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Farewell piece – the final post

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Goodbye

Well, I can’t believe that this is it!

It’s been two years since I became overwhelmed with the plethora of sporting options on offer to consumers and began The Year Without Sport.

Keeping up with the relentless saturation of the NBA basketball and AFL football seasons, to go along with soccer – Australian A-League, English Premier League and the Champions League, as well as WWE, UFC, Major League Baseball, the NFL, tennis and cricket, was just too much.

Desperately wanting something more from life than just creating enough time to watch ‘x’ amount of coverage each night, I went cold turkey.

Or, to be more poignant –

“Stuff this!”

It’s a move I’ll never regret and is one I’m particularly proud of.

Soon after, the blog began…  –

Exploding bomb

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

Stepping away

It’s ironic that the capital letter ‘m’ in the ‘wingdings’ font is an image of a bomb about to explode. I’ll give you a minute now for the inevitable check on Word to see if this is in fact true … … there? Satisfied? Now, the reason I know this is because the ‘My year without sport’ heading at the top of the page I’m drafting this on is in that font, just in case my wife happens to pass by and looks over my shoulder to see what I’m typing. You see, right now, this is a secret from everyone in my life.

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Looking back

Ahh, the long paragraphs, the bolded words to draw your attention to particular phrases. What a rookie! Still, I didn’t know if anyone would read it, or if it would make an impact, still don’t really… (Having said that, it’s still my favourite piece of any that I wrote, with maybe my letter to my son a close second…)

But what I did know is that I wanted to be intentional about engaging with this process, about not just finding other crutches to waste my time on – tv, movies, music et al, but engaging in what was truly important – my wife, my faith, my family and friends and my community.

And now, my son.

Sigh...

Sigh…

Sacrifices

There were things to give up along the way – an amazing NBA Finals series with the evil Miami Heat getting knocked off by the Dallas Mavericks, an epic Cats – Pies AFL Grand Final in 2011, seeing Manchester United in person at Old Trafford, I repeat, in person… (Double italics, still a rookie…!), cricket innings of magnificence from Clarke and Warner, Sam Stosur dominating Serena in the US Open Final on S11, the Bombers going ballistic to start last season before the drugs wore off, Cadel winning le Tour, the New England Patriots in the SuperBowl, Man U clinching the title and WrestleFreakingMania (It’s a sport, don’t make me link back to the two blogs that covered this. Whoops, too late…)

A sport!

A sport!

Were the sacrifices worth it? Of course. Was it a perfect journey? Of course not. There were things I could have done better – been more bullish about finding alternative focal activities to immerse myself in, staying offline and actively avoiding sports results are two that instantly spring to mind.

But it’s given me a deep richness of living and an incredible perspective on my priorities and has created an ongoing dialogue with many people I know.

Two years, almost 150 blog posts, 23,000 blog visits and 141,000+ words later, sport no longer has the hold it once had on me. Was I disappointed when the Lakers got bounced from the playoffs or when Kobe snapped his Achilles?

Not the end of the world ... just the season.

Not the end of the world … just the season.

Yeah, a biiit.

But that’s about it.

You move on

Life moved on for me pretty quickly, and not a single ounce of my energy or being was tied to the result of the NBA season, or the current footy season.

When I started the YWS, I found it amazing just how quickly I didn’t miss it.

First came relief, then came positive alternatives, admittedly there was some boredom (pre Joshie!) and the aforementioned tough moments (in person!)

but

You will never know the hold that your vices have on you until you give them up.

Ever.

You can say all the right things – I’ve got in under control, there’s other people more obsessed than me, we’re allowed just one creature comfort, why should I,

but

Until you actually experience the alternate reality, your sliding doors moment, it can all be a mere mirage from a judgmental outlier who think they know better than you how your life should operate.

Stop making excuses. Give yourselves a little room to breathe without –

  • Punting
  • Your iPhone
  • Buying clothes
  • The tv on
  • Drinking

or

  • The iPad

And see what comes your way.

Trust me, you’ll never look back.

Inspiration

I’m stirred and inspired when I see problem gamblers endeavour to go 100 days without. I’m firmly on their side and wish to God that the abuse of ads for gambling odds during games would cease. These people who have gone public on the fightforyou site have such courage.

Fight for you

Let them watch a game they love in peace.

I guess if there were any final words I wanted to get across, they would be to be flexible people. Be open to hearing about life could be different. Don’t become so rigid in all your ways that nothing becomes untouchable – from sports viewing, to how you spend your money, how you parent, how long you’re online, your attitude to the poor; be an open book.

I’m so blessed in that I get to re-engage with a medium I love (sport!) – for all the positives that it can bring – bringing people together. There’s nothing better.

God bless you.

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Thank you to all those in the last two years who have taken the time to read these pages, offer a supportive word, clicked ‘Like’ on Facebook, written a comment, or better still, questioned some of your own habits; allowed yourself to be malleable.

A special special thank you to Brendan Hughes, who has been a huge supporter of this and of me throughout.

To Jo Jo, you have been a rock of support and your belief in me means so much. I appreciated(d) all your hours of proof reading, well, until Joshy came along. 😉

Ben, your behind the scenes insights, challenges and encouragement kept me on my toes. You’re a star, but I now challenges You to go 12 months without Eurovision. No? Didn’t think so… =>

And for my regular comment people of Matt, Diddle, Craig and Willo and whoever else might have had their say, thanks, guys. It’s been awesome to have your input along the way.

And to my great mate Craig, you’re an absolute gun for allowing me the ‘odd’ week off and writing guest pieces for the blog. Really appreciate your willingness to help out. Let’s hope our boys can turn things around in the next few weeks! 🙂

And to my son, Josh. My love, it was a gift from God that the YWS came along before you did. The choice to disengage myself from one of my vices enabled me to engage with coffee, friendship, my family, and, to you.

I would do it all again if sport got in the way. Though from the faces you often make at me, I think it’s the laptop and the iPhone that will be getting turfed first. And you probably have a point.

I hope and pray your innocence and love of the simple things continue to teach me and all of us about life and what is truly important – that the joys of life are in everyone you meet, that a smile can change someone’s day, that loud shouts of joy should be a daily ritual and that a cuddle from someone you love is the most precious gift of all. I love you.

Anzac Day – time to pass it on?

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A much much younger James Hird on the big stage...

A much much younger James Hird on the big stage…

It’s hard to believe that it was 18 years ago that I traveled to the MCG to see the Bombers take on the Pies on Anzac Day, completely unaware of the history that was about to unfold.

I remember it being a bright, warm day, and the regular amount of seats left unattended or covered in bags and jackets quickly being removed an hour or so before the game for the masses of patrons that were streaming in.

The ground felt fuller and fuller, and as a fan, you always want that. Big crowds mean a bigger atmosphere. Big atmospheres lead to great games and memorable moments.

Then word filtered through.

The gates have been shut. This place is full.

Anzac Day full MCG

History in the making

We weren’t to know then that the epic draw that played itself out that bright, sunny day would initiate of the game’s great traditions.

Two of the biggest teams in the country, in terms of followers and premierships have been going at it for 18 years straight now. As a fan, and as a fan who has attended a lot of these games, it’s the biggest regular season game by far.

Firstly, it’s Collingwood. Enough said. You want to beat them. You want their fans to go home disappointed. If you could be guaranteed one home and away victory, this would be it, no questions asked. 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…

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

I have a son!

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World, meet Josh…

Dear Josh,

Well, you weren’t too pleased when you arrived, but dude, after 42 weeks, what did you expect?! You weren’t gonna do it yourself, so we had to call your bluff. And to be blunt, at 4.61kg, aka 10 pound 2, mum is particularly pleased with that decision.

You are so new to this world, yet already you have made such an impact. They gave you to me to hold moments after you were born at 10.33pm, May 30. By the way, in that 40 second or so delay, you moved from 10.32 – Magic Johnson’s number, to 10.33 – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Both are from the Lakers, but only one agreed to give me his autograph. You guess which one – the fun loving, uber-skilled, best point guard of all time, or the grumpy bald man who played with glasses until he was 42?? Yep, I thought you’d get it…

Anyway, when they gave you to me, it was just so natural. You see, I’m normally not great with babies. Am I holding them right? Am I supporting the head properly? What will their parents think? It’s so delicate – will I break it?! But with you, it felt right straight away. You felt safe in my arms. You are safe in my arms. Read the rest of this entry