A day at the cricket

Hubs, Hanno and I went to the MCG today for day two of the Boxing Day Test. Getting ready this morning, I pulled out a merino wool jumper, just in case. A scarf, just in case and hesitated over a beanie. Telling myself, no, that would be extreme, it is summer after all. After searching for 10 minutes in the shop for a hat to wear coz it was so frickin cold, next time I go the MCG, I’m taking more layers and a hat.

I had to go and sit indoors for an hour to thaw out, and I am not joking. My fingers were purple, I was shivering, my hair was blowing all over the place (hence me wanting a hat in the first place) and on our return home, all three of us are windburnt.

The cricket was, well, interesting. The only bowler making any in roads was Siddell, so he got pulled off for a couple of hours (eh?) some of the referrals and decisions were dubious, we’ve scratched our heads and can’t remember a batsman being called back to the crease by the third umpire before. Ponting had to leave the field, probably to get another pain killing injection in his finger, the commentators on the radio didn’t even notice until they realised the 12th man was on the field. Trott and Pietersen did their usual faff-arsing about holding up the play, Collingwood walked out looked at the crease and walked back in again. But the sheer bliss of watching the cricket without Channel 9 commentators, endless KFC adverts, replays with all the latest computer graphics on and Warne’s new teeth…

And the MCG? Well it was glorious as always, it truly is a magnificent stadium. I’ve been to both Wembleys, Twickenham, The Stoop, The Oval in Surrey (was The Brit Oval, now rent-a-sign for any passing sponsor), Lords and various other cricket, rugby and football grounds, but none ever made my heart beat faster like it does when I see the light towers of the ‘G’. It’s such a dominant, significant part of the Melbourne City-Scape. Like Twickers, it has its own micro-climate, and looking at a girl in short-shorts, with a boob-tube on in the shop today covered in goosebumps, I felt sorry for her, she’s probably got pneumonia by now.

But I miss having a static scoreboard, so you can peer at how the bowler’s doing, how many overs left over etc. The screens at the G constantly change, from a quick look at the live action, to a replay, to an advert, to the scoreboard, to an advert, to a replay to an advert. You get the picture. After a close call on a delivery, we all turned expectantly to look at the screen for a replay to sit and look at a vodafone advert for the change over between the overs.

The advertising in the stadium was ridiculous, the grass is painted, the signs rotate on the 1/4 hour around the pitch, everything that stands still long enough has a badge smacked on it, even the boundary rope is no longer immune, covered in little triangles of yet more sponsors.

I know hosting sports is expensive. But our seats cost $60. There was 67,000+ people there today, at some of the cricket grounds in the UK, they are lucky to see 10,000 bums on seats. Even if everyone paid $20 to get in, that’s $1,340,000, taking into account the members who pay annually, it probably would average out to todays’ gate takings. Each cup of tea costs $3.50, coffee $4.00, Hanno brought a pie for $4.10. The MCG clears a huge amount of money for every even they hold there; there are food stalls all the way round the ground, the shop was heaving with people buying coats, at the end of the days’ play, when we left our seats the litter that had blown in around and under us consisted mostly of take-away wrappers. More $4 here and $4 there. So do we need to have quite so much sponsorship every where we look?

Every sportsman seems to be spruiking something, or endorsing something else. I can remember when sportsmen were just that, men who played sport. They were selected to represent their country, simply because they were the best in the country. (I’m not being deliberately sexist here by excluding sportswomen). It was an honour to play and represent everyone who cheered you on. Now, because of the endorsements, appearance fees, bruhaha and media attention around them all, it looks like playing the bloody sport is the last thing they want to do. Wayne Rooney holding Manchester United ransom for more money is a shining example, and here you are hard pushed to get through any advert break with out one member or another of the Australian Cricket team waving an internet dongle, vitamins, beer, mobile phone or sports drink at you from the screen.

But the thing that really wrankled today, no matter where I looked, including in the air as a helicopter whirred overhead telling us all about their sale was the red and white emblem of voda-fucking-fone. A company that is holding the UK to ransom by not paying a tax bill that pretty much matches pound for pound the cuts that the Conservative government is gleefully rubbing their hands over and implementing in my home country. Either pay your tax bill and carry on claim poverty vodafone, or quit sponsoring sports. You can’t do both.

Am I wrong in just wanting sport to be sport? To be able to watch a replay without an advert for something completely unrelated obscuring half the screen? Or having commentary curtailed around ad breaks. Or having to wait to restart the football because the ad break hasn’t finished?

Commentary on TV is banal in the extreme, I end up shouting at the TV in frustration at either the drivel their talking, or the incessant adverts. I love watching sport live, because despite all the sponsorship everywhere, I can just watch it. I don’t have to listen to anything other than my thoughts.

What do you think..?

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