Making North Americans Serious Fans of Aussie Rules

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For nearly two decades, our mission at AFANA has been to bring "footy", the colloquial term for Australian football, to audiences in the USA and Canada. We've had some success at that, but we are still a long way from breaking through to widespread knowledge and understanding. The TV audience and exposure have come a long way in just the last few years but we haven't yet reached acceptance as a serious sport in the American landscape. To get there, we have to do more and this year we have launched a variety of initiatives to take the next step. You've seen a few of those changes with the web site and our increased presence in social media. Part of the job is education of the fans and media.

If you want to understand why it is important that we educate fans and journalists in North America about Australian football consider this quote: 

The whole multibillion-dollar machinery of sports enjoyment depends on the audience’s ability to make fine distinctions between similar-seeming athletes. That’s where the fun and the money are. A sport minus an educated audience is just a story. Maybe a bu**s**t story. It’s competitive eating. It’s the mortgage-backed securities market circa 2008; people trying to convince you that they’ve spent a lot of time mastering a certain set of arcane rules and are therefore worthy of your cash and your trust.” - Jason Fagone, on Grantland.com

Underline emphasis is mine. Unless and until fans and the media understand the sport so they get the nuances and distinctions between good and bad they won’t take it seriously. As a result, most of the coverage we will get will continue to be of the novelty type and not convince anyone to spend real time watching and appreciating the game. More media coverage of the "crazy" Aussies playing an obscure game gets us nowhere. We have to move past that.

For our mission of spreading the game in North America, it is imperative we explain the game intelligently to you, our readers, and particularly the fans who stumble upon it or see a link on Twitter. It’s why I've told our staff that we need to emphasize talking about the game in American terms (not Australian) to American audiences even more than we do now. Once the audience has a frame of reference, they will begin to appreciate the subtleties of the game and it will cease to be a novelty. Then and only then will it become respected here.

In practice, this means adding the sentence explaining “out on the full” or “flooding” or why the sport is actually safer than American football. Being “authentic” in describing the game from an Australian point of view is fool’s gold. It may feel legitimate to those in the know but you will have lost the potential new audience. I know this is hard for many fans, both Aussies and long time American and Canadian fans, to accept. You find it annoying for us to use terms like "catch" instead of "mark" or "overtime" instead of "extra time". However, this has a purpose and it's all about educating the audience.

In case you are wondering, the quote is from this article on juggling: http://tinyurl.com/neghayb . If we fail at this, do not hesitate to tell us. It's that important.

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