Sunday, July 6, 2008

Footy Tipping

One lovely March afternoon, I walked into a meeting at work and saw one of my colleagues busily collecting money from everyone else sitting at the table. When he saw me he said, "Are you interested in signing up for the footy tipping this year?" This was my first proper job in Australia and I'd only been there since January so I'd never heard of this whole footy tipping thing. So as per my usual, I had to quickly confess my ignorance. You get used to that after awhile. Nothing like living in a foreign country to make you feel like a dumbass 80% of the time.

Me: "Sorry, I'm not familiar with footy tipping? Can someone enlighten me?"

Work Colleague: With a great deal of enthusiasm, "Oh yeah, no worries. Footy tipping is just a betting competition we run for the footy. Everyone puts in $22 and then each week you submit your tips. We'll have jackpots for each round and there will be prizes for the people that finish the top of the ladder at the end of the season."

Me: This sounds a bit complicated and I don't know anything about the footy. "What are tips exactly?"

WC: Chuckling slightly, "Oh the tips are just who you think will win each game. Surely you guys bet on the football in America?"

Me: Yeah I remember being in an illegal football pool in high school and getting busted by our Geometry teacher, but that was a long time ago, and I'm reformed now. Which is actually a good point, is this even legal? (a legitimate concern for someone on a temporary visa)"Yeah people do bet on the football. We call it a pool. I can't remember ever participating in one at work though. Isn't this organised gambling really? I guess what I'm trying to say is what does the boss think of this?"

WC: Smiling and shaking his head at the same time. "You Yanks really are a funny bunch aren't you? I guess it is organised gambling in a way, but everyone here participates. The boss asked me to organise it. We do it every year. So are you in or what?"

Me: "Won't I be disadvantaged because I know nothing about the footy?"

WC: "Not necessarily. It depends on the season really. Sometimes there are a lot of upsets and no one is very good a predicting them so it might actually be to your advantage."

Me: Feeling slightly obliged to participate in this ritual if for no other reason than the sheer sake of fitting in. "Ok, you've sold me. I'm in."

And that was the beginning of my foray into the world of footy tipping. I started off the season quite well. There are eight matches played each week and if you successfully picked all eight winners correctly, you get paid out a certain amount depending on how many people also picked the eight and how long it had been since someone last picked eight. I know, I know it's all so confusing.

I did manage to get all eight right during one of the rounds in the middle of the season, but unfortunately, so did a few of my other colleagues so we had to split the jackpot--I think we each got about $5 back or something.

By the time the end of the season rolled around, I was doing really poorly and usually only picking one or two winners a week. I didn't care though because I was having fun. The footy tipping was always the talk of the office on Friday afternoons as everyone was submitting their picks for that weekend's games. Then on Monday morning everyone would check to see how they'd gone in comparison to everyone else.

In America I remember lots of my male friends being in football pools or Super Bowl pools, etc with their mates--ie other guys. I don't, however, remember knowing a lot of women that were getting together and betting on sports. In Australia though, men and women alike were equally engaged in the footy. The women in my workplace took their footy tipping very seriously. Their love for footy went beyond the footy tipping competition though, a lot of these women were die hard fans of particular teams. They attended the matches on a regular basis. I was amazed.

As for the gambling side of one here seemed to care. The Australians, from what I could glean, were a lot more relaxed about this sort of thing--especially in the work place. The more people I talked to, the more I realised that everyone was in a footy tipping comp whether they followed the footy or not, and almost everyone did their footy tipping through work.

I got used to the idea that people at work were almost universally involved in the footy tipping, but the one that really shocked me was when I found out the Handsome Australian's brother was involved in a school sanctioned footy tipping competition. He was in high school at the time (at a Catholic School I might add) and each kid was allowed to put in $5 and participate. They would have winners for each round and a jackpot at the end as well. I was astounded by this. I asked the Handsome Australian about it and he didn't see what all the fuss was. They are just kids having a good time like the rest of us. No one seemed to be bothered besides me.

Eight years later, I still think it's a strange thing for kids in schools to be doing, but if there is one thing I've learned in all my years in Australia it's, if you can't beat them, join them! So if you'll excuse me, I'm off to see how I've fared this week!

Learn the Lingo
footy tipping=a betting pool where participants try to predict the winners of weekly football matches
footy tips=the teams you pick to win the games
no worries=no problem


Nathalie said...

I'm starting to question my own "australianness" as I have never been in a footy tipping comp, never barracked for a team and I don't know any footy songs. Maybe I need to stand up for those of us who don't think football defines Australia.....even though we are a minority :-)

Annelise said...

You are truly becoming part of the Oz culture...I can tell not only by the stories, but by the spelling in your stories as well. What happened to the "z"? You remember it?? The 26th letter of the alphabet. It feels so neglected.
haha, luv your blogging! Keep it up!