Editor’s Pick: Australian Football

Bob Edme AP images A lot like football, only with 14 extra on-field players, no pads and four goal posts.
Bob Edme AP images A lot like football, only with 14 extra on-field players, no pads and four goal posts.

By DAN GARTLAND

ExECUTIVE SPORTS EDITOR

Allow me to preface this by saying I know nearly nothing about Australian Rules football aside from the fact that it is awesome and everything about it is outrageous.

First of all, the field is an enormous oval, at least 60 yards longer than a football field. Occupying this expansive prairie of a playing surface are 36 players, 18 from each team. This seems like way too many people; where do they find so many people to play this absurd game?

The ball is shaped much like the one used in American football, but the ends are less pointed. The ball may be carried, but the ball carrier has to bounce it at least once every 15 meters. It cannot, however, be thrown. Instead, to make a pass, the player holds the ball in his open palm and punches it forward with a clenched fist.

If a player catches a ball which has been kicked more than 15 meters, this is called a “mark” and he gets a free kick, though if he finds himself too far from the goal, he may choose instead to play on. Most scoring occurs when a player kicks the ball through the goalposts after a mark. I think. I do not know. I am not Australian.

The sport is full-contact, but the players do not wear pads. Australians have no regard for bodily harm, it would seem. This is especially relevant when considering how a mark is earned. A common type of mark called the “high mark” involves a player literally climbing over the back of an opponent to catch the ball before crashing violently to the ground. It is awesome — check it out on YouTube.

There are four goal posts: kicking the ball through the center two earns you six points (called a “goal”), kicking it through one of the outer sets earns you one point (called a “behind”). As far as I know, the team with the most points wins, but considering this is Australia, where the toilets flush the wrong way, it may be the opposite. I cannot be certain.

The Australian Football League has 18 teams. Some of them have cool names (like the Collingwood Magpies); some of them have stupid names (like the Geelong Cats). They play in the fall and winter, which is our summer, because Australia is backwards like that. The championship game is called the “Grand Final,” which is a much better name than “The Super Bowl.”

So by now you are wondering, “Where can I watch this sport and see for myself just how absurd it is?” Well, you could go to Australia, or you could watch it during the summer in the middle of the night on the FOX Soccer Channel. I strongly recommend you check it out. It is a great way to satiate your bloodlust while waiting for the NFL season to start.