I never knew how important AFL was to Melbournians. I only attended my first ever AFL game last week, Hawthorn vs Geelong at the MCG, which I’m told was a big match to see. Wearing a borrowed Sydney Swans scarf in cheap general admission seats, I notionally barracked for Geelong (apparently, Hawthorn beat Sydney in the Grand Final and I was supposed to be outraged about this). I left the match impressed, and softly committed myself to follow AFL more closely from now on.
Later that night, friends and I who attended the game went out to explore Melbourne nightlife—something I was much more interested in. Even in swanky bars, I noticed that the locals still wore their AFL merch proudly.
I was sitting at the Gin Palace drinking a fish bowl sized G&T, when a very drunk older man wearing a Hawthorn jersey, beanie and scarf, stumbled in just to find the nearest bathroom. The guy was completely smashed and clearly had no idea where he was. He gripped a passing waiter and, slurring, asked to be shown how to find the exit. Fierce in my (new-found) support of the mighty Geelong Cats, I heckled “Typical Hawthorn supporter, can’t even find the exit!” I didn’t expect him to hear me, but he stumbled right back in, screaming, “You watch out, you don’t think I can hurt you?”
“No!” we laughed, thinking we’d shown him.
Out of nowhere, he lunged (as well as a drunken football hooligan can) with arms outstretched, and aimed for the loudest one of us. Going straight for his neck, he latched onto my friend, proceeding to strangle and shake him like a rag doll. Bar staff and patrons swarmed, pulling the guy off and pushing him to the door. My friend stood, confused and angry, as the rest of us looked on bemused. We received 10 per cent off all of our drinks, and some free shots from the bar to make up for it. The other patrons who helped remove the strangler came and joined us. We all began laughing hysterically at the absurdity of the situation. “The funniest thing about this is that I don’t even know where Hawthorn is,” I said.
A week later, I still don’t know where Hawthorn is. But I do know that if you ever insult an AFL fan in a bar, you can get a hefty discount on your bill.