Two years in the abyss – an insight into the foibles of ‘hope’
I am worried for my son.
You see, I’ve worked around kids for well over a decade. They are funny, cheeky and loyal … to a point.
They like to get their own way, they like to have fun … and they like to win.
Barracking for the Bombers at the moment does not equate with winning. In fact, while my little boy has only been around for 90 days, it was 485 days ago that I last saw my Bombers win a game. 485!
That was the first of May, 2011, when the boys in red and black almost scored 100 points in the first quarter against Gold Coast, who apparently now go ok against the Navy Blues.
Last year, I expected the dropoff; Essendon weren’t expected to go that far. Having said that, we were 3rd on the ladder after the Gold Coast win. Two weeks later, the bottom fell out; it’s not exactly an encouraging sign when your team can’t win a game in winter … in a winter sport!
‘That was last year’
But this year was different, or so I was told. We weren’t just high on the ladder, winning a tonne of games and sitting comfortably in the top 4, we were a legitimate threat come September. (Finals time in Aus…)
‘Hold on, Bombers!’ I exclaimed. I had a May 24 return date from my year without sport and I didn’t want them overheating the engine before then. Not to worry, I was told. There are many teams that should be concerned right now; you’re not one of them… So, even as a conservative sporting follower, I had to admit that I was drinking the Essendon Coolade.
So when the return came, even though winter’s depths loomed, (and let’s face it, what a rub-bish Melbourne winter it has been!), I returned an expectant supporter.
And then everything turned to pot.
Round 9 – the ‘return’
Ok, so other things had changed in my life by the return to sport. I was a new father and my perspective on sport had shifted significantly; I was no longer going to let my life be dictated by a fixture and a group of sportsmen who I had no personal connection with. People would always supersede sport.
So when the first game back for my beloved Dons was the Greater Western Sydney fixture, I opted out. I did get to hang with my mates and finally view the epic 2011 Grand Final, but with a win against the GWS a given and babysitting duties locked in for the following Saturday night – enabling further footy viewing – what harm could it cause to miss?
For those out of the loop or for the Bombers fans who have repressed this particular memory, Round 9 versus GWS was the last time our team’s actual performance resembled the hype. Because it was Round 10 when the Bombers, with only one loss to the mighty Pies by 1 point on Anzac Day against their name, played against the winless Demons.
It won’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what happened next.
On a wet, cold night against a team that clearly wanted it more, the slide into oblivion began, going down 58-52 in an appalling display; the first of many. 110 points combined? What is this, West Coast – Sydney in the mid 2000’s?!
What followed thereon was inconsistency which then formed into a fully formed disaster. Blowout losses, disinterested players, a mass of injuries and angry fans. From finals talk and ‘premiership contention’ to a probable 12th place finish – I originally typed ‘11th’ and then went to check the fixture, realising that Richmond will in all likelihood jump us this weekend – it couldn’t be more embarrassing. Well … there’s always the Carlton – Gold Coast thing.
Do I regret not watching the Bombers – GWS game, now that all this time has passed without seeing a solitary win?
No, not really.
As sports fans, we see a myriad of nothing games; that would have been no different. I have steered away from wasting my time with the obvious Essendon wins, a decision helped by the limitation of only one game per round.
Why would I have watched the Bombers destroy the Bulldogs in Round 14 when I could go to a friends’ place on the Friday night to catch up and take in the Blues and Hawks. (When Carlton weren’t, you know, finished by the whole Gold Coast debacle.)
Somebody think of the children!
For my little one’s sake, I’d rather these appalling seasons occur when he is none the wiser and hold out hope that we’ll be competitive when he is an impressionable young boy in the early years of his primary schooling. This life stage, when he could be easily led by the ‘cool kids’ who may lead him astray, betraying his family in the process(!), scares me more than the ‘dating years’. Well, almost…
The irony … and getting a grip
It is ironic, however, that I am currently experiencing the exact reversal of the great 2000 season, when the Bombers only lost one game in Round 21, which was one of the very few games I did not attend.
For many, not seeing a single win in almost two years would be devastating. So much … sorry, too much of our health and happiness rises and falls on the crests of our beloved footy teams.
Time away has enabled me to ‘get a grip’. There’s no devastation at the fallout, just a wry smile, acknowledging the irony of the situation.
I know many at the moment who are going through a process of ‘Soul Food’, looking to strip away and moderate the unnecessary elements of their lives and looking to integrate a ‘focal activity’ into their lives; something tangible, or community building; soul strengthening, not destroying…
For me, I haven’t surfed the net in a fortnight (and there’s been no internet connection on the phone for a while now) and TV time has been moderated. For others, there’s a fair few off Facebook right now; people are cooking, building, sharing; making space in their lives to engage with what’s really important. It’s been inspiring to see.
Away from soul food, there’s a rising anticipation for September, not for finals time, but for warmer weather and, incredibly, the faint hope that certain friends, yes, even Hawthorn supporters, will achieve premiership glory on 29/9.
I’ll also look forward to showing them the papers 3 days after their victory…