Here’s a measure of the famous egalitarianism of Australia:
Last night, the Australian Football League played a semifinal elimination game here in Perth, between Melbourne and the Perth-area team of Fremantle. (Australian or “Aussie Rules” Football is an physical game with very few rules, in which men trying to grab a slippery ball are often reduced to surreal piles of flailing hands and feet. Played without padding or helmets, it makes rugby look like croquet.) The crowd at Subiaco stadium last night was estimated at 42,000, most of them delighted as Fremantle upset Melbourne, 102-78.
The morning after, I imagined the planes would be full of hung-over, dejected Melbourne fans. Sure enough, in the airport bar were a bunch of young men in Melbourne guernseys, having a quiet beer. Then I recognized a face. These weren’t fans. This was the team.
Australia is a place where athletic superstars who’ve just played before a crowd of 42,000 can relax in the regular bar at the airport, without being bugged by the media or approached by fans. I could see other people recognizing them, but I soon realized that I was the only one staring. Though the popular corporate media here is as obnoxious as in America, Australians still have an instinctive respect for everyone's privacy based on equality. They know that the biggest sports stars are just blokes drinking beer, like them.