I went to the World Cup Final.
That’s a rather definitive sentence.
I don’t feel too special. Ninety three thousand other people also attended. That’s only slightly more than the number of New Zealanders not on Australian welfare payments.
Any World Cup Final is special. It represents four years of hard work, trying to be the best in a version of the game that many pundits claim is dying. In essence, it’s like the world hieroglyphics reading championship or a national Sega Megadrive high score tournament. One has to ask why we bother with it.
Anyhow, those pundits who claim ODI’s are only hanging on like an asthmatic Hugh Heffner probably haven’t attended a World Cup final.
I have. Did I mention that?
There are multiple elements of the experience that TV can’t convey.
Let’s begin with the pre-game atmosphere.
The MCG is the best place to stage any extravaganza. The stadium has held sell out crowds for U2, the Pope, some other church cult, Aussie Rules matches and even cricket matches featuring New Zealand. To achieve a sell out crowd for a match with the Kiwi’s in it is some feat.
In many regards, holding any final at the MCG is a lazy option. People just show up.
Anyhow, what that brings with it is atmosphere. Lots of atmosphere. This is even before you get into the ground.
Over there are Indian fans beating a traditional dohl. It’s awesome. To the left, Fox Sports is hosting an outdoor broadcast with KP, Lara, McGrath, Mark Waugh and Pollock. That’s also awesome. Just around the corner, someone is interviewing Dean Jones. The crowd largely ignores that to be honest.
But everywhere you look, something is going on. You need to push through passive bystanders to see what is happening. The concourses were not made for this many people. The concourses are huge. The light towers are huge. The MCG is huge.
Inside the ground, the gently boiling stew of cricket fans erupts into a new form of energy. That is until the pre-match entertainment starts. I’m not sure what the official broadcast showed, but let’s hope it wasn’t this.
If I was to predict what was about to happen, I’d suggest kids carrying out the 14 Flags of the competing countries would be high on the list. There will probably be three guys drumming to remain consistent with the rest of the tournament. Finally, a streaker is likely to charge the players just before the Kiwi national anthem.
Like Nostradamus in a purple patch, I was dead right. Only the AFL does a worse pre-match. To be fair, they usually use more kids. I hope the streaker is ok? He was hog tied and dragged off like Bam Bam’s wife.
I sat in the second back row of the Great Southern Stand. I’m not sure why they called this stand ‘Great’? It’s ok, but has no obvious redeeming features that push it into the realms of stardom.
Food choices at sporting events are always a highlight. I started with a KFC Zinger Pie (unpaid plug). I wish I hadn’t. Essentially, it was ‘chicken style’ pieces of offal smothered in spicy gravy and held tenuously in a sloppy crust. After the second bite, my lap played the role of the crust and attempted to keep the pies contents from falling on the concrete floor. My lap failed.
The guttural roar of the MCG is something that no sporting stadium can match. When McCullum had his brain fart and decided to walk back to the pavilion in the first over, the noise morphed into a wave of sensation. You ride it, absorb it, add to it. Yet your ears don’t hurt. You feel it in your stomach. A warm rumble. Like a morphine injection.
After the first three wickets fell, the MCG took a nap. We all got bored. New Zealand’s rubbish start had ruined it for everyone. We didn’t reawaken until Finch proved why he really was Phil Hughes’ understudy.
Australians don’t sing. Especially not at sporting events. It’s not like EPL, or Welsh rugby or even West Indies cricket. We tend to only make noise when events take place on the field. It’s probably because we are distracted by watching successful teams. Those from lesser nations need distractions.
After the Finch wicket, the sound of ‘Kiwi, Kiwi’ filled the arena. Not in a soft way. It was brutal. I think this is what war must sound like. It was scary. It was intimidating. The New Zealand crowd owned the MCG for that minute. Visitors never own the MCG.
However, after this, Smith and Clarke got Australia home. Those two hours were ultimately quite boring. I didn’t have to listen to any Shane Warne anecdotes to keep me entertained during that time. For that, I feel blessed.
The awards ceremony dragged on like they all do. First, we had to endure the live stream of past players asking every team member whether they would be having a drink tonight. Picture Forrest Gump interviewing overly excited kids about whether they want some fairy bread at a birthday party. Then add some Groundhog Day just in case we missed anything useful the first ten times the question was asked.
Rather than present the World Cup trophy on a podium, it was done behind sponsors boards that had their back to me. It was extremely disrespectful to about 55,000 people. I felt my UN human rights had been violated. I didn’t get to boo Srinivasan or Sachin to their faces. I had to do it to their backs.
Outside the ground, the real party began. It wasn’t jubilant Australians, but the Indians, Pakistanis, Kiwis and South Africans who were dancing in groups to drums and horns.
The TV cameras were attracting the masses like moths to a bright light.
Everyone was happy. There were no sad New Zealand faces. There were no gloating bogans. Instead, the masses just wanted to play nicely together. And they did, albeit with a ruckus not seen for some time.
So, what’s the takeaway from this rambling muddle of words?
If you like homogeneous soulless sport, watch it on TV.
If you enjoy the feeling only 93,000 carnivalistic fans can provide, get yourself to the MCG.
Did I remember to tell you that it is so big?