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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.

A year without the internet – How one man’s courageous and counter-cultural act can teach and inspire us all

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Year without Internet - Paul Miller pic

“In early 2012 I was 26 years old and burnt out. I wanted a break from modern life — the hamster wheel of an email inbox, the constant flood of WWW information which drowned out my sanity. I wanted to escape.”

A good friend linked me to the story of Paul Miller, American journalist and senior editor at a tech news site(!), who recently came back online after a year off the net.

An entire year offline!

I implore you to read his reflection on his year. It’s raw and honest. He wanted to write a novel, quit his job, live with his folks, sit in simplicity. Did he do all of these things? No. Did he give it a good shot? Hell yes! His reflections are full of hope … and failures. Absolutely compelling.

“Do you think you’re too hard on yourself?” Yes.

“Was this year successful?” No.

“What do you want to do when you get back on the internet?” I want to do things for other people.

As the year without sport’s ending comes around to its one year anniversary on the 24th, Miller’s exile got me thinking about what are the great cultural distractions of our time. Read the rest of this entry

He’s out – the first American pro sports player reveals he’s gay. But will he still be in the league next season?

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The man of the moment, NBA player Jason Collins

The man of the moment, NBA player Jason Collins

Don’t worry, I won’t spend the next few pages gloating over the Bombers’ Anzac Day victory over the Pies. It happened, it was glorious, I enjoyed it, (not) enough said…

Two good mates of mine played off in a basketball match last night. I was unaware of the game’s result, but woke up to a ‘Basketball star reveals he’s gay’ headline this morning. “What the hell happened last night?!” I texted my friends.

No, it turns out that Jason Collins, 12 year NBA veteran and bench player, decided to become the first active player in any of the four major US sporting organisations to reveal that he is gay.

Inspired by true events

Collins was inspired by the events of the Boston bombings – “The recent Boston Marathon bombing reinforced the notion that I shouldn’t wait for the circumstances of my coming out to be perfect,” he wrote in Sports Illustrated. “Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully?” Read the rest of this entry

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

Great Scott!

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Adam Scott Masters win

So, I’m at my Christian Teachers work conference yesterday morning. There’s worship going on, there’s great musos, there’s a genuine buzz in the auditorium … and I’m following the end of the golf – the Masters at Augusta – on my iPhone!

Yep, there are just some things which transcend the normal day to day of work and life, and an Aussie doing something significant on the world stage is about as big as it gets.

There are a number of great Australian sporting moments that the average fan will be able to reel of.

What are yours?

The mighty Windies

For mine, there’s highs and lows. I remember as a kid being devastated by countless losses in cricket against the mighty West Indies. Read the rest of this entry

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!