Four reasons why South Australians and Tasmanians (and probably Western Australians) were annoyed by the MCG BBL crowd

Apparently 80,883 people went to the BBL match between the two Melbourne franchises on Saturday evening. They kept that quiet. T20 domestic cricket is finally legitimised. It is a ‘thing’ now that the sporting capital of Australia, nay, the world, has dipped its lid. The Age was particularly vocal on this fact with an article from Greg Baum, confirming the match had conferred essential thingness to the competition. Meanwhile Jesse Hogan quoted Stephen Fleming in his dramatic headline (that’s what they’re for after all) about the ‘massive’ crowd sending ‘shockwaves through the cricketing world’.

A frequent and engaging Twitter user, Hogan didn’t get quite the response he expected.

 

 

Instead, it appears his timeline was filled with grumpier than normal South Australians and Tasmanians taking affront and some of the back. At the time I attempted to elucidate the subject:

 


However, I fear 140 characters is not sufficient to unpack this issue. So here’s a few more characters from a grumpier than normal South Australian to help explain why we were annoyed by the BBL crowd at the MCG on Saturday evening (noting Jesse’s tweet was broader than that).

 

1. It wasn’t the crowd that annoyed us

It’s great to see such a big crowd at the MCG. In other states we have been going for some time now because we think it’s the best, most affordable family entertainment around in the summer. However, it’s not even vaguely the first time that a cricket stadium has been 80% full at a BBL game or that a game-changingly large crowd had been to a match. It wasn’t the crowd that annoyed us.

 

2. We are oh so tired of Victorian cultural imperialism

You could not pick three worse states to be the most already engaged with BBL to then say the competition wasn’t a thing until now. The VFL tore the guts out of Western Australian football in the 1980s, South Australian football in the 1990s and continues to break Tasmanian hearts. You take all their good players and throw in the occasional game but would rather heavily subsidise multiple teams in rugby league strongholds before considering Tasmania for one. But, please Tasmanians, pick a Victorian team and occasionally buy some merchandise if that’s not too much trouble.

As much as we of the other southern states may participate in enthusiastic and large numbers, at its soul the AFL is an exercise in Victorian cultural imperialism. In Victoria the VFL is seen as contiguous with the AFL – everything else is discarded as third rate. The game’s history, told by the victors, is a very Victorian affair. Every grand final is held at the home ground of Victorian teams. What other national competition in the world does that? No doubt there is at least one but you get the point. To even suggest the possibility that the AFL Grand Final could be played somewhere other than the MCG is to be mocked as a simpleton.

So when you fill our timelines with ‘isn’t it great that quite a few Victorians went to a BBL game – that must mean it’s real now’ we get your point. Of course the BBL can’t truly be successful without the engagement of the biggest markets. However excuse us if we treat this narrative as culturally loaded with meaning beyond ‘gee, that is a good crowd’. If you don’t get that, it betrays your prejudices as much as it does ours.

 

3. 46,389 at Adelaide Oval > 80,883 at the MCG

Really, it just is. The MCG’s appeal is in its past, not the present. In the meaning it has had for people as Australia’s largest stadium, not the actual experience of watching a game in 2016. Adelaide Oval has a wonderful past but its appeal is very much right now. The average fan is in the region of 10 metres closer to the centre of the ground at Adelaide Oval and several times more excitable. 35,000 people at Adelaide Oval make more noise and create more ‘atmosphere’ than 85,000 at the MCG (having experienced both I am qualified to make that statement although moderately biased in making it). Simply put, as much as you may lionise a large crowd at the MCG, the world has moved on and got itself better places to watch sport.

The per capita argument – this argument troubles me but I’m going to make it anyway. Given the relative populations of the cities involved, 46,389 at Adelaide Oval is roughly equivalent to 151, 552 at the MCG. What’s more, 17,151 at Bellerive is equivalent to 340,276 at the MCG. This is a one-way argument – smaller cities should not argue that their attendances are impressive on a per capita basis. Otherwise all cricket matches would occur in front of 15 men and a camel at Birdsville. However, if people wish to suggest that 80,000 people at a cricket match in a city of four million is impressive and somehow confers legitimacy then the per capita door is wide open. It ain’t that impressive, it should be expected and is not worthy of smugness.

 

4. We have massive chips on our shoulders

Yep, we do (refer to Point 2). The fact that I have written this piece amply demonstrates that. But do not commit the logical fallacy of dismissing the argument because of the place it comes from.

So, well done Victoria. We are glad you have joined us on the BBL bandwagon. It is a genuinely exciting time for this form of cricket and it’s great to be able to watch it with large, diverse, young crowds. I mean eating a watermelon whole – who does that? It has reinvigorated cricket in Australia (go ask any junior cricket club). But the BBL was already a thing before you discovered it on Saturday night, although we admire your Endeavour.

About Dave Brown

Upholding the honour of the colony. "Play up Norwoods!"

Comments

  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Dave to say I agree with every single word is a massive understatement

  2. It’s an interesting conundrum to consider the logistics of where to hold the ‘big dance’ of any sport really. The NRL grand final last year between two Qld teams is a good example of exactly the same gripe that interstate (non-Victorian ones) have with the AFL GF. Now I believe that there are contractual agreements with the codes that tie a certain amount of finals to the same big stadiums every year and of course it would not have been feasible to shift the GF to Brisbane or Townsville at a week’s notice. The fact that there is a sell out crowd anyway, and I’m sure this happens when the WCE or Crows or Swans (or even if the Lions ever return to three-peat glory days) are in it, is due to the fans traveling at not insignificant expense to support their teams. On the other hand, if you look at national competitions, such as the NFL, which rotate the Superbowl to a different venue every year, you probably rarely see the home team figure in that final, meaning fans almost every year have to travel to support their team. I happened to be in England in 1993 and went to see the European Cup Winner’s Cup final at Wembley stadium, contested by two European teams from the continent. The game was not really well attended and the venue had been picked before the start of the season and ultimately didn’t figure a team from the UK. I certainly agree with Dave’s contention that suggesting that the BBL has “arrived” because of a big crowd at the MCG for a local derby is a bit insulting to the rest of the states, but I wonder what could be a solution re Grand finals to satisfy the interstate supporters of the National competitions?

  3. Matthew Brown says

    Hey Dave. Good points, well presented. The only catch is that the Victorians just don’t care – they just don’t and probably never will.

    Being an Adelaide, the city, fan (and as a FIFO I put my money where my mouth is) I reckon your point 3 carries the most weight. Adelaide oval is a better experience – at least for me personally and probably objectively – and I’m happy to enjoy that for what it is. I like to think that the Victorian cultural imperialism acts as filter so that we only get the “good Victorians” (yes, yes, yes: oxymoron) coming over to visit the Adelaide oval.

    The only other thing to say is to repeat the time honoured SA chant: “we hate you because you’re …”.

  4. John Butler says

    Dave, your reluctance to fall in with the spin and rinse cycle of the BBL is positively un-Australian. Just ask Cricket Australia.

    But the idea that a Melbourne paper might want to pump up Melbourne shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. Just think of it like a Michelangelo Rucci article on Port Power.or the Crows.

  5. Great article Dave. Still it’s like complaining to your wife about your mother-in-law. Or to the BCCI about the state of test cricket. Why should they care? They hold all the aces.
    Still Adelaide has the best sporting stadium for spectators in the country. Perth has the best cricket and basketball team – Scorchers and Wildcats. Tassie has the champion Lonny Hawks.
    Let them eat cake.

  6. citrus bob utber says

    Dave Brown – South Australian of the Year if you leave out Jamie Briggs
    My best sports ground in Australia by far is the Adelaide Oval with Melbourne coming a poor second.
    Of course Melbourne are always going to get the biggest crowds the per capita argument is very compelling.
    To be a little cynical The Age and more so The Herald Sun promote these events like there is nothing else on earth. You don’t have to look past Rupert for the answers.
    Dave happened to go to a wedding in Geelong on Saturday and 14.8% of the crowd were from Adelaide. Bigger write up and better pics in the Adelaide Ade as well.
    Keep up the anti Vic kicking – nothing will ever happen unless guys like you and Michelangelo keep the “pot hot”

  7. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I’m not sure why you are so cranky on this one Dave. Let them think they are superior, meanwhile you can cherish those other things that make SA Great, like Bicks, Rowey, Willsy, The Beach House, The Old Gum Tree, Blackebys, Frewville Foodland, the O-Bahn and Australia’s first Hello Kitty Cafe. Oh, and Bob Neil.

  8. Luke Reynolds says

    Just wait until we get our grubby, imperialist, Victorian hands on your day/night Test….

  9. Keiran Croker says

    Dave, As a Victorian, nay Melbournite, I pretty much agree with you. I had noticed for a few years that most other States support their one day and 20/20 cricket teams to a greater level than we do.
    The MCG is pretty soulless, for any crowd less than 40,000. I prefer the Adelaide Oval and SCG.
    Though maybe we just have more bogans per head of population willing to turn up on big occasions?

  10. DBalassone says

    Some fair points Dave. I will say however that I reckon the packed crowds in SA, WA, Qld and Tassie have a lot to do with those states only have one side. I reckon with Vic and NSW fans having two sides to follow was confusing and meant that the state passion wasn’t quite there in the same way that it was for the one-team states. Had there only been one Vic side at the G, I have no doubt they would have been getting these massive 70,000-80,000 crowds from the outset.
    I’m glad you realise the fallacy of the per capita argument – otherwise we will start comparing Hobart crowds favourably to Calcutta crowds.

  11. Dave Brown says

    Thanks for the comments, all. Next step, clearly, is to register the ‘Kick a Vic’ political party and get myself elected to the SA Legislative Council.

    TG – while it’s impossible to make as much money from selling corporate packages anywhere else, not much point even considering the AFL question.

    John – the Rooch only pumps up Port Adelaide. Nonetheless, the ’tiser has several other footy journalists to perform the role. Funny how it gets called parochial when the ’tiser does it but not the Age. Did I just defend the ’tiser? Sincerest apologies

    True enough PB & MB

    Such a compliment Citrus Bob (actually had me in tears of laughter when I read it). Would suggest that the narrative that surrounded your grandson’s wedding (congratulations) fits very nicely into a cultural imperialism argument (i.e. while he made a very personal and difficult decision it was framed by the AFL media in as a fait accompli because ‘why would anybody want to stay?’). Very impressed with his twitter stand last night by the way.

    There is certainly a great joy to be had in revelling in our parochialism, Swish. Perhaps sounds better if we call it exceptionalism.

    :) True, Luke – you’ll no doubt put black and white stripes on it.

    A per capita bogan off, Keiran. Interesting concept.

    No doubt the two franchise system mitigates against big crowds, DBalassone, particularly in Melbourne.

  12. Bah humbug Mr Brown.

    No really, some good points, well elucidated.

    Can I contest a couple of arguments?

    As a person who grew up in the West, the VFL did not tear “the guts out of Western Australian football in the 1980s”. That the best footballers in WA gravitated to the VFL (and had been doing so for decades) had more to do with which competition offered the greater challenges – I believe that is something that has been going on since Moses was a boy – rather than a VFL conspiracy. In fact the WAFL Commission “tore the guts out of WA football” in its haste to establish a WA team in the VFL. It left its own competition in a heap. At the time, West Australians really believed the WA team (the Eagles) was going to beat the Victorians at their own game! As opposed to the Eagles being just another VFL team. A history of the three main Leagues (Vic, SA and WA … sorry Tassie) in the 80s and how each of these entities (and the men in charge) stuffed up the chance to build a true national competition would make for heady reading. In that I reckon you’d find culpability across all three Leagues. And vanity. And hubris.

    My second point (tongue firmly in cheek): You claim the atmosphere of a 35,000 crowd at the newly furbished Adelaide Oval is akin to 80,000 at the G … because you’ve been to both grounds. I’m going to take the word of a more independent witness. Josh Gibson. I spoke with him following the Hawks first visit to said ground to play Port in 2014. I asked him about the atmosphere. He said it was just brilliant. Really powerful. He said 50,000 at Adelaide Oval was like 70 to 80,000 at the G. So, you know, if Gibbo says it, it must be true. Therefore the crowd at the G for the Big Bash thingy was worth making a fuss about!

    I attended the Big Bash game on Saturday in that 80,000 crowd. I don’t care whether one State or city has the most passion for the game but it really was staggering to see that many people at a cricket match. It was hard to comprehend. As for the game (and this was my first time at a Big Bash), I could not make sense of it. Whatever else it might be (and I’m going to sound really old now) it ain’t cricket.

    Cheers

  13. Urban Dictionary:
    ” ‘little brother syndrome’
    When one person feels they have a rivalry with another far superior person. The superior person usually doesn’t know about it or feel that the little brother is any kind of a threat. The little brother usually puts forth maximum effort in meaningless situations in order to get the feeling of a win over his rival.”

  14. John Butler says

    I believe that sound was the slap of the gauntlet?

    DB, The Age is every bit as parochial as the ‘Tiser. Just minus the peculiar tribal rituals of the Murdoch press.

  15. Andrew Greene says

    * swats away that pesky fly *

  16. Dave Brown says

    Thanks for further comments folks – great thing about comments is the extent to which people enjoy playing to type, myself very much included.

    Thanks Rick. Quite a bit of rhetorical flourish in the ripping of guts – cultural imperialism is felt nonetheless. Like you I would love to read a critical investigative piece on the three leagues in that period. My perspective is regardless of the short sightedness of state leagues in not moving more quickly to establish a truly national league, it was only ever going to end one way because the VFL was capable of generating most $ and wield the influence that generates. I was going to defer to Gibbo until I went to the Strikers last night. I don’t reckon we should be too reductive in defining cricket. Let a hundred flowers blossom (and, yes, I did just quote Chairman Mao) and let them all be cricket.

    Tad ad hominem there ER. Presume you found the urban dictionary definition for Big Brother Syndrome.

    Once again, John, can only apologise for defending the ’tiser. It is not even that absorbent.

    Andrew – would highly recommend those swatters shaped like a thong. Practical and archetypically Australian.

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