This was always going to be almost impossible to do perfectly.
While there were a lot of things going for me when I decided to make my decision to take a year off watching sport –
1. I am overseas for the last 2 weeks of the AFL season
2. My Bombers weren’t going to / will not make the last 2 on Grand Final Day
3. My Lakers were already out of the NBA playoff race
there were still some items that were going to be particularly difficult for me to navigate as the year panned out.
Yet even as I typed my first ever posting on this blog, a text came through with an offer to attend a live football match for a friend’s birthday. As luck would have it, she went into labour before that night was over, proving to me that God was on my side, prepared to smite or impregnate those standing in my way. So in that case I was off the hook, but a fundamental question I knew would come at some stage had already raised its head before I had even clicked ‘Publish’ on post #1 – what am I going to do about live sport?
It’s a question I still don’t have an answer to.
Why would I ‘cut off my nose to spite my face’ by withdrawing from community events when the whole point of this exercise is to engage more with people. (Apologies for the italics. If you think they’re lame, sue my English teachers who didn’t teach me to be expressive enough with language). Does the act of saying ‘no’ to a sporting offer constitute a threat to the quality of the friendship? Of course not. But I’ll be limiting my opportunities to get together with certain people by continuing to opt out of live events.
I have had a lot of people ‘talk up’ live sport since they became aware of my journey, but they’re preaching to the converted! A pie and chips with some great friends at a packed MCG on a sunny Saturday afternoon (in Melbourne, really?!) is as good as it gets. The anticipation which laces your steps as you walk from the train to the ground. The rising hum of the crowd as game time draws near. The primal roar after a crucial goal. The earnest release expressed through good hearted yelling, screaming and pleading. The communal aspect of this endeavour is not to be underestimated. I’m not bagging it or the people that regularly attend, nor underestimating the fun of it. But I need a strong base from which to see this thing through. And to be honest, I haven’t really been a regular attendee since 2004 so for all its benefits, I don’t feel like my weekly activities will change too dramatically in this respect.
Not going to Manchester to see United play whilst in Europe this September, however, was a huge call. If I had my time again, I’m actually not sure I would make the same decision. But it did open up a plethora of different cities in Europe that I will now visit. But there is a greater problem, a little more close to home than Manchester, England…
There is one match I was never going to miss
I have a friend (It’s true. Just the one.) who will be retiring from football this year. It will be a significant moment in his life, having played the game since he was a junior in a sport that he and I both share a passion for and connect through. A chance to be a part of the memory of his final outing is something I’ve always assumed was a given. I was always going to be attending his farewell match. There is little chance I won’t be there.
So does being there put an end to this entire exercise?
I don’t think it does.
I’m not trying to justify myself by going to a live event just ‘cos it’s a mate’s last game’. I wish he’d play on another year or 2 and let me off the hook. This is about supporting and encouraging a friend and sharing in a milestone moment. Ironically, in essence, it complements my journey rather than contradicting it.
There’s a loonng list of scenarios we could generate and make pros and cons for each – birthdays, friends you never get to see anymore but are ’let out’ for a match, what if your mate does a Johnny Farnham and plays again next year (I’ll kill him) etc.
All or nothing?
We currently live in a society where three quarters of our young children, if they had demonstrated in the 1950’s the levels of stress and anxiety that they currently display, would have been institutionalised. Mental health is an issue. Cognitive distortions show themselves in various forms – overgeneralisation, disqualifying the positives and jumping to conclusions, to name just three. These also lead to the onset of depression and chronic anxiety. The relevance? ‘All or nothing thinking’, or ‘splitting’, is one such form of a cognitive distortion. And as a perfectionist, it’s something I need to be acutely aware of. A lack of discipline is not a problem for me. The opposite is.
The temptation for me, as someone who thrives in structure, is to create this blanket, ‘No – no sport whatsoever!’ rule and set it firmly in place. ‘Splitting be damned. It’s the right thing to do. No copouts.’ To be ‘lenient’ on myself goes against the grain, believe me. For now, I’m happy enough to take it on a case by case basis. If my attending a local footy game ruins the integrity of this operation in the eyes of people who read this, so be it.
This was never going to be easy.