Let’s pretend for a moment that Damien Barrett is actually being serious when he says that he thinks the AFL should schedule a Showdown at the MCG.
I can’t imagine a universe in which someone who has otherwise been a reputable journalist could genuinely believe that’s a good idea.
It seems clear that his only goal is controversy, and his statements are a sad indictment of where football media currently sits.
But, for the sake of argument, let’s pretend he is serious.
Barrett spoke with The Crows Show, a program made by AFC Media and broadcast on Channel 7 in Adelaide on Sundays. He has aired the idea before, including earlier this year as part of his Sliding Doors column for afl.com.au.
This week, though, he’s doubled down on the ludicrous idea by suggesting that, “The two biggest baseball teams in the world, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, they’re taking two games of a live season to London to play there.”
“It can be done, that’s the biggest rivalry in baseball and they’re taking it to another country.”
Red Sox vs Yankees in London is certainly not Adelaide vs Port Adelaide in Melbourne.
Firstly, it’s a whole other country. Boston and New York don’t play any other games within the USA anywhere else but at Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium.
Secondly, they aren’t from the same city.
Thirdly, and most importantly, the Red Sox and Yankees play each other a total of 20 times in the regular 2019 MLB season. Thus, a couple of games in London does little to harm the home fans’ chances of seeing a game.
This points to the essence of why Barrett’s suggestion is so hard to listen to as a South Australian football fan.
For decades, South Australians, Western Australians and Tasmanians have had to listen to Victorians claim ownership over Australian rules football.
If the league wishes the AFL to be seen as a truly national competition, sentiments such as these have to be called out for what they are: hyperbolic idiocy.
Even though his comments may well have been intended purely as a way to stir controversy, they’re offensive to all South Australian football fans for several reasons.
They show, whether in jest or not, a complete disrespect for what South Australia contributes to the game. We get two Showdowns per season. Two chances each year to live the epic rivalry that is Adelaide vs Port Adelaide.
There are invariably 50,000-plus at each game, and thousands more who can’t get a ticket. So to even suggest that one of those two games should be played in Melbourne – where less than a third of the crowd would actually be fans of the two teams playing – just so that Victorians can enjoy some more quality football is maddening.
Having ten of the 18 teams in the competition isn’t enough for you?
Barrett suggested that the traditional Victorian rivalries have somehow lost their lustre. Well guess what, that’s not South Australia’s fault. It’s a symptom of being one of the few – if not the only – national sporting competitions in the world to have over half of the teams based in one city.
If Barrett truly believes that Victorian rivalries are dwindling, then the AFL needs to put its resources into addressing that, or move teams out of Melbourne to places like Tasmania and Darwin. Not moving one of two Showdowns a year out of Adelaide.
Disrespectful comments like this only harm the league’s image. They do nothing to improve it.