I spend a lot of time figuring out how to make Australian sports leagues and teams “better” – more fans, more money, more sponsors… etc. But in the spirit of the new year, I want everyone to know the things I think Australia does right. The US could learn a thing or two.
1. They use their fight songs. Yes, US colleges and universities have fight songs but and so do professional teams… but they don’t really use them. At least, not at any of the games I’ve been to. The AFL club songs are catchy – although based on American songs like Yankee Doodle, When The Saints Go Marching In and Grand Old Flag – and it’s an amazing feeling when you get to sing it when your club wins. Isn’t that half the fun of sport? Feeling like your part of something bigger than yourself and that you’re connected to all the other fans of your team? Yes. It is. Club songs do that. The US needs some of these… and real one, not just Sweet Caroline, Dirty Water and Don’t Stop Believin’. Something with the team’s name in it!
2. It’s not all about the money. Most of what the US cares about is making money. Now I can’t say anything bad about that, because it has made them a superpower (GFC aside) and the sports business is one of the most lucrative in the world. But there is something to say for clubs who are willing to go into debt to win because they care more about the game than about the money. The team owners in the US want to win, sure, but as long as it’s profitable. I know they’re not all like that… but leagues
3. Athletes are not untouchables. Athletes in the US are… WOW. While there are a few who socialize with us commoners (JJ Redick and the Orlando Magic have the tendency to party with their fellow Floridans) most of them are billionaire playboys surrounded by their entourage, possible bodyguards and typically hoards of fans. We see them as so ‘other’ to us which, in the US, they are. Australia has a different idea which is great. You see athletes on the street and out at night (in the off-season only and behaving like perfect gentlemen, of course) and they tweet back at you regularly and it’s likely that a friend (of a friend) once dated with them. While having athletes as icons is great, it might be even better if you could have them as friends… or at least acquaintances.
4. Free-To-Air TV. This is a big one. I fail to see why the US hardly ever airs games on basic cable (our version of free-to-air). I’m a Celtics fan and all their games were shown on a local Massachusetts channel which was on cable. And the only way I could ever see a C’s game while I was home in Hawaii was if I was lucky and ESPN showed it, meaning I had to spend the afternoon at my grandparents house, since they were the ones with cable, being told that yelling at the TV will not help (yeah, right). Showing all basketball games on basic cable would be impossible since there are so many (each team plays more than 80) and since league seasons overlap there would have to be some consideration about which to choose, but it’s still a possibility. Getting to fans is easy when you’re on free to air.
What do you guys think? What else do Australian sports leagues do better than the US? Or do you think that American leagues are great and don’t need to change at all? Can they learn from Australia?