I found a ticket on Stubhub, a discount ticket site, for a footy game that was going on at the Optus Stadium in Perth. I had seen bits of a game on T.V., but that’s about it. The stadium was just a 15-minute walk from my Airbnb, so this was an excellent time to check out a game. It was the West Coast Eagles against Essendon.
Crowds walked across the bridge to the new stadium. I was fortunate to find an inexpensive ticket in the center of the stadium and only five rows back. I arrived at my seat right when the game started. There wasn’t a national anthem that played at the beginning, like in the U.S. There also weren’t any cheerleaders.
The field was huge! In American football, the area is sectioned off into a rectangle. But this field covered the entire stadium. The players didn’t wear any padding or helmets and instead wore short shorts. They were pretty hot!
Sitting next to me were three men who all head earphones in, listening to commentary about the game. They all appeared to be in their 50s. Rob was sitting directly next to me, and he generously explained the rules to me. There were 18 players on each team on the field. The goalposts were at the ends of the field, but there were different goals worth different points. The posts in the center are worth six points. The outer posts are worth one point each. The players have to kick the ball into a goal post.
The game was exciting! In American football, the game moves very slowly. There are constant “time-outs.” In Australia’s footy, it rarely stopped. The players could punch or kick the ball, which looked like a football but was slightly different. It sort of looked like a game of “hot potato” because the ball was tossed and kicked around very quickly. It didn’t matter if the ball was on the ground; it was still in play. They didn’t tackle as much as American football, but I can’t imagine playing without any pads.
Rob and his brother had season passes, but his brother couldn’t make it because he moved to the east coast, so they listed the ticket on Stubhub. The guys next to Rob (Peter and Mic) also had season tickets. They had been coming to the games for many years in those same seats.
When halftime started, Rob told me that I could use his brother’s VIP pass that he had with him to get into the VIP room. I excitedly accepted! As we walked up all of the stairs, Rob told me that he works as a consultant doing audits for Perth because some of them have been “doing crazy stuff.”
When we got inside the VIP section, I joined Rob, Peter, and Mic. There were huge T.V. screens to watch the game and food and beverage stands in the carpeted area. Peter bought me a beer, and we joined a tall table where two other men were standing.
We asked the two men what their names were, and one said, “Shit bird.” They were all season ticket holders because they loved footy. I bought some fish and chips because I needed dinner. I had a blast talking with the guys!
Peter sort of looked like Liam Neeson. They were all so friendly, I felt like one of their friends. They loved Perth, and it’s isolation. I asked the men what I should do while I was in Perth. Peter said that if I go to Rottnest Island and get a selfie with a quokka, I’d be considered a local and would be special.
Once halftime was over, we all rushed back to our seats. I bought another beer on the way back. Rob continued explaining the rules and what was going on. The Eagles reached 100 points like I said they would, and they won the game! It was so much more exciting to watch than American football.
The game was over, and the stadium was cheering with excitement. Peter and Mic said they were going to get another beer in the VIP room to avoid traffic. I joined the men again, and when we arrived, Peter bought me another beer. We joined a table where a family was standing.
We talked about my travels, and the U.S. Only Peter had been to the U.S. before. His daughter played soccer for Auburn. He’s been to Alabama, New York, and Washington D.C. For work, he does something in the construction industry. In a few months, Mic was going to New York for a work trip and then staying an extra week with his wife. Mic was an accountant and also oversaw people in a managerial position.
I told the men about my list of things that kill in Australia because it seemed every place that I went to, something else was added to my list. I explained that I had watched the movie Wolf Creek, which freaked me out about serial killers in the outback. The men thought it was funny that I had these fears because I was from the U.S., where guns are so prevalent.
They mentioned the mass shootings, and I instantly pulled up the actual statistic. I’m used to people asking me about gun violence in the U.S., and I know several mainstream media outlets have misrepresented it. For example, one says there’s a mass shooting every day, on average, in the U.S. The data is incorrect because they aren’t using the FBI’s data that considers a mass shooting as four or more victims. They are including incidents where a patrol officer accidentally shot his gun into the ground at night when no kids were around. That’s not a mass shooting.
Because I’m so used to people from other countries commenting on the mass shootings and gun violence, I have the actual data and statistics saved on my phone to educate people. The men thought it was sad that I had it ready to show. I had to agree that it was a pretty miserable thing to have at the ready.
I told the men that I drove to Alaska, and they wanted to know how I was affording long-term travel. I explained that I sold my house in Los Angeles. The men told me that my parents must be so worried about me. As fathers, they’d be concerned about their daughter. One of them said, “She’s over 30, she’s worldly, she’s fine. But as a parent, you’ll always worry.”
I was having so much fun with the men, talking and laughing, that it made Perth like a home. They were so welcoming and friendly, and I didn’t want the night to end. Eventually, the room was starting to clear out, and they had to be up in the morning for work. We hugged goodbye, and I gave them my card. It was the perfect way to experience my first Australian footy game.
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