If you're in Melbourne's eastern suburbs and looking for a new outing for the weekend, maybe consider going to an American football match. It's exactly what Mrs T, the two little Ts and I did today. Specifically, we went out to Ranger Field (as one of the teams styles it) in Croydon to watch the Croydon Rangers take on the Berwick Miners
I won't try to explain American football. For one thing, there are too many people who know far more about it than I do. For another, half the fun of going to a game is in being there. As for a report on today's game: We had to leave early in the fourth quarter because it was getting too cold for the munchkins; when we left the Rangers were up 18-0 and maintaining a good offense. The Miner's offense was competent but somehow unable to cut through.
This morning we got to the ground about 11:30, by which time the game was into the second quarter. The first few minutes brought back an odd memory: the smell of a muddy sporting ground - that very special smell of sandy loam which has been soaked in rain and churned up by 20+ pairs of boots. I can't actually recall where I remember that smell from. The paddocks at home didn't smell like that, even in winter, and I played hockey in school which was chiefly on astroturf. Anyway, I remember it from somewhere and it was kind of nice to get even a blurry memory back. The teams had been putting some effort in to churning up the field: The blue and orange of the Miners and the green and white of the Rangers were thoroughly mud-stained by the time we arrived.
The game had a real family feel about it. There were a number of what were clearly wives and girlfriends in attendance, as were a couple of children, most of them in team colours. Some of the attendees had even invested in "letter jackets" in the colours of their team. And there were genuine gridiron fans there: I counted sweaters and shirts for the New York Giants, the Chicago Bears, the Green Bay Packers and the New England Patriots.
The venue itself is well set up. Most of the viewing area around the Rangers' club rooms is concreted. Concrete bleachers have been installed on the roof of one of the buildings, which makes a great viewing platform for the whole field. The only drawback is that they are open sided and unroofed and (on a day like today) bloody cold. If you're going to use it for an entire game, invest in a snuggy and a thermos (that said, you'll have a great view of the game, so it will be money well spent).
The Rangers operate a small canteen selling the usual run of snacks and canned drinks. Try the Ranger Burger ($4.50). I'm not certain if it's home made, but it tastes like it could easily be. On a cold, windswept day watching families cheering on weekend warriors who are playing for nothing more than a love for the game, it's the rightest-feeling piece of food-from-the-heart you'll have in a long time.