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The sweet, rare taste of victory

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Welcome, newbies! And that's red Gatorade, not war-induced blood you can see...

Welcome, newbies! And that’s red Powerade, not war-induced blood you can see…

After a break of almost two whole years, I finally saw my favourite team win a game!

I can’t explain what it’s like to go this long with seeing the Bombers grab an AFL match by the horns and earn the W.

It was close to two years ago that we scored almost 100 points in the first quarter against the Gold Coast Suns in a massive blowout win. I didn’t even bother hanging around for the end of that game; little did I know that the year without sport was soon to follow, followed by the unravelling of the Dons’ season in 2012 after my return.

Sure we won some games late last season, but the YWS had ingrained in me that I wasn’t going to watch every game that was available. So it needed to be a good contest before I’d plonk myself down to have a look. It’s almost embarrassing to say that we lost every ‘contest’ we were in from about Round 10 onwards.

Take it down, already!

Take it down, already!

Uh oh

When the drugs scandal at Bomberland broke, with players in danger of having been injected with illegal substances without their knowledge throughout the year, I was almost glad to have the emotional detachment that a year without had forged. Not only were we terrible on the field, we’d been borderline felonious off it. (“Felonious” … great word.)

Better to care a little less than to care too much and wonder just how on earth this could have been allowed to happen at a professional sporting organisation.

So when Round 1 ticked around, I had seen zero pre-season action, of any game, not just my own team, and needed to do some last minute research as to the make-up of the team before they started the contest. But without any spare time, I messaged a friend and got some of the scoop from him on where we were at. This was handy, as I was able to use this information soon after when bantering with a Crow mate so it sounded like I actually had some idea what was going on. Which, as usual, I didn’t.

No idea

Plans can change

And, truth be told, a night watching footy wasn’t even on the cards. I had arrived home for one of those rare Friday night ‘I have no idea what I’m doing tonight’ evenings. Well, besides, watching my 10 month old son and making sure he comes to no harm.

Side note – now that he’s crawling, there’s waaayyyy too much chances for harm to come his way. Everything is now a danger – pot plant from neighbours, recycling basket, DVDs, shiny baby monitor, the dog(!); they’re all up for grabs!

When a movie a mate and I had grabbed on the Apple TV was over, we checked the footy score to see my boys down 22-9 at quarter time. This was in a ‘contest’ we were expected to lose … at a venue where opposing teams rarely leave with their dignity intact … after the way we ended last season … and then the drugs scandal …

I assumed we were heading to another movie.

So what transpired after that was about as sweet as it gets.

Another change

Six goals to one in the second quarter.

Wave after wave of forward running, good use of hands, accurate kicking for goal, bursts of speed. Pulling away in the third quarter, do some kitchen work at the start of the fourth in case it all runs awry too quickly, stride around the lounge room when goal after goal sealed the win.

Scream all you like, Crows bum, a sealing goal to the reigning Brownlow Medalist...

Scream all you like, Crows bum; a sealing goal to the reigning Brownlow Medalist…

This isn’t to say that I’ve fallen completely back in love with my team again and will follow all the ins and outs as the season progresses … Too much has changed for that to recur. But geez it was good just to watch my team, without concerns re obsessive behaviour and simply see us kick more goals than some thugs from Adelaide.

If we keep the simple things in life simple, and I don’t start dreaming of unbeaten seasons and multiple premierships and Brownlows in succession, then there’s nothing wrong with the enjoyment that comes from watching your team play well … for the first time in 700 freaking days! (Trust me on the maths, I just googled it…!)

It’s when we place too much onus on those simple joys and we mire them with an over-emphasis at the expense of the healthy, relational and focal aspects of our lives that real issues arise. And like it or not, saturation or betting constitute ‘issues’…

Sports gambling

For now, I’ll keep engaging with the world around me and trying to practice moderation in the face of the temptation of relentless busyness. I’m offline this week ‘for Lent’; staying off the sport (and all other) pages so I can keep my head in what the Easter season is actually about, focusing on Jesus.

This blog and the journey might be coming to an end soon – late May will close the books on these pages – but it doesn’t mean that you can let your hair down and stop being intentional. There are too many distractions and temptations just waiting to hotwire our psyches.

Though two in a row for the Bombers wouldn’t be too bad!

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The blame game

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Blame

Who we turn on when things just aren’t going right in life…

I promise that this won’t be a cricket piece about Michael Clarke.

It only begins with him.

It’s felt like yeeeeeears since I’ve read anything negative and inflammatory about our national cricket captain. I mean, he’s taken a team of veritable nobodies and had very pleasing levels of success, doubling up as our most creative captain since Mark Taylor (ironic, I know), all the while averaging about 285 … not out.

So it was with intrigue that I read the piece by Brendan McArdle, pilloring Clarke for not manning up enough under duress to bat at no. 3 in the third test, and for his responsibilities as they pertain to the admittedly terrible state of the test team, currently on tour in India and down (and out) 3-0.

The headline...

The headline…

It’s gotten me thinking about the role that sport plays in our lives and how we quickly and vitriolically we can turn on players and teams we support and players and teams we can’t stand, if things don’t go quite the way we want them to.

Which, let’s be honest, is more often the norm than not… Read the rest of this entry

Fellas – Are we asking each other the right questions?

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A friend forwarded me a link a little while ago.

I implore you to watch it. It’ll only take a minute, quite literally.

Click here

The back story is ugly. Just a few weeks ago, Jovan Belcher, linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL, committed suicide at his home stadium, in front of the team’s general manager and coach.

It was a grizzly scenario, made all the uglier from his homicidal shooting of his girlfriend just minutes earlier.

Brady Quinn during his insightful reflections...

Brady Quinn during his insightful reflections…

Afterwards, it was the profound comments of quarterback Brady Quinn that most struck me –

“It got me thinking about the questions we ask each other about ‘how we’re doing’, are we being honest with each other, social networks, twitter, Facebook, half the time we’re more pre-occupied with our phone over the relationships in front of us.”

And I think about how much that applies to me and that it applies to us, as men who love sport but struggle to talk about our feelings. Read the rest of this entry

The top 5 features of the PRE-season!

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AFL marriage interruption

“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.

This trade Actually happened! Sure Kobe had never played a game, but still...!

This trade Actually happened! Sure Kobe had never played a game, but still…!

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.

AFL oh buddy

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!

Obama hope

4. Hope

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!

Leverage man woman

3. Leverage

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.

'Under attack' ... no, no hyperbole here.

‘Under attack’ … no, no hyperbole here.

2. ‘Stories’

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…!!

Smile enjoy life

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…

Empty

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NBA Bieber bored

So I had a mad Saturday morning on the weekend just gone.

You see, the way that Team Evans’ week is structured, Mrs YWS gets to get away each Saturday morning. She scores a sleep in and heads out for a healthy looking eggs benedict + coffee that generally gets photographed and Facebooked about 2.3 seconds after delivery; narrowly defeating the 3.8 seconds it takes to scoff the aforementioned meal.

I get quality and quantity time with my ‘little’ bug a lugs and a growing appreciation of the relentlessness of full time parenting. I actually look forward to it, though the 6-7am get-up on the first morning of the weekend can be a little jarring.

Tired

Anyway … I gotta be honest. I’m surrounded by parents, many of my friends are veteran child rearers, I work alongside them at schools, my world is literally full of people who are connected to kids I know or teach.

Where’s the heads up?!

Therefore, I’m a little miffed that not one of them pulled me aside in the first few weeks or months since Joshy was born and said – ‘Never, ever, under any circumstances, take your child to a public pool on a Saturday morning.’

Ok, not quite, but you get the point...

Ok, not quite, but you get the point…

Read the rest of this entry

Losing. In more ways than one.

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NBA Jerry Buss passes

I was initially going to write today’s piece on sporting legends. Some of them have been in the news recently; those you truly appreciate, eg Michael Jordan, or because of the sport they’re involved in, you know of them, but never quite gravitate towards their greatness, admiring it from afar … think Black Caviar.

However, LA Lakers’ owner Jerry Buss passed away overnight, leaving a gaping hole in the NBA landscape and a Russian meteor sized crevasse in the heart and soul of a team I truly love.

Coinciding with James Hird’s role or complete negligence in his lack of a role in the Bombers’ drugs debacle, the figurehead of the other team I love may also be on his way out.

Losing people who define your team is jarring and there is a great fear in the future. So the legends can wait for now, as we need a little back story. Read the rest of this entry

Your year without sport?!

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No sport

How drugs, power and greed could mean a(nother) year without sport for your footy team

If you had asked me three weeks ago what a peptide was, my answer would have meshed around somewhere between a pop tart and something oceanic. Now, I know far too much.

For those in a cave these last couple of weeks or (somewhat rightly) waiting until it stops being 30 degrees before you start following our great winter game, AFL, what has transpired is the bottom falling out on one of the great football clubs, culminating in, as one friend termed it, ‘the biggest week in Australian sports history’.

The Essendon Football Club can no longer guarantee its players that substances taken orally or administered via injection last season were legal. Basically, players may have been doped without their consent.

There are others clubs under investigation, one unnamed player certainly targeted for cheating that will raise headlines soon enough, a global soccer match fixing scandal that involves my home team, and oh, the Aussies won 5-0 against a powerhouse West Indies team. Forget that last part, no one cared about the cricket this summer once the South Africans went home. Thanks for nothing, ACB.

Bombers officials and coach James Hird face the music. The looks on the faces say it all...

Bombers officials and coach James Hird face the music. The looks on their faces say it all…

Getting a grip

It’s difficult right now, as a Bombers fan, to get a grasp on what I’m feeling. Read the rest of this entry