Eat up! Eat up! And play the game.
It was one of those nights when a few middle-aged blokes get together to talk about old times in sport. John was a new fellow to join the group and everyone’s eyes lit up when he said ‘I saw Bradman bat once’.
John’s view of Bradman was when the Indians played a Test Match at Adelaide Oval in January 1948 and John said ‘he got something like 196’ which drew immediate but darting glances from a couple of the sporting pedants among us. The Don, in fact, made 201, Lindsay Hassett 198 and the Australians 674. No-one got 196.
John was more certain of the number of eskimo pies he consumed. ‘Seven’, he said which was no doubt the making of a little fat kid, and a 60-year interest in sport.
The eskimo pie story reminded me of my of some of my own sports eating experiences, mainly at the footy.
If you’ve been to watch football in Melbourne you’ve inevitably suffered the pain of the execrable Four and Twenty, surely the worst so-called meat pie in the world without a shadow of doubt. The alternative when I lived there in the late 1970s, was three or four round doughnuts before the game, purchased from the vans parked outside the grounds. Without being a doughnut connoisseur I reckoned they were the best in the world. It must be the footy itself which creates such extremes of thought. The romance of the doughnut only ended when I went to a game at Princes Park (sob, sob) several years later and taking a huge bite, spread raspberry jam all over my smart new Harris tweed sportscoat.
My improved football diet can be dated specifically. 3 September 1977, Elimination Final, South Melbourne v Richmond at the old VFL Park, Waverley. I can be sure for a couple of reasons. The first was because good old South (sob, sob) were playing in their first final of any description since 1945 and the second because I took a good-looking girl to the game. She was the first girl of any description I’d ever taken to the footy and American as it turned out. I was all set to explain the finer points. What happened was this…
We took up our positions and I started to unpack the binoculars when she said. ‘Daaaahling! I’ve prepared a little something’. The ‘little something’ turned out to be cold turkey, cheese, celery, french rolls, an avocado or two, pate and what’s this?, a bottle of chilled white from the good old Barossa Valley. ‘Jeez! whadya think I am, a poofter?’ I remember thinking. People thought like that in those days. I didn’t get anywhere with the finer points but we did get stuck into the grub.
At the half-time break the wine and glasses (not plastic cups) came out as well which brought a chorus from the row of beery blokes behind. ‘Jeez! whatarya, a poofter or something?’ People said things like that in those days. I gestured with a french stick. She and I kept sipping through the second half which was too much for one old bag complete with brolly and overcoat, who spat out. ‘Huh! Toorak set, you’ve no right to be here’, conjuring up images of the split level and the Porsche Turbo in the double garage. Oh well! and South were annihilated 7.12 to 13.10.
The logical eating endpoint was probably lunch at the Adelaide Crows Chairman’s Club what seemed half a lifetime later at Football Park, West Lakes in 1994, and definitely pre-AAMI. Crows versus Somebody: soup, entrée, mains, cheese, more than half-decent wine, scones, jam, cream and coffee. After that fill the football was bound to be an anti-climax except that first one had to hear from the guest speaker/interviewee, the then Leader of Her Majesty’s Federal Opposition, Alexander ‘Things that Batter’ Downer.
Chairman Bob ‘Half-Case’ Hammond’s introduction of his guest as ‘the next Prime Minister of Australia’ was one of the great gaffes of all time to which I remember responding with an almighty ‘BOOOOOOOOO!’ This was a non-politically partisan gathering, we were located in Adelaide’s western suburbs, and we were at the footy after all! Clearly embarrassed Mr Downer wasn’t a bad guest and revealed a warm and genuine interest in football. Only one thing worried me. When asked whether as a boy he harboured any ambitions about becoming prime minister he replied along the lines of: ‘No! I really wanted to play full-forward for Norwood’.
I could have possibly stood him running the country but the prospect of him representing my footy team was far to much to stomach.