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The lessons of life … from Round One

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Life

Why put off until tomorrow what you can do today? The grass is always greener on the other side. Patience is a virtue.

Three sayings which are all true but all need context to fully understand.

Football clubs used to follow the first two sayings religiously. Clubs would pick their best 22 for round one and live with the consequences later.

You’d constantly hear coaches saying “he’ll be right for round one.” But why is round one more important than round 18? Games are still worth four points. Lose a player with an injury in round one and you’ll regret having him sidelined in round four.

So, yes, Collingwood would love to have had Dale Thomas on the field for round one. He’s clearly better than their 22nd ranked player and would have had some sort of impact. But he wasn’t fit, so he didn’t play.

AFL vs soccer

Neither did Clinton Young, or Andrew Krakouer or Luke Ball.

And Collingwood isn’t the only club holding players back.

Simon Black, Luke Hodge and Steve Johnson are all Norm Smith medallists. But they weren’t ready to play, so they’re sitting out the opening game of the year.

It’s a valuable lesson in life.

Nope, not jealous at all...

Nope, not jealous at all…

To the beach!

Last week I spent five days on the Gold Coast for a holiday before the madness of the footy season began.

One night, we were talking to a lady from Darwin. She asked whether we’d swum with the dolphins or seals at SeaWorld. No, we hadn’t.

Had we been to the horse show at the local restaurant? No we hadn’t.

Had we done all of the other outrageously expensive things available on the Gold Coast? No, we hadn’t.

What had we done? Well, we’d been to the theme parks, enjoyed the beach, pool and other local attractions. Basically, we’d lived within our means.

“I’m not worrying about that,” she replied.

$14?!!

$14?!!

“I’ll regret it when the credit card bill arrives. But right now, I’m just enjoying myself. Now I’m getting another cocktail. They’re $14 each but they’re nice.”

Take your time

The football season is a marathon, not a sprint. My club, Essendon, discovered that last year when we dominated the first half of the season but failed to make the finals.

Being the best now doesn’t mean you’ll be the best when it matters. Being the smartest in primary school doesn’t mean you’ll get a great job. Burn out happens all the time.

A friend of mine loves the phrase “success is a journey, it’s not a destination.”

Simplicity

We are all on a journey that hopefully leads to happiness and success. But unless we all follow the path of simplicity and make rational decisions about our life, we’ll spend more time at the same destination – disaster.

Footy has a way of teaching life lessons. From racism and sexism to cheating and scandal, clubs mirror life. If we follow the lessons from off the field, we should also consider what we’re looking at on the field.

Seeing stars sitting in the grandstand is a reminder that some things can wait until tomorrow, the grass isn’t necessarily greener but patience is still very much a virtue.

(Blogger’s note – a special thanks to Craig O’Donoghue for writing this piece…)

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!

It’s 2012! How cricket needs to get itself out of ancient history

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(Disclaimer! – I drafted this piece before the Cowan, Hussey and Clarke explosions. I still think South Africa was hardly done by early on but yes, now … not so much!

And again, for any remaining Michael Clarke haters out there – three double centuries in a calendar year … yeah, I think he was the right man for the job – tattoo, sports cars, ex-girlfriend-supermodel notwithstanding…)

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If there’s one sport that seemingly evokes little passion nowadays, it seems to be our former favourite pastime of the summer.

I had a couple of interesting interactions with friends over the weekend about cricket, which surprised me because most fans only get into the cricket when it’s the Ashes. But aside from that one major rivalry – and it is a great one! – there appears to be an ever-dwindling passionate fan-base.

Our interest may be piqued when we square off against India, but can anyone tell me who we played in last year’s One Day Series? Where did we finish in the 20/20 World Cup? Who knocked us out? Did we even win the last 50 over World Cup?

Bored at the cricket And it’s raining. Who woulda thunk it!?

Cricket seems to be the sport to have on … when there’s nothing else on. Read the rest of this entry

It’s Grand Final time!

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Before I begin, kudos to Jobe Watson on winning the Brownlow Medal. What he has had to go through to mould himself into one of the best players in the game deserves significant accolades.

The pressure of being the son of Essendon legend Timmy Watson, who is revered by all of us at Bomberland, is nothing to scoff at. He started too soon, was out of his depth and lacked the prerequisite work ethic to make it. Well, the dedication came, and his extraction abilities in packs and his disposal by hand were exquisite.

Problem was, he couldn’t kick.

Taking that weakness and making it into a strength – look at his goal kicking this year – and taking on the captaincy are no small feats.

Those my age or younger will only remember Gavin Wanganeen and Hirdy as our previous winners. None of us will begrudge welcoming Watson into the fold alongside those celebrated Bomber players.

In a nice touch, I was born in 1976 – the last time we had a Brownlow medallist before then – Graham Moss. My son now shares the same story…

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I came pretty close to missing two Grand Finals in a row. Last year, I was overseas and in the middle of the year without sport.

I was never going to ‘sneak a peek’ at the big game and took some solace in partying in Lisbon, Portugal. Fortunately for me, last year’s final ended up being a rubbish game and a really unlikeable team won… What? Oh that’s right, it was a freaking epic and the hated Pies lost to the most popular team of the last decade. My bad.

This year, though, I was primed to take in the second half of the season and the Finals campaign. My Bombers were up and about when May 24 came around (unlike my Lakers, who were knocked out of the playoffs two days before the end of the YWS) and there were signs that the top teams weren’t unbeatable. I was watching only one game per round and keeping things in moderation…

And then the wheels came off. Read the rest of this entry

It’s just a game – some September perspective

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I’ve recently come off a two week sabbatical from being online. I’m thinking about some pretty big questions in life, career included, and I have felt my head get more and more lost in the outside world.

While the sporting viewing has been kept to a minimum since the year without sport ended, the proliferation of online content* has meant that I’ve struggled to keep my head in the game, focus on what truly matters and avoid the peripheral shenanigans that characterise so much of the online media. (* = crap)

Here are two major items that severely hijacked my time in the past few months –

1. Dwight Howard to ‘my’ Lakers. I know not everyone is a basketball fan, so here’s a little context to this one – the best big man and most sought-after free agent in basketball came to my team. A couple of years ago, my head would have exploded when this happened. This time, there was soooo much pre-emptive analysis that I was just glad it was over and done with. (And he’s now wearing purple and gold…!)

Giddy up!

And that was just one trade. Multiply this by the amount of player movement and it quickly becomes relentless. This in a league with about 30 teams times 12 players times a sport where loyalty means that a player will actually have his agent notify his former team that he’s signed elsewhere, instead of having them reading about it on the news wire.

2. The Olympics. Not only are the Games themselves almost impossible to keep up with, especially when taking into account the time difference between Melbourne and London, but there are so many stories within the story of the Olympics. Read the rest of this entry

We haven’t won a game in two years!

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An all-too familiar post-game scene…

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!

And what I thought I’d be seeing…

‘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.

How our skies have looked pretty much every day over the last 3 months…

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. Read the rest of this entry

Avoiding temptations on the road

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Well, it’s coming up to 15 months since I have seen my football team win a game. I haven’t been sucked in to watching the ‘easy’ wins that have come our way since my return and we have lost all 50/50 games in that same time.

I’m supposed to be going with a mate to see the Hawks in all probability de-stroy my Bombers this Friday night. I am currently in the midst of 3 days off work in a move which could be labelled a ploy in order to get off out of the pulverising brutality at Etihad Stadium. Just don’t tell my boss.

I am dangerously close to a reversal of the great 2000 season where I didn’t see us lose a single game. If that happens, stuff it, I’m watching us against the Tigers in Round 22. Oh please … don’t let us lose to them.

Two month anniversary today!

Being the two month anniversary today of my return to sport, I have seen that even when you have gotten your primary distraction under control, whether it be sport, shopping, tv, the internet, gambling or Facebook, there will be other elements ready and willing to drag your focus from what is important, such as sport, shopping, tv, the internet, gambling or Facebook!

Even last July, we came across a fellow pilgrim, who had just completed his year without American football. How did he do it? By getting into other sports, ironically, Australian Rules!

Part of Jack Kerouac’s yearning to be ‘On The Road’; the iconic surmisal of his ‘great’ road trip adventures in the 40s, stemmed from his refusal to subscribe to the cultural norms of having to consume production, and therefore have to pay for that ‘privilege’ of consuming, work, producing, repeat… Read the rest of this entry