I walk towards the stadium. Its grey walls loom over the trees. Chatter amongst us grows louder and denser. We are funnelled along pathways; broad footpaths; all moving in the one direction. Now and then the crowd is split by a singular and still figure standing at a small desk selling Records – or in the Adelaide footy vernacular: Budgets. Here, in the mass of the crowd: children pull at the hands of their parents and skip while their mothers, fathers walk in longer strides. Some walk slower, masticating upon their cumbersome burgers, thoroughly fried potatoes and swilling on their waterish coke through red and white straws sucked up from paperish cups. The fever takes hold and youth and others break away from the path and start kicking balls back and forth in the empty spaces between cars and those areas which have been declared too muddy for vehicles to be left upon. Yarra Park becomes the MCG Car Park on days like this: evidence of the reluctance of many Melburnians to give up their vehicles for public transport, cycling or walking. Car doors slam and impromptu bbqs are held next to utes. Elsewhere, in the country football leagues, the crowd stays in their cars which line the field and they beep their horns for goals.
*Recordings by Chris Bellman, Sunday 14th August, Richmond vs Geelong, MCG
Us masses walk up the stairs to the gaping and tightly guarded mouth that will suck us into the stadium. The air vibrates: “if you like not waiting, move over to the left; the queues are shorter there.” “If you’re not bringing in any bags, move to the central queues.” The concourse is dense with the nascent crowd bedecked in their bold colours; scarves, jumpers and hats displaying their loyalties. “This is ridiculous”: there is impatience and contempt for the queue. Heavy men burdened by the weight of their yellow jackets shuffle in small steps as they inspect patrons with a black technical instrument used for detecting the left-overs of dangerous substances. Patrons are wanded (see: The Holy Boot). “Turn around.” “Step over here.” “Open your bag.” The cattle move through to the digital turnstiles. “Come through.” A beep and the turnstile turns – clickety-clack they used to go but now it is just a click. At such moments I think of Cotter going into the baseball game in Don Delillo’s Underworld and his leap and escape from police guarding the entrance. Ain’t no chance of it happening here and no it ain’t worth it. The game’s life extends long beyond the moment of its happening: downloadable, streamable, watched in pubs and domiciles – any game is ubiquitous and its afterlife extends for days and weeks. And now on the inside of the stadium, guarded like a prison, the din becomes louder under the low ceiling and the concrete floor. Over there: there is the sunlight and the green field replete with brand names and arcs squares and circles. The once Hallowed Ground is now Advertising Space upon which Athletes transgress.
The layering of sounds is unsettling, overwhelming and exciting: the sounds draw one in to one’s seat – directing one to the relatively empty expanse of the field, the pitch, the ground. The near sounds of chit-chatting fellow-crowd-members, the roaring cheering from those on distant stands and seats further along, the cheers that arrive on delay from the opposite end behind the goals and the sounds from above: the haranguing, the warning, the informing. The siren is no siren but instead it is a single drone informing the game will soon begin, the game is about to begin, the game is beginning, the game is pausing, the game is restarting and the game is concluded. The ‘final siren’: that godly punctuation on a game; the moment that determines the uncontestable truth of a game. My team trembles towards it; other teams march imperiously towards it, having no fear of defeat, knowing that by the time of its sounding, they’ll be in front. The siren sounds only when some teams are leading; and on other occasions, the siren waits for other teams to start losing before it is released from some unseen small hole nestled in the stands somewhere filling the expanse of the Letter G.
I walk away from the stadium. Its walls are behind me. I walk in between the silent and still trees and dodge the prowling slow 4WDs and their drivers who wait impatiently to leave ‘the car park’. The second or third playing of the Opposition’s theme is fading. There is the final cheering from their fans as their team bids them adieu. I look through the trees and see the rising suburb of Richmond on its big hill. There is still chatter, but it is loose, disgruntled and half-hearted. We’re in the late afternoon: a still and coldish winter evening. 4:43pm or there-abouts. Yarra Park assumes an immense and empty quality after the compactness and concentration of inside the stadium. I step into relative silence.