The real tragedy of footy season
The days are shorter and colder and that can only mean one thing — footy season is in full swing. The whole of Australia is suddenly obsessed with football, football players and their glamorous counterparts — the wives and girlfriends often referred to as WAGS.
Such is the status of WAGS that there have been TV shows written about them — hundreds of meters of newspaper print dedicated to their Brownlow dresses, and in certain cases they can even eclipse their better halves. Given much of this attention is even sought out by the WAGS, a more cynical person than me might even speculate that the potential to be elevated to WAG status and resultant social media hits is their chief reason for dating a footballer in the first place. But these people get more than enough media attention, it’s time to shine the spotlight on a much larger but oft forgotten group of people — the football widows.
Football widowhood occurs when one person in a relationship is a footy fanatic and the other … isn’t. Of course there isn’t always such a discrepancy between partners in their dedication to our national sport. I know of couples who both share their lack of interest and are free to spend their winter weekends going to wineries, playing chess or whatever else takes their fancy.
And I know people for whom it would be sacrilegious to date someone who barracks for a different team, so once they find a similarly single-minded partner they only feed into each other’s footy hysteria. Then there’s the rest of us; nodding along and feigning interest while our partner prattles on about the stats from last weekend, having to deal with the emotional outbursts that accompany a loss, and never, ever, ever being able to make plans for any weekend in winter and even part of spring.
Being an AFL devotee these days is a full time job. Friday nights through to Sunday are sacred match days, with the odd Thursday thrown in for good measure. On top of this there are all the TV shows you have to watch during the week so you can properly comprehend what happened on the field on the weekend (Footy Classified, Marngrook, Talking Footy, On the Couch, The Front Bar …). And all this is before you even factor in Dream Team — the football fantasy game; essentially it is all the stress of coaching an AFL team with none of the pay cheque. There’s barely enough time for fans to wash their lucky guernsey between rounds, let alone spend time with their significant others.
I can only assume that the GDP of Australia drops during winter too, as insignificant things such as work are left by the wayside so that the footy tipping competition can be conducted. Appropriate time needs to be spent assessing each team’s performance, history, injuries, selections and finally making and picking a team. This is then followed up on Mondays by a review of the previous round’s selections and what went wrong and where they sit on the ladder. Surely workplace productivity would increase significantly if footy tipping competitions were banned, but that would be un-Australian.
Of course it is a lot easier now to get your AFL fix than it used to be. Gone are the days of people sneaking out of weddings to huddle around the radio of the closest car. Now that it is possible to watch matches on smartphones, it makes football tragics easy to spot out in the wild. You’ll see them nominally participating in everyday life while trying to look at their screens on the sly, stifling their cries of joy when a goal is scored in the middle of the supermarket/children’s party/very serious event much to their partners chagrin.
I know of people who have changed phone carriers just so they can have better access to games. Many a Saturday afternoon will spent switching attention from the game playing on the TV to a different game playing on the phone, with the dogged intensity of a Collingwood supporter avoiding the dentist.
And it all starts to escalate as the pointy end of the season gets closer. While a beloved AFL team making it into the finals is a joyful event for many, it only serves to lengthen the pain and suffering of the footy widow. Twenty three rounds, followed by five (5) weeks of finals is over half the year! And that’s not even including the pre-season games and the AFLW. I don’t think it would be easy being a WAG. The constant media scrutiny, the extreme grooming, trying to hold a conversation with someone who thinks that having a Southern Cross tattoo is a meaningful patriotic statement. But still, next time the WAGS are hogging all the spotlight, spare a thought for the footy widows. They are the real BOG.