Last week I went to the MCG for the night game. The one when the Cats almost managed to claw a victory over the Bombers after being behind for the whole game. That’s how I chose to see it; others were less complimentary towards the Cats – we can probably agree they are in a slump.
It got me thinking, you know how the mind can wander between goals, that the last time I was at the MCG at night – for a sporting event – was for a day-night cricket match when the troops were little. I was so excited about being there, on (cliché alert) hallowed ground that I didn’t pay any attention to where I parked the car. Once the game was over and we’d eaten a small country’s GDP in hot chips, hot donuts and disappointing pies we made our way outside and well, you know the rest, the car was nowhere to be seen and everywhere to be seen. All cars look the same in the dark. We had to wait until almost the cars left and then there she was, all sort of familiar and shabby…a bit like seeing your parents waiting at the school gate when you get back from camp. You know the feeling; it’s great you’re here, but c’mon, let’s get outta here.
The last time I was at the MCG for a night time non-sporting event when it was Mushroom Records had a 25th anniversary concert. That was in 1998. More than 50 acts, one after another after another, including INXS making its first public appearance after the death of Michael Hutchence. I went with the Yayas – my tribe, the sisterhood – and in an act of defiance we snuck in booze in flasks and mixed our own drinks, mindful of being caught doing that on the big screen.
As a kid I loved Bay 13. I loved the yobbish behaviour. The eskies emptied over the heads of mates, the melted ice creating a tsunami of drunken exclamations. I loved the Mexican waves, the plastic beach balls kept aloft, the smell of cigarettes and beer on the breeze and I loved the shyacking when Thommo or Maxie would come down to the fence to field. I loved the uproar when someone hit a six and I loved how the blokes leapt to their feet when Lillee took another wicket.
I didn’t know the ugly side of things. I was watching from a distance. Even when the cops would leap in and strong arm someone out of their seat and out of the ground, it all looked fun.
They were the days when the kids would go and stand by the fence for the last couple of overs, waiting for the final ball to be sent down so you could leap over the fence and run onto the ground.
One time my sister got caught on the metal railing, the filial on the top of the posts had hooked itself into her shorts, and she was trapped, half over, half not, unable to move. I was already on the ground, a good twenty feet away (that’s how we measured things then) and I turned and looked at her anguished face and back at the bunch of kids swarming around the players, back and forth I looked, what to do, and then I turned and climbed back over the fence and unhooked her and we went home.
A few years later on, still mad for the MCG but too old to climb the fence, I’d head right to the top of the southern stand and watch the game from there, equally as involved in the cricket as I was with what was going on outside, the rest of the world. But mainly, from my remote position at the very top, I would pash my boyfriend between wickets.