What a day.
As planned, I went to the footy on the weekend. And, as thought, the sun continues to rise in the morning and set in the evening and a pack of killer viruses didn’t attack this blog, shutting it down in the process…
So, is life any different ?
Setting the scene
For the millions and millions of regular readers of this blog (ie, 2-3 people), feel free to skip this paragraph. A mate was retiring from his local footy club and playing his last game last Saturday. He’s played the game since he was 8 or 9 so it was a huge event in his life. I wasn’t going to skip it in order to be legalistic about ‘not watching sport’ for 12 months. Really, I wasn’t going for the game itself but to be part of a significant event in a friend’s life.
Back to the story
The contradictory nature of the occasion was exemplified by the nature of those in attendance. Two teams without a mathematical chance of making the finals saw my mate’s fiancé, father, mother, brothers, friends, neighbours (I had to include myself!) and young children in attendance well before bouncedown. Add to this the usual onlookers in the final game of the season at home and an upbeat, anticipatory atmosphere ensued.
As an aside, kids are solid gold at local footy; at one stage yelling out my friend’s name during the heat of the contest, probably wondering why he didn’t stop to acknowledge them whilst battling for possession 70+ metres away.
Everything started out beautifully, and I don’t mean an early goal to my friend – hot dogs and coke were consumed before noon. I blame his fiancé, but who am I kidding. I was intent on making the most of this! Only $5 was spent; making me already $17.50 ahead had I purchased the same items at Etihad Stadium. (All numbers to scale.) Another advantage of local football – reasonable prices! This goes along with a genuine community feel and a connectedness with the players on the field who aren’t making $500k+ and a club who aren’t trying to sell you membership packages, but a $2 raffle ticket to win a hamper.
And we’re off!
And then the game started and it did actually start out beautifully, with our exalted player of honour running into an open goal in the first quarter and popping it through from 15 metres out… for a point. His father remarked to me that that was a great start and would relax him considerably. I was left to be the one to break the bad news that his son had in fact missed the unmissable goal and hope for more opportunities further on.
Fortunately, the game was quickly blossoming into a blowout win. Even the good ol’ umpires understood the significance of the day, gifting our friend a free kick on the boundary line, which the away team hotly disputed. As their disagreement was outrageously vehement, the umpire, in his enduring wisdom awarded a 50 metre penalty, gifting our mate his first goal of the day. Not that that meant we could or would forget the earlier miss; after all, what are friends for, but at least we could exhale and enjoy the rest of the game.
More marks were taken, bumps given and goals kicked. My friend encountered no serious stoushes, a thought included here almost entirely with the purpose on enabling me to again use the word ‘stoush’…
The final siren in the final game saw many touching moments. Being chaired off by his teammates brought forth great applause, as well as raw emotion from some family members. I felt privileged to be in the heart of it.
People put a lot of stock in their chosen footy club. For most, it’s their AFL team; for others, their local club. For too many, this ‘interdependence’ extends well beyond a Saturday afternoon, taking in endless stats, analysis and non-stop predictions over teams, players and coaches. Add to that the explosion of ‘Fantasy Football’ competitions and the proliferation of betting in sporting circles. For me, this year’s journey is about reducing my dependence on this sporting ‘relationship’. It’s not a break-up but a temporary separation; allowing me to ‘see other people’ and immerse myself in a world unrelated to this mainstream fascination.
The scene of my friend in the changerooms after their victory, surrounded by his teammates, doused with water, sports drinks and probably a little emotion, game ball in hand, singing the team song with absolute gusto is not a image that will ever get out of my head. His emotional speech to the team afterwards? Well, that wasn’t for the ears of this writer; which is apt.
People come and go in life. Where will we all be in 20 years? Who knows?! But I’m a big believer in ‘doing the journey’. Half arsed friendships or efforts are not a part of my repertoire. I am so glad to have been a part of Saturday’s event; it was far bigger than a mere game.