Saturday, April 29, 2006

Goal umpire

In 1965, as part of a vain attempt to interest me in organised sports, they made me goal umpire at the school football game.

This was Australian Rules football; a unique game. There are four goal posts. Two tall ones in the middle and two shorter ones, one on each side of the taller ones. Kick the ball through the tall ones and you've scored a goal, 6 points. Kick the ball between a tall one and and short one and you've kicked a behind, 1 point. Yep, Australian Rules football is one of the few games where it's a good thing to kick a behind!

At the AFL (Australian Football League)[^] games they have a goal umpire at each end of the ground. When the ball goes between the posts all eyes are on him. If it's a behind he stabs a single hand out. If it's a goal he holds both hands out in much the same way that a trout fisher shows off the size of his latest catch! I'm told that when it's a goal the crowd behind will chant 'how big is your dick!'. Maybe you have to be there!

The last time I attended a real football match, as opposed to compulsory attendance at a school one, was in June 1960 and I really feel that it's not long enough ago that I want to go again any time soon!

So there they were trying to interest me in a team game. For as long as I can remember I've had about as much enthusiasm for organised sports as I have for gargling with sulphuric acid. Poor fools imagined that making me a goal umpire might change things.

Certainly I had to watch the game closely. Our match was between my school, Yarraville West Primary, and Spotswood Primary, played at the Yarraville Football Ground. And I swear I called the game honestly. Why wouldn't I? I didn't care if we won or they won. But I fear that a score of 22/22 for us versus 1/1 for them created a climate of suspicion that I was unable to dispel.

I used, at one time, to think it a badge of honour that I'd never been to the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground)[^]. Driven past it certainly, travelled by train past it, walked in the park beside it, but never actually parked in the car park let alone enter a gate leading into it.

I didn't reckon on Mike[^] at Unisys. Unisys was a corporate sponsor, meaning they'd spent some thousands of dollars for the right to have their logo appear somewhere on the site and which sponsorship gave them access to a corporate box. Sometime in 1993 Mike, number 2 in the Australian organisation, decided that we'd have a team building exercise and where better than the Mecca of Melbourne Sport? With deep reluctance I crossed the threshhold. It was sometime in January and the Indian Cricket team were practising down on the ground as we sat around nodding solemnly and playing the corporate game.

The roast beef was good but the wine was better!

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