It isn't good enough to know the rules of a game to get into it. The stuff that matters is being able to have a little righteous indignation and be able to shout at the ref. Yesterday I went to my first Aussie Rules game at the MCG ('The G'). I was very excited about seeing the G after having grown up waking up at ridiculous hours to watch Test Cricket. My introduction was through two Ruddock cousins and the chap who indoctrinated them. Cameron was James first buddy as a 7 year old when they arrived in Australia. He has supported the Essendon Bombers since then, and partnering up with his brother Charles (the world's tallest psychologist), they were able to get some banter going with Dad who supported another team. In Aus, you don't support a team. You Barrack for them. That makes sense since it refers to the housing Soldiers had. Theirs is not to question why, theirs is just to do or die.
James reckons the key to happiness lies in three things. You need to have someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to. Footy provides one of those things for Australians, even though most of the rest of the world don't get it. The Irish play the Aussies in an international game which mixes the rules of their national games which have similarities. All around the world though, people have that thing that they look forward to on the weekend. A sports team who represent something more than the rules to them. The rules can be adjusted. In Footy, the thing to shout indignantly is 'Ball!!!'. It means your guy has tackled their guy, and their guy hasn't passed the ball cleanly. You should have a free kick. When this doesn't happen, you get to tear at your hair and enquire after the refs IQ, vision, and peculiar taboo tastes.
I still need to figure out how to get into games I haven't grown up with. The downside of caring is that every four years I get punched in the stomach. I used to think the upside was when you actually win. Although, I have to admit that I was very proud of the way the South African side played, and the way they lost in this most recent World Cup. I think the upside is actually the banter and friendships. Looking forward to something together. The cost is that rollercoaster of emotions seems to take years off your life.
Here is an interesting look at the world's most popular sports. Of the top ten, I currently only really care about 3. Tennis and 4. Cricket. I have some work to do if I want to be a Global Citizen.