Good riddance to Good Friday discourse

Admittedly, the traditional Anzac Day clash is one of the less tacky events on the sporting calendar... but would Good Friday football commercialise and bastardise an otherwise revered day?

Every year we open up the same bag of worms.

To play on Good Friday, or not to play?

A few years ago it was Eddie McGuire. Then it was James Brayshaw. This year it’s none other than Jason Akermanis. We have yet to hear from one Jeff Kennett on the issue. But I’m sure he’s just saving up his voice for next Easter.

While some may find it easy to dismiss the respective views of these fine men on the basis of their outspoken nature, I believe that their opinions deserve our consideration.

After all, Australia is no longer a “Christian country”. On the contrary, “we’re the most un-religious country on earth”, as noted by Akermanis. I’m not going to ask him to name his sources, but that’s beside the point; regardless of your personal convictions, we can’t deny that the majority of Australians couldn’t give a stuff about Jesus and the 2000-year commemoration of his death.

If truth be told, football is the primary religion of the Australian masses. Different demographics may follow different denominations – Aussie rules for the cultured Victorians, union for the Queenslanders, league for the Sydneysiders, soccer for the immigrants – but the one-eyed vibe is consistent.

Australians live, breath, laugh, cry, talk, argue, and worship football.

What the argument posed by Akermanis and co. fails to take into consideration, however, is that Good Friday can no longer be reduced to a religious ritual of a minority. These days, it can apparently mean a lot more.

In this day and age, the religious aspect of Good Friday has been all but sucked dry; in the lead up to Easter, our shopping baskets house Easter Bilbies, not Bibles.

Along with Christmas, though, Good Friday is the only day of the year that everything is closed. For the majority of Australians, it’s a perfect excuse to share time with family, or to simply take a guilt-free break from everything else. Meanwhile, for those working in the football industry – the pie sellers, the security guards, even the players themselves – it is a rare weekend in which they can experience the elusive life outside sport.

It’s for this very reason that we don’t schedule the Boxing Day Test a day earlier.

What I’m trying to say is that even if we irreverently take Christ out of Easter, there is still value in a footy-less Good Friday. While we may not all appreciate the sound of hymns, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we desire theme-song carols instead.

The odd football congregant may scream at this predicament, yet the rest of the nation seems to get by without complains. One can only wonder how the footy diehards manage to survive the bye, let alone the off-season.

The case study of Monday’s Anzac Day match brings to mind another point. Admittedly, the traditional Anzac Day clash is one of the less tacky events on the sporting calendar; the consistent virtues of sport and battle, of courage and bravery, ring true for many patriots.

Nonetheless, a significant chunk of Aussies have no interest – let alone knowledge – of Australia’s involvement in Gallipoli. As a teenager, I often find myself struggling to relate to a seemingly obsolete event from a prehistoric context. As much as I feel obliged to contemplate the significance of our troops’ sacrifice in Turkey, I can’t help but perceive Anzac Day as an annual football festival.

This is by no means the fault of the diggers; even if I can’t relate to them, I can still admire their story. The problem is, their tale can occasionally be clouded by a sea of noise. And there’s nothing noisier than a mob of Magpies supporters, screaming at the umpires. All in the Anzac spirit, of course.

The same could be said of Queen’s Birthday. I personally can’t contain my excitement each year as “that day in June” approaches. My ecstasy, however, has little to do with a queen from a bygone era; rather, I’m energised for the sake of my beloved Demons. The question is, does anybody actually know the significance behind Ms. Victoria’s variable birthday?

I didn’t think so.

With this in mind, Australian Christians have every right to want Good Friday kept sacred. Good Friday encapsulates everything Christians believe. In the same way that Anzac Day reminds so many Aussies about the virtues of mateship and gallantry, Good Friday reminds believers worldwide of the love, grace, and sacrifice of their Messiah.

It’s thus easy to see why so many oppose of a bureaucratic organisation bastardising the public holiday, for the purpose of revenue and appeasing a couple of commentators.

When put into perspective, the debate over football on Good Friday is an unnecessary time-waster on the Aussie Rules agenda. It’s a cry from the football evangelists to finish secularising an already secular nation, to mercilessly strip a sacred day of all its significance and virtue.

The football gods have already blessed the masses with fixtures on Maundy Thursday, Easter Saturday, Easter Sunday, Easter Monday and “Anzac Day” Tuesday.

And with Round 6 set to commence this Thursday, one is left to ponder what it is we are really whingeing about?

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