The non-Footy Season Survival Guide

Despite all the anti-football posturing I’ve displayed in recent years, I still feel an empty pang inside as the routine of the season grinds to a halt following the Grand Final.

If you’re anything like me as a football fan, you manage to survive as nine games became four when the finals kick off. Four games then become two weeks of only two matches. And then, Grand Final day: Christmas for footy fans, without the shopping centre nightmares. Once the full-time siren goes, though, it’s like pulling the emergency brake on a train; everything comes to an almighty screaming halt (let’s assume that your team didn’t collect a premiership, shall we?).

For me, the moments after the big game’s over is anti-climactic – kind of like Christmas lunch when the dishes are finished, everyone’s napping  (or punching on – depending on how much of the Irish-Catholic resentments that have been repressed over the year have finally bubbled over after a few drinks) and you look around and ask yourself; “fuck… what’s next?”

Plenty – is the answer.

Below, and in something resembling a vague chronological order (with the exception of NFL and NBA/NBL – which run through the majority of October, November December and January), I’ve listed a heap of ways for you to fill the void of no footy.

Instead of bagging out the suggestions, remember the saying: free your mind and yo’ass will follow and it will be pre-season challenge time before you know what hit you.

EPL
You don’t have to love the world game to love the English Premier League. ALMOST all of the best players in the caper are currently in the EPL, so you’re not watching a bunch of schnedleys running around at 3am on a Sunday morning. Kick offs in the EPL are often at midnight or thereabouts so even if you don’t have pay telly, a lot of pubs show matches live. It’s a great way to get out of the house and meet that classy English backpacking lass from Essex who’s up “for a bit of fun, like, eh”. If you DO have Foxtel at home, you can invite the lads around to yours for some lagers (beers become lagers in the world game) and crisps, play some Manchester shoe-gazing bands pre-kick off and make jokes about how early it is in the morning and how you could really go a curry.

Phrases to Use to Look Knowledgeable (PTUTLK): Stoppage time, under the kosh, transfer window, sacked manager, banter, gaffer, terraces, who ate all the fookin’ pies? Lagers, nutters.

A-League
Despite the imminent threat to personal safety and physical well-being that flat-earth old-media outlets would have you believe, going to an A-League sokkah match is actually a really good way to spend an afternoon – whether with the family or the lads (AFL and NRL has ‘boys’. Once you walk through the gates, boys become ‘lads’ and verbal abuse is ‘banter’. Remember this). The food’s overpriced, the referees often look like they have no idea what’s going on and are continually abused throughout the match, you have stupid seating prices and policies despite half the joint being empty, so when you think about it, its just like being at an AFL or NRL match! Also, seeing that games can be played in 35 degree heat in the middle of the day, it’s a great way to work on the tan.

PTUTLK – See EPL. Also: Malaka, flares, riverside, northend, southend, if it’s good for Sydney FC it’s good for the game, look at all those Wanderers fans, I hear Liverpool wants to buy them…

NFL
All jokes aside, NFL is possibly my favourite summer sport. It’s just like a chess game except the pawns check in at 200cm, weigh 130kg and want to seriously injure the guy standing opposite them. A lot of people will tell you they can’t follow the rules, and I ask; how is this any different from League and AFL? Yes, the players wear helmets and padding, but these have all the effectiveness and protection of a placing a bandaid over a shotgun wound to the head. The genuine downside is the timezone differences (the bulk of games get underway between 4am and 7am on a Monday morning) and if any sport is television friendly, it’s American football. Did you know that actual game time in a NFL fixture is 60 minutes? Yet the broadcast takes THREE HOURS. You have commercial breaks for change of possession, commercial breaks after a touchdown, commercial breaks after a punt and then you’ve got the Two-Minute warning at the bottom of the second and fourth quarters, with commercial breaks for each of those. If you’ve ever watched live NFL on ESPN Australia/New Zealand, you’ll know that they have only five ads on a continual loop for the whole game. Let’s face it, you can watch promos for Monster Trucks and Pro-Bull Riding only so many times before wanting to go postal.

PTUTLK – Spousal abuse, steroid use, weapons charges, ground game, hail mary, nickel package, secondary, College draft, fantasy football, franchise

Racing
You’ve seen those Tom Waterhouse, SportingBet and TAB ads all football season long. Your four year old child – who’s only just learned to count past 10 – has asked you to explain what the anchor leg of a multi-bet is. You know what line betting means. You’re a pro. You may not be aware of this, but bookies also offer wagering on horse races. Crazy, but true. You don’t have to wait until next footy season to lose money! But seriously folks, Melbourne in Spring is when the best middle-distance horses from around the world come to Melbourne chasing the Melbourne Cup at Flemington. There genuinely isn’t anything like the quality of racing offered up with the likes of the Caulfield Cup, the Cox Plate and the VRC Derby over six weeks like Melbourne in October and November. It is sensational. The downside: Television coverage is just a Swisse and Myer ad with some horse races getting in the way and you’ll see far too much Johanna Griggs and nowhere near enough Francesca Cumani. Bogans love the spring carnival (and white shoes with black suits, excessive hair product and white shades on the head) and getting a bet and a beer sorted if you’re on track at any of these days is a bona-fide nightmare. Upside? Apart from the first class racing, it’s the women looking just stunning and thousands upon thousands of eHarmony profile pictures will be collated and posted to the site by 6pm on the Saturday night after the VRC Derby.

PTUTLK – Nicely weighted, penalty, badly drawn gate, hoop, whips, Myer, order of entry, foreign raiders, sample irregularity, colourful racing identity, Bart Cummings, Peter Moody, Swisse, battling trainer, dream come true.

Cricket
Nothing says ‘White Australia Policy’ like cricket ‘season’. A shining example of inclusion, diversity and a mirror on contemporary multicultural Australian society it is not. Cricket is the sport that Tea Party and Republican voters in American politics would flock to and Cricket – as a sport – has shown that it’s about as adaptable to a changing world as a moon rock and as forward thinking as the Mayor of Pompeii. But just try and keep me away from the Boxing Day test. You can spare me Twenty20 cricket and no one seems to care about the 50-over games anymore, but they’ll be prying my MCC membership from my cold, dead hands and hauling my stinking carcass from the Percy Beames bar before I miss the Boxing Day test.

PTUTLK – KFC, Commonwealth Bank, Slats, Warnie, reverse swing, appropriate collars.

The Australian Open (Tennis)
If the summer of cricket doesn’t fill you with enough Nationalistic jingoism and misplaced patriotic ferver, grab your wifebeater, tie an Australian flag around your neck like it’s a cape, get a ‘Fuck Off, We’re Full’ tattoo and pretend to give a shit about tennis for two weeks in January. Make yourself extra popular amongst your circle of friends by joining the ‘fanatics’ – a group of hooray-for-everything, exclusively white card-carrying ‘Students for Christ’ accounting/law undergraduate nobodies who like to sing and somehow find themselves in prime seats for centre-court matches involving Australians. Nothing suss, I’m sure. The upside here is they only get oxygen while ‘Aussies’ remain in the Mens and Womens singles draw, and being a Grand Slam event, means you only have to put up with these cockheads for the first four days. Oh, and don’t expect to see any quality tennis until the quarters. The host broadcaster likes to follow the local hopes, which is admirable, but just pray that none of the top 10 ranked players drop a set or even a match, because Seven will be giving preference to Novak Djokovic playing some spam wild-card Aussie with a career best ranking of 186 – on centre court, no less.

PTUTLK – Bundled out, tram lines, backspin, en tout cas, baseline rallies, Aussie-Aussie-Aussie, C’mmmmmoooon! Aussie hopes, koalas, Red Foo is fucking that? Aussie Lleyt, Our Sam, Aussie Nick, Our Bernard,

Basketball
You know those Miami Heat hats and L.A. Lakers singlets you see all the cool kids wearing? This is the sport they play. It’s called Basketball, or for the truly cool – hoops. But all jokes aside, NBA games can be a great sport to get immersed in over the summer months. There’s games played just about every day of the week, the time difference between Australia and both U.S coasts is Goldilocks and pay telly here does a pretty good job of covering them. Like sokkah, if you don’t have pay, there’s plenty of places show games on big screens thanks to the almighty wagering dollar. FFS, they even schedule NBA games for CHRISTMAS DAY. In a country where you can’t even say ohmygod on t.v without sending religious types into a frenzy, that’s really saying something about this sport. And the local product? No, the NBL is nowhere near the standard of the NBA, but I dare you to go along to a game and not enjoy it. The local guys play it hard, tough and fast. Like its U.S counterpart, its a great sport to get caught up in over summer. You could be forgiven for thinking that the latest incarnation of the NBL is doing everything it can to fuck things up, but hopefully this latest season can see some great basketball being played – even if Melbournians have to try and ignore that one of the most successful sporting organisations this town has ever seen doesn’t exist anymore.

PTUTLK – Driving strong to the hoop, from downtown, Byeee Felicia! Charity stripe, a thriller in overtime, the post, Kobe, LeBron, one-on-one, tip off.

So that’s about it. The above suggestions should see you through October to late January and beyond.

Before you know it, it’ll be time for the pre-season competitions to get underway in the League and the AFL and who knows, you might have just picked up an appreciation for sports that you’d previously overlooked.

You’re welcome.

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