After a live chat with Patty Mills on Monday in which fans asked questions pertaining to some of the stereotypes we have here in the United State regarding Australia, I thought it would be a good idea to have Patty address some of the more prevalent conceptions regarding "the land down under."
True or false: Foster's really is Australian for beer.
Thanks to one of the most successful beer marketing campaigns of all time, the beer in the big blue can has become synonymous with Australia, at least in the United States. Most people probably don't know what the capital of Australia is, which hemisphere it's in or that it's a continent, but they damn sure know that Foster's, at least according to the geniuses at Madison Avenue, is Australian for beer.
According to their official website...
William and Ralph Foster created Foster's in 1887. They were so dedicated to delivering Foster's the way it should be enjoyed, they even sold it with ice to keep Australian's warm environment at bay. More than 120 years later, the bold, refreshing taste of Foster's is available in more than 150 countries, making it the largest-selling Australian beer brand in the world.
It's quite ambitious to try to cool an entire continent by serving up beer on ice, but kudos to the Foster's for giving it a go. But while it might wet the pallets of lager lovers over most of the world, Foster's, according to Patty, is anything but Australian.
"To be honest, I hadn't even heard of it before I came over to America," said Mills. "I heard it just from American's trying to rub some dirt into Australians really. To be honest, I don't know any Australian that drinks it. We've got strong lagers in Australia."
It might have originated in Australia, but Foster's is now brewed all over the world by macrobrewers like Heineken in Europe, SABMiller in the United States and Molson in Canada.
So even though the Foster brothers might have started wetting whistles in Australia, the notion that their beer is the gold standard down under seems like a monumental stretch, especially in Patty's opinion.
Verdict: False. Let's go Outback tonight!
True or false: Australians and New Zealanders hate each other.
Flight Of The Conchords
, a delightfully quirky and unfortunately short-lived series on HBO following the exploits of Jermaine and Bret, a folk singing duo from New Zealand managed by their friend and fellow New Zealander Murray, often made references to the the rivalry between the Kiwis and their Australian neighbors. The basis of the rivalry, according to 22 episodes of a premium cable channel series, stems from an inferiority complex on the part of New Zealanders. I guess living on an island 28 times smaller than Australia will do that.
Patty says there is a bit of ill will that exists between the two countries, but that it's mostly friendly.
"It's a big rivalry," said Mills. "Not really hate, but when it comes to sports it's a big rivalry. There's definitely no love lost then. Not only basketball but all other sports as well. But when we're not competing we get along alright."
Verdict: Mostly false
True or false: In Australia, dingos will eat your baby.
In 1980, a nine-week old Australian, Azaria Chamberlain, disappeared while on a camping trip at Ayers Rock in central Australia. Her parents, Lindy and Michael, claimed Azaria was carried away and presumably eaten by wild Australian dogs known as dingos. She was never found.
Lindy and Michael's explanation didn't fly with Australian authorities. Lindy was tried and convicted of murder in 1982, with Michael as an accessory after the fact. He served no jail time.
But when a piece of little Azaria's clothing was found in a dingo infested area, Lindy was acquitted of the charges and set free. An increase in attacks by packs of dingos has apparently further buttress Lindy's claim.
Patty has obviously never heard this story, which is understandable considering it happened eight years prior to his birth, as he wrote off the notion of a dingo making off with Australian babies in the night as hokum.
"No, definitely not," said Mills of dingo baby theft. "Again, that something some American's made up. Nothing Australian to do with that. It's a wild dog, but they definitely don't eat babies."
Verdict: Sorry Patty, but this one is true, though probably not very common.
True or false: The late Steve Irwin, also known as "The Crocodile Hunter," is considered a god in Australia.
Steve Irwin, an Australian wildlife expert known for capturing and relocating crocodiles and other wild animals, become wildly popular in the last 1990's and early 2000's thanks to his shown on Animal Planet called "Crocodile Hunter." The combination of his willingness to put himself at risk for the betterment of animals, specifically snakes and reptiles, along with a boisterous, free-wheeling personality made him, along with his wife and fellow wildlife expert Terri, international celebrities.
Unfortunately Irwin's love for bringing wildlife into the homes of millions via television was eventually his undoing. Irwin was stabbed in the chest by the barb of a stingray while filming in the Great Barrier Reef. He was pronounced dead a few hours after the incident.
While Mills wouldn't go so far as to label Irwin a deity, he did say his importance to Australians almost impossible to overstate.
"He's definitely a big Australian icon," sail Mills. "I wouldn't say he's a god, but everyone definitely knows who he is and what he's done for Australia. Defiantly a big icon.
"It was rough (when he died). It was real rough, not only for people who were into that kind of stuff but people all around Australia, and all around the world as well."
Verdict: While he might not reach the status of Jesus or Ganesha, Irwin holds a special place in the hearts of Australians. I'm going to go ahead and call this one true.
True or false: Kangaroos and koalas roam the Australian landscape freely and in large numbers.
Kangaroos are probably the only thing more stereotypically Australian than Foster's. They have pouches. They hop. They box. They look cute, but I hear they've got a mean side too, hence the boxing.
Same goes for koala bears. They look friendly, but if you wake them when they're asleep (on average koalas sleep something like 23 hours out of the day) you're liable to get your eyes scratched out, or so I'm told.
Koalas are only found in Australia. Same is mostly true with the kangaroo, though they have made their way to some of the islands around Australia, at least according to wikipedia. It no surprise that both the koala and kangaroo have become iconic when you consider you'd have to go to Australia to see either animal in the wild.
There tends to be an assumption that both the kangaroo and koala must be everywhere in Australia given the close association with the continent. But people associate rain and bigfoot with Oregon, and as we know, those assumptions are drastically overstated. Perhaps the same thing is true when it comes to Australia and two of the world's most famous marsupials.
According to Patty, the assumption is half true. Koalas aren't all the prevalent, at least in the area Patty hails from, but kangaroos really are all over the place according to the Aussie point guard.
"Kangaroos, where I'm from in Canberra, there are a lot," said Mills. "They're animals who run freely. I guess it would be equivalent to deer in Oregon. We have the yellow signs like they have here for deer, but with a kangaroo on them. You see them everywhere."
Fascinating, and reason enough to take the 13 hour flight to Patty's homeland. I can't imagine coming up on a herd (is that the right word?) of kangaroos hanging out on the side of the freeway waiting for traffic to die down before attempting to cross. I wonder if the phrase "like a kangaroo in the headlights" is as commonly used down there as "deer in the headlights" is here.
The kangaroo and deer have another thing on common, according to Mills: both are hunted by their respective human oppressors for their delicious meat.
"We aboriginal people hunt them, cook them different ways," said Mills. "You can marinate them, barbecue, whatever. It's not bad."
There were two things Patty and I discussed that didn't really fit into the "fact or fiction" format, but you still might find them interesting.
First, Patty says that women in Australia are sometimes referred to as "Sheila's", though you're probably best off not using it as a pickup line should you run across one of Australia's lovely ladies.
"That's a really Australian thing to say," said Mills. "It's not really a compliment, I guess. Australian women wouldn't really see it as a compliment these days."
Hopefully this information may save you from ruining a chance at what could otherwise be a long and fulfilling relationship.
Finally, Patty noted that most everyone tries out their Australian accent when they find out where he's from. And though he's a rather nice fellow, he's been less than impressed by the attempts to mimic his native dialect. Two guys in particular are especially bad at it,.
"American's try to mock our accent and they do a horrible job at it," said Mills jokingly. "It's embarrassing. The guys who try all the time are (assistant coach Bill) Bayno and Coach Monty (Willams). They try to do the Australian accent all the time and I just laugh at them. They need to stop."
Don't bring that weak accent into Patty's house.