouldn’t know a Sherrin if you found one in your espresso martini. I held out for a while. Stayed wilfully oblivious. Then, a couple of years after the move east, when I was driving to tap-dancing class one Saturday morning, the weather came on the radio and announced rain. “Oh no”, I thought, “St Kilda doesn’t play well in the wet”. I remember stopping the car and staring at the radio, bewildered. “How”, I thought, “did I know that?” Goddamn it, I’d caught football. And I loved it. It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows their AFL – or narrative arcs – that St Kilda were thumped that day. Losing, it transpired, is their specialty area. The ride I’d strapped into had way more lows than highs, » For virtually more FSN, visit fionascottnorman.com.au or follow her on Twitter @FScottNorman. IT’S FULL TIME FOR A ONE-TIME FOOTBALL FANATIC.