Friday, September 29, 2006

Real footy tomorrow!

Tomorrow in Melbourne thirty-six high-performance athletes will chase a pointy ball around an oval field with 120,000 fans screaming them on in the stands, and millions more around the world yelling at them through their TVs and big screens -- yes, it's time once again for the annual showcase of the world's most libertarian sport: It's AFL Grand Final time!

Time for some great sport, and for those of you who don't understand the thrill, Thomas Bowden tries to make it clear in the context of a more authoritarian sport:
The essential value of spectator sports lies in their capacity to illustrate, in a dramatic way, the process of human goal-achievement. They do this by making the process shorter, simpler, and more visually exciting than it is in daily life--and by giving us heroes to admire... Ultimately, sporting events like football's Super Bowl offer a microcosmic vision of what "real life" could, and should, be like.
Heroes aplenty there are onfield tomorrow, along with thrills, spills, high marks, spectacular goals, great human drama ... in short, over two hours of non-stop Australian Football, indisputably the world's most libertarian sport.

I say "most libertarian sport" since AFL is a team sport, and unlike tennis, say, which is explicitly individualistic, AFL shows in microcosm both the social conditions of libertarian society in microcosm and the spectacular results. The rules are all designed to keep the game going, to protect the guy going for the ball, and to stop one bloke initiating force on another bloke ... at least while anybody's looking. Just like libertarian guidelines for society. And the result of those rules is a full-blooded clash of both intellect and athleticism -- no "neckless wonders" on these fields -- where the competitors quite literally reach for the sky.

I say "non-stop," because unlike other sports where whistle-happy Hitlers spend their time holding up play and seeking the spotlight, in AFL (just like in a good libertarian society) the umpires are all but anonymous, and held in the appropriate level of contempt. In other sports such as rugby for example, much talk goes on before a game about who the match officials are and what effect they might have on the game ... in AFL however they're just called "white maggots." And no-one either knows or cares their names.

It's often said that sport allows the opportunity to perfect and admire a particular set of skills. What we see in microcosm on an Australian Football field is the pursuit of the integration of mind and body -- unlike soccer, for example, where the use of your arms are banned (and the skill of acting is raised to great heights), and unlike rugby or American football where following orders is strictly required for all but one or two players on each side (and unlike rugby league where thinking itself is banned) on an Australian Football field we see athletes who run up to two-thirds of a marathon every game -- at a sprint! -- while constantly evaluating their own and their team's tactics and strategy, and all while planning and plotting to counter their opponent's tactics and strategy.

And this all happens non-stop, in the cauldron of intense competition over more than two hours. If there's a more spectacular sporting example of libertarian values in action, you'd die of sheer sensory and conceptual overload I'm here to tell you.

Tune in tomorrow about this time and experience the thrill. Here's a run-down on teams and players and prospects. Here's the official AFL site with links, ladders and audio and video. And here's a summary of North American TV coverage of the AFL Final. In NZ, of course, you can catch it on Sky.

Oh yeah, and go the Eagles!

LINKS: The joy of football - Thomas Bowden, Capitalism Magazine
2004 Mark of the Year - Drop Punt site (includes You Tube highlights)
Real Footy site
AFL official site
AFL Finals series - Fox Sports
2006 Grand Final Parties - Australian Football Association of North America
AFL TV schedule for North America and Canada - Australian Football Association of North America

RELATED: Sports, Philosophy, Objectivism

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