01/29/2012 10:22 pm ET Updated Mar 30, 2012

Now for Something Really Different: Watching the Australian Open Down Under

Traveling in Australia for two weeks, I had the chance to watch the entire Australian Open in Melbourne on the Australian Prime Network TV. This was a real eye-opener as to what really goes on in Australian sports.

The first shocker was an advertisement for the "McOz burger" from "Mackers" (the Australian term for McDonald's). What's a McOz burger? A 100 percent Australian beef burger with beetroot and "classic ketchup" (treading carefully on the use of the word ketchup since the Australians use "tomato sauce.")

The second shocker was that just before each new match, a notice came up on the TV screen with each player's name and a dollar sign. Just before the quarter-final game between Andy Murray and Kei Nishikori, for example, Murray was fetching AU$1.07, and Nishikori AU$9.00. These were the odds for betting on them -- Just like horse racing. And it's "fair dinkum" (true). As the Aussie saying goes, "Australians would bet on two flies crawling up a wall." Thus the flourishing online gambling site called Sportsbet ("Aussie Open special -- Money back if your player loses in 5 sets!"). You can even bet on who will win the first set. Or if a player wins a set at all. Online betting sites are full of all the player stats you need to know to make your own guesstimate.

The Rod Laver Arena -- which seats approximately 15,000 -- brought some interesting aspects to the sport. Here, these world class tennis players, the elite who have qualified for this Grand Slam here in Melbourne, not only have to be in top physical shape and play their absolute best, but they also run the risk of having a cricket waltz out onto the court during play. Yes, really! Blood oath, "dinkie-die," stick a needle in my eye, Rod Laver Arena was plagued with crickets this year. One cricket's on-court appearance was so distracting to the players, the lawless insect was removed during the game by one of the ball girls. Don't those crickets realize? They've got the wrong sport! The Melbourne Cricket Ground is next door.

In addition, the Australian sportscasters on-site offered various bits of player trivia, the most enigmatic being, "Victoria Azaranka and Maria Sharipova were conceived in the same country." I'm not even going there...