I will be uploading a daily(ish) blog during my 3 week stay in Australia, and this trip is made possible by SportsHosts. The following is a part of this series!
My nerves finally kicked in as my boarding group was called at Los Angeles airport. The good kind of nerves; the ones you feel on your first day of a new job or on a first date. It had taken them long enough to arrive. I guess when I finally got on the plane, I realized that nothing more could get in my way; I was officially on my way to Australia where I will be for the next 21 days.
About 6 months ago, I received a message on Instagram from a company called SportsHosts. I sent a reply, assuming it was going off to the black hole of the internet, believing I would never hear a response from this obviously fake company. They were too perfect; they fit who I am and what I believe in just too well. Yet, here I am sitting in Australia with them, experiencing the best of most exciting parts Australian sports and culture. And, they wasted no time starting off my trip with a bang.
I was greeted by Darren and Mike, SportsHosts co-founders. I was feeling pretty well despite just having just traveled 24 hours to get here. Luckily, I had time to shower prior to starting the day officially. It is currently fall (or as I have been told many times it is called Autumn), and the weather is pretty darn close to perfect.
My day started off with grabbing a bite to eat with Darren and Mike. While we have chatted many times, this was our first time actually meeting each other. We had a busy day planned, so it was nice to have the time to sit down and just kind of soak it all in. From there, we went to a radio interview with a local station in Melbourne, 3AW Melbourne. Like I said, we hit the ground running once I arrived in Australia! It is always great getting the chance to talk about SportsHosts and what I do as a cultural anthropologist; it is a message I really believe in and love hearing how excited people get when we discuss it.
After our radio interview, we went to grab a coffee but somehow ended up in a park with Mike teaching me the basics (and I mean the very basics) of cricket and Aussie rules football. I am sure I will have more time to learn, but based off my initial go at it, I would make for a horrible cricket player. I may have better luck at footy (but, probably not much there either).
Our next stop was an incredible tour of the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). My god, this place is huge. I have seen a lot of stadiums in my life – both in the US and abroad – and this stadium is impressive. Walking down the ground level and just looking up… I can’t even imagine how the players hear themselves think when the seats are full of rowdy fans.
The tour takes you down to the lower level where the players and teams are situated before and after the game. Both cricket and the AFL (Australian Football League) play here, and our tour guide showed us how the venue changes for both.
The most fascinating part of the tour was going to The Long Room. The Long Room is for members only (and the waitlist to become a member used to be an impressive 40-ish years), and there is a strict dress code. Before I saw it myself, the room was described to me as “very posh.” Men are required to wear collared shirts, and women are required to dress in a similar “smart” manner. No jeans or non-tailored pants are allowed. The view of the pitch inside the room is remarkable.
The most fascinating part was the sign on the couches in front of the window with the view. The sign read “please respect the tradition of senior members wishing to occupy the Long Room couches.” There is just nothing like in the United States. I can’t wait to see more of these kinds of cultural nuances through my trip here.
After our tour was complete, we finished off our day with a tour of the National Sports Museum, which is inside the MCG. In case it wasn’t already clear to me, the main sports here (and in Melbourne) are cricket and the AFL with the emphasis being on the AFL. Here I learned a little more about the history of sport in Australia, and had a chance to show off my skills at the interactive side of the museum (read: embarrass myself with my lack of skills). I will blame it on my exhaustion and jet lag… I will have to find another excuse for later in the trip!
We left the MCG around dusk. It was quiet and calm. I can only imagine how different it will feel down here on Tuesday – ANZAC Day. One of the biggest matches of the year will take place between Collingwood and Essendon, and an average crowd size between 80,000 – 90,000 people. I get goosebumps just thinking about it. I can’t wait to see what else is in store for me here in Australia!