“Is it footy season alllllrrrready?!”
In your head, think of the whingiest, most nagging tone and repeat that previous sentence.
I’m sure each of us has copped this before from someone we know or love.
You know, when it’s still hot in the Australian summer and the hype begins about the footy season … our winter sport! State and international cricket games are still going on, yet our cold weather heroes are running amok in the burning sun, looking as fresh as daisies, leaving the club officials to complain about limited interchanges and travel arrangements.
And look to be honest, those loved ones who put up with our obsession with a bunch of men chasing around some pigskin do have a point. “Didn’t the season just end?!”
Still, there are a number of reasons why, in any sport, sometimes the best thing about the season is before the season … you know, when reality kicks in.
So, without further ado, here are the top 5 features of the off-season.
5. Player Trades
Regardless of your sport, you may only ever be just one player away from ‘almost’ to ‘champion’. Or if you’re an NBA team chasing Lebron James at the end of next season, from ‘absolute nobody’ to ‘legit contender for as long as the best player in the game suits up for you’.
In the AFL, the Hawks have had all kinds of shenanigans in this realm. How’s this for a rollercoaster ride? Lost a pretty good player. But really, they wanted a key big backman. And they got him! Ready to compete, right?!
Well … maybe for this season.
The best player in the game, their stud forward Lance Franklin has put all contract talks off until the end of the season. Which either means ‘Gary ‘I’m definitely going elsewhere’ Ablett, or Travis ‘I have no freaking idea what I’m doing’ Cloke.
This is excruciating for Hawks fans, but genuinely entertaining for the rest of us, especially teams out west, where Buddy may be headed. (As an aside, I’ve already heard the “We always knew we were going to lose him” non-lament from a Hawthorn fan. God I loved last year’s Grand Final…)
You just never know when or if a monster trade will come your way. My Lakers were supposed nobodies until we traded for Steve Nash and the best big man in the game – Dwight Howard. I splurged for NBA League Pass on the back of this news! But then everyone sucked, so thanks for nothing.
Again, you just never know!
Ahh the beauty of off-season white noise! Without nine games a round to dissect within an inch of their lives, we are left with very few snippets of information regarding form, fitness and team cohesion to draw from.
So when anything little arises, like a one point win in a meaningless pre-season game, whispers about rising team unity and confidence, a player looking in top shape, a new game plan or a hot young prospect ‘finding form’, we jump on it like white on rice.
Any why not?! There’s nothing else to tell us otherwise…
Even for those teams expecting very little from their season, glimpses of real potential from some younger players, some good form and a decent effort on the field can take you from dreading the season, to allowing yourself to think, “If factors A, B and C align with D, we might just have a shot at this thing.”
Again, until reality kicks in!
I haven’t played this card yet because the pre-season games have been on Foxtel, but if you win the argument with your significant other that some pre-season games are somewhat meaningful, there’s a tonne of leverage coming your way.
Stay with me, here. You see, if you pro-actively decide to not watch a game in order to be the ‘good’ boyfriend, dad, husband etc, this can pay itself back down the line during the season proper. “I can’t go out that weekend, hon. There’s a big game on. I missed ones earlier in the season, but I just can’t then…”
On second thoughts, why am I putting this in print?! Just forget it; I never wrote it, let’s move on.
Poor journos. Our insatiable appetite for footy-related news doesn’t end when the siren sounds on the last Saturday in September. Over a long, boring summer in terms of football, they still have to churn out ‘newsworthy’ pieces to placate the masses.
This summer has been somewhat different, however. The drugs in sport scandal, match fixing, tanking (Melbourne, but nearly every club has done it), the report from the Australian Crime Commission, including information on players with direct links to organised crime syndicates and the Lance Armstrong disaster, has seen a more serious tone taken.
But that hasn’t stopped the amount of back story ‘news’ that has proliferated our senses. There’s convicted assaulter Dane Swan heading up the back page because he needs to play even better, where will Buddy Franklin go, rule changes, officials squawking at each other over salary cap concessions, gambling, interchange changes(!), and fights at music festivals alongside drunkenness in public places – just unthinkable for young footballers on holidays with tonnes of cash…!!
1. Ignore it all!
Truly, the best thing about the time in between seasons is that you can just shut off the teev, turn off the phone, flick off the iPad and just, be.
Coffees, movies, bike rides, dinners, tennis matches, books, brunches, beach trips, BBQs, hikes, beers – the extended break enables you to sink in deeply and immerse yourself in your actual world.
And when the season proper finally kicks off, you’ll find that you haven’t been hanging on the edge of the seat, waiting for it all to begin, grabbing at any piece of ‘news’ that you’ve been force-fed over the summer.
You may even ease yourself back into it, missing a few early games, waiting for the rhythms of the season to kick in, finding out who are the contenders and who are the pretenders before you spend your valuable time and money.
There’s a whole other world out there, and if we were true to ourselves, it wouldn’t only be our significant others who bemoan the new season, wondering how the time went so quickly…