The thing about football

I love the start of a new football season. More than anything it brings hope. Hope our team will win it all, hope they’ll improve on last year or just hope they won’t be as terrible as deep down we think they might be.

I grew up in Melbourne which is widely acknowledged as the home of Australian Rules football. There are competitions elsewhere and two teams in each of Adelaide, Perth, Sydney and Brisbane (yes I’ve included the Gold Coast in there, it’s close enough) but Melbourne is the home of the game. In Melbourne people don’t just watch and like football, they love it and they feel it. I’m the same way.

As a kid footy was everything. Standing in the crowd surrounded by tens of thousands of people as passionate as I was brought a unique sense of belonging. All of these strangers and I were united by the love of our club specifically and the game generally. Going to the footy was also different for me because as a kid I didn’t have a lot to do with men apart from teachers and sports coaches. It amazed me that grown men would happily talk to me, as an equal, about the game. My thoughts were important to them. They listened, agreed sometimes and were happy to correct me when they thought I was wrong although they never talked down to me. Whether men, women or other kids I also felt like I had wonderful new friends for the three hours there in the crowd.

I went to as many games as I could and when I couldn’t go I was glued to the radio. I’d often lock myself away in my bedroom and listen to ABC radio 774. I’d not only listen to the game being broadcast but try to keep up with all the others through around the ground score updates.

Whether at the ground or listening to the radio, for three or four hours a week footy was all that I had to think about. No matter what was going on at home or school, it all seemed to disappear when the footy was on.

While living in what would in Melbourne be called non-football states I drifted away from the game for a few years. With TV and radio coverage often hard to come by, my passion for the game seemed to fade. However, after settling down (still in a non-football state), over the last few years I’ve rediscovered my passion for it. I watch, read and listen to as much as I can. I even watch as many shows about footy as I can and thanks to the wonders of the interwebs and podcasts I also listen to as much as I can. The next best thing to watching and listening to footy is watching and listening to blokes talk about footy.

Not everybody understands this. Fairly early on in my relationship with my Pretty Lady she knew I liked footy but not being a fan herself she didn’t quite understand the depth of feeling I have for my team. One night after watching them lose a final from what was, for all intents and purposes, an unbeatable position I sat and stared at the ground for a few minutes then we made the short walk to her place. As she opened the front door I stood outside and told her I wanted to be alone. We said our goodbyes and I went home to be sad.

Now there are only four more sleeps until my team kicks off their season. As always, I’m hoping for great things and barring a couple of catastrophes it should be a pretty successful year. Regardless of what happens I’ll spend every moment I can watching them at the ground or on TV and for three hours a week whatever is going on in the rest of my life and the world will wait.

That said, here are my (not so fearless) predictions for 2012:

Top 8 (alphabetical order) – Adelaide, Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon, Geelong, Hawthorn, Sydney, West Coast

Premiers – Hawthorn

Brownlow medal – Gary Ablett

Coleman Medal – Buddy Franklin

Wooden spoon – GWS

Whoever you support, I hope you get as much joy out of the season as I will.


Unanswered Prayers

I’m going to a wedding tomorrow.

They’re not my friends in the sense that I’ve known them for years and we spend a lot of time together. The bride is a long-time friend of my Pretty Lady so she comes pre-approved and by extension, the groom is pre-approved by her. That made it easy. When I first met them I didn’t have to decide if I liked them, the hard work was done for me. All I had to do was get to know them.

My Pretty Lady’s in the bridal party so I’m planning on spending most of the ceremony and reception not too subtly checking her out. She’s beautiful and it’s one of my favourite things to do. If I have a couple of drinks I’ll probably even dance with her. Once. I’m no Justin Timberlake so it’ll be a slow shuffle from one foot to the other while holding her close but, knowing how much I try to avoid it, I think she’ll appreciate the gesture.

Like everyone else there I’ll wish the bride and groom well and sincerely hope their lives together are all they dream about but life’s no fairy tale.

In what now seems like a previous life, I got married once with the same hopes and dreams I’m sure they have. Then I got divorced. Lo and behold, here I am a few years later happier than I ever thought possible. Some of God’s greatest gifts…

I’m not going to tell them any of this of course because nobody needs to hear, on their wedding day, that they’ll be ok if it doesn’t work out.

More generally, it’s comforting to know we’re ok after we fall but would we ever put in the same effort if we knew from the start we were working with a net? I think the fear of failure is often the reason for success.

Most wanted man in the world

“I’m not good looking, well-built or tall
I’m not a movie star up on somebody’s wall
But when I lie next to my girl
I’m the most wanted man in the world”
Paul Kelly
Those few lines best sum up how I feel about being in love with my Pretty Lady.
I feel deeply honoured to be loved by her and to be allowed to love her. She is magnificent in every way. There are the usual reasons. She’s beautiful, funny, smart and creative. She’s also a wonderful daughter, sister and aunty, she has a sense of responsibility I’ve not seen in anyone before and is incredibly loyal. I’m not sure she always sees these things as well as I do but we probably all see ourselves differently to the way others see us.
Along with all of this there are some things I don’t, and don’t think I ever will, understand. Some of these things simply confuse me and others concern me but when all is said and done they don’t amount to much at all.
One of the things I have trouble with is crying. It’s not as if she bursts into tears at the drop of a hat, it’s just that I’m not what you’d call a crier. I have cried before and there’s a pretty good chance I will cry again but for me, apart from the odd watery eye and lump in the throat during an episode of Undercover Boss, crying is an extreme emotion. It only happens at the most stressful, sad and hopeless times.
The main reason for this is that I don’t believe emotions are constants. Happy and sad come and go in moments. Eventually they pass and in between we go about our lives on a pretty even keel. A good joke doesn’t make you laugh uncontrollably all day and likewise, dropping a cup of coffee isn’t enough to ruin all of the next week.
These two beliefs, that crying is for extreme occasions and that emotions pass, are often hard to reconcile.
Sometimes my Pretty Lady cries and my immediate thoughts are always that I might be responsible and that I need make things ok. The thought that I might be the reason for the tears upsets me terribly. I hope I always feel this way but I’m learning that a few tears are not the end of the world. The occasional cry is sometimes how she reacts to things. Again, often it’s just in the moment and moments pass.
I think the most important thing is that I’m learning that she deals with things differently to the way I do. Although slowly, I’m also learning how I can deal with the ways she deals with things. This is one of the many things I have learnt and continue to learn from my Pretty Lady. Although I didn’t set out to learn it seems she can’t help but teach me. Particularly about myself.
Being loved by, and loving, my Pretty Lady makes me a better man.

Working for the man

I wonder how much different life would be if in our late teens or early adulthood we were asked to decide how we wanted to live the rest of our lives.
I’ve worked full time pretty much since the day I left school. In what seems to be an increasingly unusual situation this employment has only been in two different jobs. The first was for ten years and I’m getting close to that in my second. Add to this the fact that I can’t see myself leaving my current employer and it looks like, when the time comes, I’ll retire having only had two employers in my adult life.
I don’t particularly like or dislike my job. I work because I’ve got bills to pay and the money I make enables me to pay them. Most of these bills have come about as a result of me living what I see is a fairly normal life. I’ve got to pay for food, somewhere to live, the usual expenses that come with raising a child, a car to get around and clothes etc.
I could spend more or less on these things but some of these costs are fixed (for a while at least) and some are determined by the amount I have to spend. I suspect most people are in the same boat. We spend what we can afford. Somtimes I buy things that are not exactly what I want because that’s what I can afford and other times I’ll try to save in order to buy the very thing I’m after.
This got me thinking. How different would we be if we made one choice at the start of our (working) lives and stuck to it?
What if we decided what we wanted and did whatever work was necessary to obtain it or if we chose the type and amount of work we wanted to do and lived within those constraints?
If we chose a big house, nice car, holidays, the best clothes and the ability to eat at great restaurants whenever we wanted we’d then have to spend our lives in an effort to obtain these things. On the other hand, if we decided we didn’t like the idea of working full time for the next forty odd years would we decide that working just to make enough money to pay for the bare necessities was good enough for us?
I suspect we’d be fairly happy like this, for a while at least. Then along would come life.
Sometimes life happens, sometimes life gets in the way and sometimes we set out to change our lives.
The best example I can think of to explain this is myself. I think I know which one I would have chosen back then and today I would choose the other option. Either way it doesn’t matter much because I’m neither in a position to make either choice. I didn’t set out with any life-long plans and somewhere along the way life happened to me.
I’m not sad nor do I have regrets about it. I’m happy with my life. Everything that has happened so far has led me to where I am now and changing the past would also change the present. As I have mentioned in a previous post I have a daughter who brings me great happiness. I also love and am loved by the most wonderful woman I have ever known. More about her later.