Even as I write this I realise that to the uninformed (that is, those not from the state of Victoria) the word ‘footie' could mean a small ball (like in Afrikaans words for small things “seuntjie”)
But over here in Melbourne it means AFL: Australian Football Rules. A fast moving, high flying, rough tackling form of team sport that resembles rugby only in the use of a similar shaped ball. And it is indeed the sport that grips Victorians at this time of the year.
We know it is footie season when a few things happen for us as a family: Firstly, when my youngest son Ben is reluctant to remove his footie kit, and when we have to check that he is wearing his PJ's and not his boots. Although he has been known to take his ball to bed. And then there is his mother, the very same gently spoken 5'2” woman, who would not hurt another living creature, who becomes a frighteningly wide-eyed, nostrils flaring, head swinging footie supporter, screaming and chanting at the plasma screen as our team St Kilda scores another goal.
And to ask her to calm down at this time can only lead to me being maimed, or given THE LOOK. Married men know this look. It is death in a glance. So when footie is on the box and my wife is in full swing, I do other things. I usually do these things outside so the neighbours, on hearing the noise emanating from our house, can see that I am not abusing her in any shape or form.
Another footie sign is the weather. Weeks before we were facing 40°+ temperatures. Now the thermometer has dropped faster than house prices in Brakpan. When most people would consider sleeping in on a Sunday, as very cold weather swirls outside, us footie parents will be getting out of cars on the edges of footie ovals. We will huddle together with the Arctic wind blowing freezing rain across the legs of totally frozen parents. Someone usually comments that they can't feel their toes…or hands…or nose…or ears.
But all of this is forgotten when the game starts with a whistle blow. The scrambling for the ball becomes the focus of attention as our kids run around, shouting to each other “Kick it to me! Kick it to me!” as the game moves from one side of the field to the other. The umpire's whistle forms the edges of the players' activity as the score board ticks on. We forget the cold. We forget that we are wet. The possibility of a goal kick has us willing the ball between the posts. IT IS THROUGH! There is much clapping and cheering from us Frozen Chosen. “Benny is having a good game” someone to my left says. I thank them without turning my head. “I can't feel my feet”, someone else says matter of factly. Yup, it is footie season. Isn't it great?