With grand final fever sweeping the country, it feels almost impossible to escape from its all-consuming, culturally-asphyxiating footy hype.
Victoria even has a public holiday to mark the occasion — as though the government has decreed on behalf of all Victorians that we all have to stop whatever we are doing (including work) just to be part of the grand final frenzy.
Of course, sport means many different things to different people. To me, the footy season in Melbourne always means one thing — getting stuck in traffic jams for an hour on Punt Road on a Saturday afternoon while inebriated fans wearing ugly scarves traipse through the traffic sneering at anyone who doesn’t show allegiance to their team.
But look, I don’t hate footy. I even sold meat pies at VFL Park as a teenager.
I can appreciate the skill and spectacle in the game — it’s just that these days there are so many other things I’d rather be doing with my time. And I know I’m not alone.
The truth is that we non-footy fanatics can feel like an ostracised minority around grand final time.
And so this weekend, as we hit “peak footy” across the nation, here are some tips for alternatives to watching grown men chase a piece of leather around a rainy, windswept field in downtown Melbourne.
Throw a footy-free party
If you’re feeling isolated in your inability to join the footy hype, why not organise a footy-free party in your neighbourhood? It can be a safe space where people can discuss anything else — politics, religion, philosophy, pets — but footy is strictly forbidden.
You’ll be performing a community service, and doing your bit to support an under-represented minority.
See art in a Ballarat meat factory
While you won’t fully miss the grand final by heading out to one of Victoria’s regional centres, Ballarat would be a good choice right now with the Biennale of Australian Art (BOAA) in full swing.
There you can find the largest ever showcase of contemporary Australian artists’ work gathered — and most of it has nothing to do with footy!
Spend the afternoon in the creepy former meat factory at the basement of the George Farmer building and be guaranteed to be far away from the maddening footy crowds.
Watch the Ant-Man save the world
Melbourne’s Astor theatre has kindly obliged by showing the nerdiest and least footy-ish films imaginable on grand final day.
A back-to-back screening of Marvel’s Ant-Man blockbusters will showcase the incredible shrinking Ant Man, who teams up with The Wasp to pull off a heist that will save the Earth.
Now there’s a real battle!
Join a rock ‘n roll orgy
By a happy coincidence the Melbourne Fringe Festival is in its final weekend at the same time as the Grand Final. And on Saturday, fresh from sell-out shows at Adelaide Fringe, Australian musician Tom Smith invites you to take part in a rock ‘n roll orgy.
Not literally of course, but rather a musical show featuring “stories of the marginalised and eccentric”.
The show’s finale takes place at 4pm on Saturday during the final quarter of the game — it’s hard to imagine more disparate entertainments.
Fly to Taiwan
In fact, fly anywhere but Melbourne to escape the footy (although leaving the country is the safest bet). I know a family who have just flown to Taiwan this week — “So glad to be flying out,” they posted from Tullamarine Airport. “No more incessantly dull football chatter everywhere.”