“Football is essentially a religion, with varying degrees of devoutness,” explains the ABC, Australia’s national broadcasting network. “The Sunday church service is the weekend game. The hymns are the theme songs. There's bread and wine in the form of pies and beer. There's even the occasional minute of silence.”
So where did Australian Rules football come from? Known by locals simply as football, Australian Rules was invented in Melbourne in the 1850s, “making it the oldest code of football in the world” according to Museum Victoria. But there’s also evidence to suggest that Aboriginal men and women played a form of football (called ‘marngrook’) prior to white settlement, notes Lonely Planet.
Leisure was crucial to the development of Aussie Rules. “We take the idea for granted, but leisure as we know it was created in the 1800s, and Victoria played a significant role in the new way of thinking about work and labour,” says The Conversation. And if you want to know more, here’s Wikipedia’s history of the game.
There’s an embedded sense of humour about football. “It’s interesting that Melburnians don’t tell jokes about Sydney,” writes Bill Bryson in Down Under. “They tell jokes about their beloved footy. Like this one:
A man arriving for the Grand Final in Melbourne is surprised to find the seat beside his empty.
Tickets for the Grand Final are sold out weeks in advance and empty seats unknown. So, he says to the man on the other side of the seat: ‘Excuse me, do you know why there is no one in this seat?’
‘It was my wife’s,’ answers the second man, a touch wistfully, ‘but I’m afraid she died.’
‘Oh, that’s terrible, I’m so sorry.’
‘Yes, she never missed a match.’
‘But couldn’t you have given the ticket to a friend or relative?’
‘Oh no. They’re all at the funeral.’