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Cut out the hype and maintain the atmosphere

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Martin Flanagan

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Epic Grand Final one of the all time greats

Fresh from a heart stopping AFL Grand Final AGE footy writers Rohan Connolly and Martin Flanagan reflect on Sydney's epic 10 point win over Hawthorn.

PT0M0S 620 349

IN THE minute before the ball was bounced on Saturday, I realised our game had changed significantly. For the first time ever, I couldn't hear the eruption of crowd noise that precedes the first bounce. Instead, I heard a marketing trick - the final minute being counted down, second by second, by what sounded like clapping hands.

The VFL/AFL grand final has been generating its own unique form of excitement for more than 100 years. No one I know has ever said that going to a grand final is not sufficiently exciting for them, that they would like the AFL to pump it up with special effects to get them in the mood. (Like I never met a supporter - not even in the old days of black and white TV - who expressed a need or a desire to see the introduction of away jumpers.)

If you ask people who have attended a grand final what most excited them about the event, they invariably say: ''The atmosphere.'' Integral to that atmosphere is the sound of the crowd. It's not a constant. It builds and settles and erupts and moves on. In past years, before the game, the two sets of supporters have echoed ghostly chants to one another that resonate through the stadium, then fade, then grow again.

Countdown: Saturday's opening bounce.

Countdown: Saturday's opening bounce. Photo: Justin McManus

In the minute or so preceding the first bounce, the noise accelerates and then, just before the first bounce, it drops away. The crowd collectively holds its breath. Well, that was lost this year. In a triumph of the artificially manufactured over the spontaneous and authentic, we got an effect that belonged in a computer game.

The AFL got off lightly after the Meat Loaf fiasco at last year's grand final. Not for the first time, people in senior positions within that organisation clearly thought it was OK to foist an over-the-hill American entertainer on a day that is a celebration of Australian culture. Not only was a preposterous sum of money paid to the singer, people were actually paid to come up with the idea of having him. That money could have gone to struggling football clubs around Australia.

Since hitting it big with record broadcast rights, the AFL has expanded in all sorts of odd ways like a corporation growing for the sake of growth. It has a ballooning media department. And it has a marketing department that clearly feels compelled to justify its existence by imposing ideas on our game lifted from American sport. In some American sports, every goal is met with a blast of recorded music. Is that where we're headed?

The first assumption of this sort of sports marketing is the neurotic belief that anything is preferable to silence. Silence is equated with boredom. At the grand final, we got the scores read to us in a cheery voice at each break together with banal little summaries of the game. How many people in a grand final crowd need to have the scores read to them? Or have the remarkable action they've just digested fed back to them in a bland way?

The assumption is that American sport is the future. It is a future. Those of us who value Australian football constantly assert the belief that it is a world-class game. If that is true, we don't need to mimic anyone. People point to the part played by marketing, particularly towards children, in getting Twenty20 cricket off the ground in this country. But that was a case of launching a radically new form of the game. Our football game, in its present form, has been woven into generations of lives for more than a century.

At three-quarter-time on Saturday, there was only one point in it. Three-quarter-time in a close grand final is a special moment with a tension all its own. Sure enough, the people ''producing'' the day stepped in, playing loud, pounding music. What if you don't like that music? What if you don't need it? What if it actually gets between you and the real thing that is otherwise called the grand final experience?

When I got home, I watched the replay. Dennis Cometti talked over the countdown in the minute before the first bounce. Those moments had more atmosphere on TV simply because he was alive to what was happening before him, not imagining it on a computer screen.

146 comments

  • AGREE!!!!!

    Commenter
    Grant
    Location
    ACT
    Date and time
    October 01, 2012, 9:42AM
    • So do I; what is Demetriou trying to do? we are not yanks this is Aussie rules with it's own character and we should be hanging on to the traditions of the game.
      As for a twilight Grand final, I am at a loss for words, his mightiness said it was in the interest of the game and be available for more fans, how is that so? we cannot fit any more into the ground on the day; just more pandering to his TV bosses, if he wants it available for more fans perhaps he could cut out pandering to all his corporate high fliers and make the tickets available to those who make the AFL what it is by attending regularly!!!

      Commenter
      john
      Date and time
      October 01, 2012, 12:18PM
    • Plus one...

      Commenter
      Bean
      Location
      Beanville
      Date and time
      October 01, 2012, 12:39PM
    • +1

      Commenter
      Richard Collett
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      October 01, 2012, 12:41PM
    • A lot of people will agree, and rightly so. But hey, who wears baseball caps much of the time (with no protection from the Aussie sun for the back of the neck), calls everyone 'guys' and plays rap and pop 'music' from across the Pacific? Not to mention the Tea Party tactics used in Canberra.

      Commenter
      barfiller
      Date and time
      October 01, 2012, 12:55PM
    • I'm 69 years of age and have attended more grand Finals than I can remember. The tension and excitement of the game is sheer theatre and a constant. The so called 'entertainment' just plain stupid and unnecessary. I want to be able to discuss the game with those around me during the breaks. Impossible with the mindless, endless thumping, deafening noise blasted in our ears via those bloody big wheely bin speakers. I yearn for the days when pre-match entertainment was the under 19's and the Reserves. GF's and half time entertainment was provided by the Southern Cross Military Band. You could hear yourself talk during all the breaks and the marching and music in the main break was entertaining. In those days the VFL were respectful of the of the game and its supporters. I still love the game but I hate the unnecessary razzamataz. Hey if you want to know what gimmics they'll come up with next year just watch what the Americans have at the Super Bowl. We'll copy it here for sure at the next GF. Andrew Demetriou, get some humility and give us back the GF day we loved. It's not "Greatness" until you do!

      Commenter
      jj
      Location
      seymour
      Date and time
      October 01, 2012, 1:04PM
    • Agree. Thank goodness it was a great game of football. The garbage that now surrounds the AFL presentations of anything is nothing but a chance for high rolling sponsors to get in the act to sell their rubbish, particularly the betting agencies whom I hope lost a bundle on the Swans.
      Can we please go back to concentrating on the game at hand and avoid all the other distractions for money that are put on.

      Commenter
      Colin
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      October 01, 2012, 1:51PM
    • dead right... I was in Adelaide last year and got to see a local game - I enjoyed the atmosphere there better than the Grand Final - Outside the competition the presentation is way under par. I'd like to see more than one director cutting the presentation more that one commentary team and any camera man with his hand on the zoom lens need a flogging.

      Commenter
      glasseye
      Location
      gold coast
      Date and time
      October 01, 2012, 1:52PM
    • I agree completely. Put the Auskickers back on at half time, and cut out all the unnecessary dramatized ****.

      Commenter
      Integrity.
      Date and time
      October 01, 2012, 2:11PM
    • Done deal by the look of it. I think it's absurd that anybody thinks the footy is not enough and we need something else to spice it up. Nevertheless the younger ADHD generation will lose interest if they aren't pumped up by the music, so I guess that's the way it'll be from now on.

      Commenter
      Phil
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      October 01, 2012, 2:38PM

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