So, Gary Ablett finally won the Brownlow. For my international friends who are not familiar with footy, the Brownlow Medal is the Australian Football League’s highest individual honour, given to the “Fairest and Best” player in the AFL each year. “Fairest and Best? Is it like an MVP?” I hear some of you ask. What it boils down to is the player who receives the most votes for being the Fairest and Best player in games during the Home and Away season wins. Pre-season and finals performances do not count. Any player who receives a suspension for misconduct or for breaking the rules is excluded. This has actually happened twice. In the late nineties, Corey McKernan poled the same number of votes as co-winners James Hird and Michael Voss but didn’t get a medal because of a suspension. The next year, the Bulldog’s Chris Grant was the outright winner but because of a one week suspension lost out to St Kilda’s Robert Harvey.
“Who votes on this?” you ask. Would you believe it’s the game umpires? Yes, those who officiate the game will, at the end of the game, get together and decide who they give 1, 2 or 3 votes to. Add these up over the Home and Away season and you get the Brownlow winner.
It’s these two factors which mean that it’s not necessarily the best or most valuable player who wins the Brownlow. Which is a shame, really, and sometimes there’s some real surprises. There’s different systems to determine which player is best in a given league. For example, the coaches in the National Basketball League cast votes for the best players in each game to determine the NBL MVP. As far as I understand, this is still the case. In the NBA, the award is decided by a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada some of whom belong to cities with teams, and some without teams. I tend to think that this is a better method to find an MVP, really. The large group of sports writers are as close as you’ll come to a non-biased collection of objective experts. No, I don’t think Umpires are objective in determining performance, nor are they experts. Their job is to blow whistles. Coaches win games. A fan based system is just a popularity contest. No, sports writers are paid to analyse and report on games so I think they are best qualified.
But then again, the Brownlow isn’t the MVP. <shrug>
The Brownlow Medal presentation has to be the single most boring television broadcast ever. Some dude calls out the three votes from every game of every round. That’s more than 500 names and numbers. Riveting stuff. In recent years there’s been more and more emphasis on what the players and their wives and/or girlfriends wear to the ceremony. In 2004 Chris Judd’s girlfriend became a legend by wearing a revealing, but tasteful, red dress. Others have tried and failed since.