Monday, March 30, 2009

Fremantle v Western, 29/03/09

It isn't entirely uncommon that people note their surprise in hearing what a sports fan I am, and some friends even find it odd or perplexing. I very much enjoy sport (and believe that within twenty years it will be studied in universities as a humanity) for a number of reasons that would be very difficult to explain outright. I think an example is the best thing I'd be able to muster, and I've recently had such an experience that likely serves adequate to chart my enjoyment of sport, or really, all public competition (see: politics, which ironically is probably every bit detachment and escapist competition that sport is). Sunday I went to opening day for the Fremantle Football Club (they were the Fremantle Dockers before a lawsuit v Pants) of the Australian Football League. Still, everyone knows them at the Dockers. Their logo is an anchor, and the news and whatnot still say Dockers. Good, pants be damned, I say in this one. Essentially the same argument as MLB vs Cape League over team names, but a bit more inter-disciplinary. Anyway, it proved to be quite an experience. I will document it here.

Fremantle hosted the Western (in reference to Western Melbourne, Victoria) Bulldogs yesterday at the Subiaco Dome, home to both the small market upstart Dockers and the posh West Coast Eagles, who are quite a bit more popular around the region. Market comparison between Freo and West Coast (read: not Western. West Coast is team they share the Subi with, Western is team they played this night. Slightly confusing.) might be San Francisco to Oakland. Freo finished last season third from the league's cellar. Western (now we're on the Bulldogs, the night's opponent) meanwhile is an interesting case. Apparently they're small market. However, the fan base they do have is rabid. I sat near a supporter tonight and he was loud, though very friendly. They also came in third place last year, putting them into the current manifestation of the upper echelon. They had a lot of fans traveling from Melbourne. I'd probably say the Medlbourne team seriously gave the host Perth team a run for their money crowd-wise, perhaps 60-40, the advantage to the Dockers.

I arrived at the game early by virtue of extremely convenient public transportation timing. I thoroughly enjoyed my trek on the train and bus though. It starts when you get to the first stop and see a few people in the purple, or whatever the team color is. Then with each stop it begins to fill up. Stop by stop you're surrounded in it, the sea that a fanbase represents. When it gets big enough they even say nation. By the time you get there you're a unit, everybody is getting off at that stop and you're all making your way in one direction as a single entity. It's especially interesting on Opening Day. It's been a long summer in football, basketball, hockey and footy (AFL terms) terms, winter in baseball, etc. There's an anticipation, even for a team like Freo, of wonder and hope. It sounds stupid, but it's new. The whole thing is new, and sometimes it turns out to be an epic and great narrative like the Red Sox gave the Yankees and history in 2004, or the greatest ever told, like the Giants gave the Patriots in the early days of 2008. You get plenty of just good stories too. Like the Rays last year. Or the Celtics. Or individual stories like Jon Lester's cancer comeback or Josh Hamilton's comeback from cancer-causing agents (though what isn't?). And players that are superstars by the end of the season that nobody's heard of now. Or just spectacular single games in the long season. For a new fan, there's the adventure of discovering the game. And for the old, the experience of coming back to it.

I got there with plenty of time to take care of the essentials of arrival at any new ballpark. I walked around the outside and felt the hustle and bustle of getting around and getting in. I bumped into people (literally and not at all figuratively) and walked through security guard checkpoints. I also got a feel for the stadium on the inside. They all tend to be the same. Concrete and dim but hosting an enjoyable atmosphere. This was the same at the Subiaco Dome. You can stick with it for only so long before it becomes logical to check out the seats.

IFSA set us up pretty well this time. I found the printing for my section and moved through and out this designated tunnel. Immediately, the grass struck me. This is especially neat for a person seeing the given sports' field the first time, however, it is always a great image regardless. To arrive at the site of the battle. The Fenway green, the footy field, massive and oval in its span and quite green itself, the Colliseum in Roman days. Crazy people, I'd reckon. I followed the bleachers to my seat. I kept following it. Usually I don't realize where the numbers on the ticket are particularly taking me until I've gotten there. Like buried treasure, X marks the spot. When I look up, I realize how the seats are. I mean, you can look at the maps online or on the program, but there's no actually knowing how the view will work for you until you get there. And it's definitely the case that view is secondary to atmosphere and crowd, too. The seats IFSA got us were second row and just off behind a set of goals. They proved quite solid.

This period of time in a match invokes some serious emotion. There is a building anticipation even as the stadium is still mostly empty. There is music blasting. Oftentimes the music is bad (though I always commend the Red Sox on their selection, they do pretty well) but you still get into it while you watch the players warming up well before game time. They are joking around with each other and you get to see them at the most personal you likely will that night. And it's the anticipation and excitement of the game, and in Sunday's case the season, to come. It's much more pure than the typical "GETTING PUMPED" feeling. It's just excitement and the understanding that you are in for a spectacle. I'd imagine that many people have fallen in love during this portion of an athletic experience.

Before the rest of the IFSA folk came along, I participated in another excellent aspect of game attendance: I got to know the neighbors. Seated to my left were a middle-aged man and his nephew who'd just flown in from Melbourne, a Bulldogs fan. The uncle was a West Coast Eagles fan and had no investment in the match but to protect his sister's son from being assaulted by Freo fans. The youthful Bulldogs fan was already yelling obscenities in a very loud voice during warmups. The uncle gave his nephew a lot of guff, which was fun to watch. I suppose that that's the Aussie way, I've picked up on. The more you're made fun of, the more they like you, and these guys were family. But anyway, the older fellow, who played the game non-professionally in his youth, was great. He helped me understand what I didn't already about the game and taught me things to yell and how to act and react throughout the game.

The park continued to fill over the next hour and a half, getting louder and louder and then louder still as the original loudness's coming on required that everybody up their voices a bit. The game started at 4:10, and around 3:55 the buzz of an incoming game was taking over the park. By the time we got to 4:09, the players had taken the field and the umpires were preparing to get the game started. The Oval was loud in the last few moments of the offseason until the ball was bounced and both game and season were on.

It's something to see a sport live for the first time. It gives you something that TV and Youtube can't, and that's a really up-close understanding of not just the workings and physicality of the game but also the tactics and strategy. Footy is an interesting game. I'd liken it to several of the American/American-known variety, but it's totally unique...In any case, I'll give it a try. It has the violence of football (American), the constant movement of soccer, the reliance on finding wide-open space of hockey, and a scoring system not totally unlike Quidditch, minus a snitch and quite different so not really like it at all. Two teams fight over a ball, when they have it they can advance it by hand-balling it (essentially volleying it) or punting it. Like lacrosse, you are true to your position, meaning the guys up front can't go back and vise versa. You can run with the ball, but if tackled, it's a turnover. Turnovers otherwise come as a result of poor volleying or strips. It's a turnover-centric game, like Ultimate. At the end of the field, there are four poles in a line. The middle poles, if the ball is kicked through, get you six points. The two outer sets get you one point. That's all I'll say for the game's technical aspects.

There was excitement in the air as Freo got out to a fast 13-0 start, including the first goal of the team's top prospect and most highly-touted draft pick, the 18 year old Stephen Hill, which started Freo's season scoring and his own career-spanning narrative. The nephew-Bulldogs-to-my-left fellow was yelling things such as "Rubbish! Unacceptable, Dogs!" However, this fell apart. By the end of the first quarter, Western was on top by a wide margin. I suppose I just skipped a big part of the story, but that's part of what I love about sport too. You lose yourself to it. It's very organic. It's like the grass and the pitch consume you body and mind entire and time goes out the window and it's the game, just the game, that takes you to later hours. Anyway, by half-time, the Bulldogs were up by 41, and their fans were the only ones making noise.

Halftime is a good thing because it counteracts what I just described. It's a moment to break away from the consumption of the game and go get something to eat or shake yourself back into reality and have a casual conversation. It serves the same purpose of comic relief and it is a good thing for doing so.

The teams came back from the half and the Dockers started playing well. They were outhustling and out-thinking Western and it was showing on the field even before it started to show on the scoreboard. Then, as these things tend to, it started showing on the scoreboard. They went on a run, scoring frequently. Before long, they had brought their deficit from 41 to 16, prompting loud strong words from my Western-supporting neighbor and lots of noise from the Freo fans. The goal that brought it to sixteen created a stadium-wide wave of purple as the fans jumped from their seats in a roar.

And that was the height of it. That was all there was to celebrate for Dockers fans. In the fourth quarter it fell apart entirely. Western scored frequently at will, their fans began singing songs, and they won by 60. Freo fans hurried out of their own stadium quietly while the Bulldogs were able to celebrate nationalistically on enemy turf. The sea of purple swept out the Oval and through the streets with quiet and humble smiles on their faces. Hey, they were there, and they still wore their hats and their jerseys and their scarves with pride. Hey, they saw their team play on opening day. Hey, it was silly to think they'd end up atop the standings this year anyway (and somewhere in the back of their head a voice is telling them it was only the first game anyway and there were positives to be taken) but at least it's back. The game is back. The players are back. The Dockers are back. And the sea makes its way onto the buses and the trains and it splits up more and more as the routes get further and further away from the stadium until the sea is a sea no more.

So what have I described here? A blowout wherein a good team destroyed a bad team. And still what? An experience that I will always hold close to me. Like I said, I cannot with ease describe exactly what it is I love about sport. But when I am near it, I know that I am taking in an experience that is much more meaningful than muscle-heads in silly costumes trying to assert testosteronal dominance. No, it's something more than that. It's the smells and the sights and the sounds and the rise of the wave when things are going good and the looks exchanged when things are going bad. It's all that there is to the game and what the game is to the community and what all the games are to the world at large. Whatever the reasons are for my affinity for sport, it is through footy and the Dockers that I've been able to realize it once more and for this I understand it, even if I can't describe it, all the more.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

O Bunbury Town

I spent parts of 5 days, all of 3 days, and 4 nights in the town of Bunbury last week. It is a major industrial city by WA standards. This is a bit of hyperbole on its own, but it is worth noting that a town (Cape residents or visitors think Hyannis-sized) whose suburbs total 100,000 residents is considered one of the biggest cities in the state. It is for reasons such as this that Perth is considered the most isolated city in the world.

Bunbury was neat. Seeing dolphins was a priority for my friend Marissa and certainly a point of interest for myself. However, on the day we set out to see dolphins, we were struck by the worst rain that our humble host, Leon Kneebone, described as the most he's seen in years. We still went to a dolphin museum and drank coffee, but there were no dolphin sightings. I should see them, though, in a few weeks when I set out for the outback and the great Northwest.

This is Back Beach in Bunbury, located in the back of the beach. We went there on a cold day by Aussie standards but it proved to be a nice experience. The water was very fun - some of the waves were massive and most were at least good for a bump around. There were also some really cool areas on the beach. For some reason I became transfixed with this spot, a little inlet into a jetty that waves crashed into save for said inlet, which drew the water in. I took several pictures of this.

We also climbed a look out tower and were, thus, able to look out at the town below us. Bunbury is slow, as may be gathered by its aforementioned small size in spite of its city status. First I thought Sydney was slow, but I hadn't seen anything until I saw Perth, and then I thought Perth was slow, and then I realized I didn't know slow until I saw Bunbury. And I still don't know slow because in a few weeks I'll be rolling through small towns built upon red sand with a general store and a pub and a few houses. That'll be slow.

After spending days seeing the town and going to the beach, nights were spent watching movies and relaxing and enjoying living in a house with a family. There was barbecue to be eaten and relaxing to be done and dogs to share existence with, which is always a positive experience. We watched a great Aussie TV series on DVD (I was shocked to find they exist at last) called Summer Heights High that I first thought would be very gimmicky and potentially dumb because it features one guy playing three different characters in a Mockumentary about an Aussie high school. However, it is very well done and actually gets a little bit heavy while remaining hilarious throughout. There was only one season as it was cancelled for its edginess and it's only 8 episodes so if you're looking for something to do and watch and have 4 hours to kill I definitely recommend watching it online.

I call this one Kneebone and The Orb.




Leon's father, henceforth Papa Kneebone, distills his own burboun and it is delicious.

We returned back to Perth Saturday evening. This was a strange experience. It felt like coming home. It was bizarre and a bit surreal for the place I had spent months and months waiting to visit had come already to feel like home. It was a good thing and I liked it.

I leave you with the Bunbury town anthem, written by a remarkable individual. Fare thee well until next time.

O Bunbury Town O Bunbury Town
Well I've been up and I've been down
And when I get to Bunbury Town
I shall not ever wear a frown

Monday, March 16, 2009


At instances, I am struck with a sudden sense of awareness. Where everything flashes forward in front of me. Suddenly the paths taken are quite clear and there could be no other path because I have ended up where I am and that is the only place I could have ended up therefore. Sometimes such a rush puts me at great unease but other times it leaves me in a state of religious-like awe, and when I think about the fact that I am living life for a few months on the total opposite side of the world, slowly assimilating to a new culture that is definitively different from the one I know in the northeast of the United States, I am struck with such awe.

I don't have much to talk about this week. There was the Ultimate tournament. It was fun, I think. It was 2 days ago and my body is still in massive pain from the amount of frisbee played in 37C degree weather. It hurts to breathe. Team Happy Pig went 2-2, good for third place. In our last game, we were down 7-1 and came back and won to claim third place. That was cool. It was like the Celtics-Lakers game 4 last year in the finals. There was a part in that game where the Lakers faces went from: "Hey now, we're okay, we'll be fine, just a few points," to, even though the C's did not quite yet have the lead, "We're doomed." And by the time it was tied again it was all over. Our comeback was an immediate one, wherein we went from down 7-1 to up 8-7 at halftime. I had one play of significance during the turning of the tide wherein we turned it over just outside our endzone and they had an opportunity for a quick point and my guy got free from me for a second but I caught up to him and as the disc was coming to him I slapped it out of the air and felt good about myself, as a childhood brought up on youth soccer and little league will create a situation wherein athletic success yields self-confidence. Not really. But sort of.

There were two teams at the tournament, Sublime A and Sublime O, that borderline turned me off Ultimate though. They had been training since October for this tournament and had a monopoly on the tournament what with two teams. O is the B team. I tried asking the significance of the O and one of the A people gave me a dirty look and said, "That's a Sublime guys thing." Which leads me to the next point: They were all kind of assholes. They called fouls frequently and if you called a foul they'd argue it with shouts and took a sport that's supposed to be about fun and made it uber-macho-competitive and no fun at all. They were both extremely good teams, but they did not stand for what I consider Ultimate to be about. Made me miss SUC a bit, to be honest. SUC shall do anything but suck (har har har) this coming summer.

I in no way deserve to be on a break right now with 12 days off of classes. I have done one assignment thus far and it was quite a fun time. It feels too easy so far. I hope I am not trapped later. I am heading down south today for a few days. That'll be neat.

I think for next week I'll try and put up some photos. I have bought batteries and should be able to take pictures now. Maybe I'll do something real neat for next week's blog entry. Of the week. Adam's Weekly Blog Entry of the Week Which Displays a Strong Appreciation for Redundancy and Repetitiveness and Redundancy and Repetitiveness and Redundancy and Repetitiveness and Redundancy and Repetitiveness and Redundancy and Repetitiveness.

I hear it's getting warm in Boston. That's one of my favorite times in the city, when it starts to thaw and you can walk around it and everything smells good and baseball's in the air. I'll miss baseball quite a bit. These feelings border on homesickness but they aren't quite sad ones. Mostly it's just an appreciation for what and all thart is back there even as I enjoy myself here and continue to consider where I am and how I got here.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Bloggin' It Up

A large aspect of a semester abroad, at least I am told, is personal development, learning life lessons, etc. I have thus far learned one life lesson and it is this: If a pack of rowdy ten year olds do it, you have to too.

Such was my realization last Saturday as I stood at the edge of a cliff about forty or forty-five feet above water. Having already easily conquered the twenty-five foot plunge, it seemed natural to move up a bit. However, staring over said edge created feelings of uneasiness and terror that I was not quite familiar with and my mates, Josh and F. Yves, and I seemed poised to perhaps not attempt the conquer.

Enter the wee-folk. As we were exchanging uneasy glances, strong sounds of whooping and yipping and yapping came upon us and as we turned around we saw a massive herd of pre-teens jumping the fence to the cliff and without hesitation they ran to the edge and threw themselves off in a series of backflips and body contortions just like that. Again I shared glances with my fellow weary travelers but in this instance they were glances of an unwillingness to be so mightily shown up by humans half our age and size and so we jumped and it was spectacular.

On the way back I drank a liter and a half of iced coffee and that created sleeping problems that night, unfortunate as I was due awake at 7:30 AM to experience a day at Rottnest Island.

Rotto, as it's known, was a very neat place indeed with lots of things such as sand, trees, water, and oxygen. In truth, I don't much know how to describe the is a small island about half an hour off the coast of Freo. Its circumfrence is about fifteen miles and in our day we covered it all by bike. This was mighty exhausting. There were a few stops, all for snorkling purposes. Snorkling was neat and I saw a few really neat looking fish, some of whom likely could have passed for characters in Finding Nemo despite the fact that the great film takes place on a coast opposite the one I have claimed as my own. There was also a part on the journey wherein we stopped to buy water. Also, we found one beach that was extremely secluded and off the bike path and we went down there to hang out and as it turned out there was a four foot snake that also wanted to hang out with us. Leon Kneebone, an Australian friend who we like to keep around, full of wisdom and knowledge, told us the snake may be very poisonous or it might be the not-poison kind. This was also the beach wherein my cell phone went for a swim and I am now enjoying a life liberated from what has become a limb.

I don't know...when it comes to Rotto my memories are more strongly connected to what I saw as opposed to what I did, and some of the sights were just incredible. Standing at the edge of a reef-cliff overlooking turquoise water that runs to the horizon until making a seamless transition into the blue sky and watching it all in front of me is what I'll remember most about that neat little place. Also, dolphin sightings were neat. Oh, and I also strongly recall having an incredible pizza craving all day that was satisfied upon returning before I passed out for twelve hours. I think I'll say neat again here. Neat.

My first spring break is approaching. I thought it'd be a bit boring given the fact that most of my American friends are heading off to the Great Barrier Reef or New Zealand and I really just can't afford any crazy treks like that, but turns out it'll be pretty great. I have my Ultimate tournament on the Sunday, have found an Irish pub to spend St. Patty's Day at, and will be spending the mid-week traveling south with the Kneebone and friend Marissa (should probably do a blog entry just to introduce the cast at some point) to Leon's hometown of Bunburry, which will involve seeing some neat beaches and lots of dolphins and also a train that has a store on it that sells coffee and pies. It should be a fun week.

I bought myself real food this week! No more isntant noodles etc. Steak and such is much preferable.

Yesterday there was a Crabfest half an hour south in Mandurah and I attended. Not too much going on really but it was cool to see a new place and there was some value to eating a crab at the Crabfest and Dylan bought two very small swords so that was intriguing. What else at the Crabfest...good ice cream I suppose. Hm, I guess there really wasn't much there. A band played the Power Rangers song.

Then I went out to Perth city at night to Northbridge which is the nightlife capital of the area but also considered extremely sketchy (I guess they go hand-in-hand). Great night, awesome time, will go back. I went to the bed while the sun was waking up, which was neat.

Evidently we have a new dog at home.

Now a riddle: What has 8 legs and spins a web?

Stay tuned for the answer!