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THE GAME IS NOT THE SAME by Whispering Jack

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The doyen of Australian cricket commentators Alan McGilvray often had difficulty coming to terms with the changes in the game as it adapted to the realities of commercialism in the era of colour television. He even wrote a book entitled, "The Game is Not the Same" in the wake of the Packer World Series Cricket circus.

I was thinking of him as I made my way to watch Melbourne footballers training this morning on Australia Day, 2015 at Gosch's Paddock. The pre season is already into its third month, having begun in November last year. The NAB Challenge matches are a month away and the premiership season starts in a little over two month's time.

In McGilvray's era, the footballers would have been more than a month away from gathering to prepare for the year ahead with the obligatory first up lap or two of the Tan. There would have been a Test Match in session over in Adelaide with players wearing whites and baggy caps instead of the pastel coloured gear they wore at last night's T20 semi-final between the Perth Scorchers and the Melbourne Stars (I can sense Alan turning in his grave). No tennis across the road at Flinders Park; the Open was played at Kooyong and at a different time of the year. As for soccer, you couldn't get two men and a dog to the Showgrounds in mid winter to watch that; never mind tens of thousands for the Asian Cup.

Footy training began in earnest late in the Sheffield Shield cricket season with balls flying around the MCG and players avoiding injury by staying away from the cordoned off pitch in the centre of the ground. And you might have heard some of the names of your team's recruits from newspaper despatches but you would rarely put a face to those names unless you turned up in late March to a practice match somewhere in the bush or at the G if it wasn't required by the cricketers.

Today, the game is not the same.

We know almost everything there is to know about the team thanks to an exponentially expanded media in this electronic age. We've seen you tube action of our favourite players at training, of the new recruits from other clubs and of the fresh faced youngsters. Not only that but we know how fast they can cover 20 metres from a standing start, how they can leap tall buildings in a single bound and the names of their pet cats and dogs. We've read every report from every training session to date, every drill and every movement at training's been covered including those eleven days on camp at Maroochydore, so what brings us to Gosch's Paddock so early on this Australia Day morning to watch them go around?

I suppose it's because for all of the marvels and wizardry of the electronic age, the film, the videos and the graphics, the game is not the same when you view it that way and it's still better to witness sport (be it practice or the real thing) in person even when it's raining where you feel more a part of the action and you can better gauge the people and the personalities who you come to watch.

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