|All the good ones are going: Martin Pike, Ben Cousins, now Fev. It’s a real shame. Not just for the colour football will now lack, not for the loss of their exquisite skills, but because they were great role models for my neighbour’s child. Real role models, from a real world.
You see, someone told the kid that AFL footballers are perfect. That they are all down-to-earth, upstanding citizens like Chris Judd and Jimmy Bartel. He was under the delusion that having ability, and even work ethic, was all it took to be a good person. He thought that character had nothing to do with it.
He loved Fev. From bootlaces to goals.
He loved the show, the unpredictability, and, hey, to be honest, the failures. There were highs and lows with Fev, but that was fun. The neighbour’s child would bite his tongue in the schoolyard when Fev played bad, and barrack Fev out of his rut at the ground. He loved the power with which Fev won games. Fev’s unstoppable momentum would become his, too.
When Fev was up, the boy revelled in the confidence he radiated. The boy became confident. He would strut around the yard, kicking goal after goal, little-man chest out, big ear-to-ear smile.
Fev could be a genius with a football, but this had nothing to do with being a good person. And Fev, too often, wasn’t a good person.
He was a clown on the grog. The sort that switches from being the life of the party, to a menace. To a moron. A fool.
I suppose someone should have done some parenting. Explained to the little tacker that footballers are just like real people. That, heaven forbid, they are people. Both good and bad. That young men, in their prime, fail occasionally. That some are good with stupid moments. That some are stupid with good moments. That people with talent still have the potential to do unforgivable things. That this is the human race.
It should have been pointed out to him that role models, indeed leaders, aren’t made just by pulling on an AFL jumper. That most real role models are born.
When Fev got the chop the other day, I had the great and sad pleasure of having to push through the AFL and media gloss, hypocrisy and spin, and say to the child, “Choose wisely” and “Be a good person first” and “Goals and marks aren’t everything”.
The whole Fev affair has been hard on his parents. They can no-longer just plonk him in front of the telly and let him simply choose the flashiest footballer as a moral barometer for his life. They can no-longer avoid any responsibility in their lives by simply being outraged when Fev does something wrong in his personal life.
Fev never said he was a saint. He never signed on to raise their child. He was there to play football. And did it well.
Now, the neighbours might have to try parenting.
It is a massive win for the kid.
I suppose someone should have told my neighbour’s child much sooner about the real world, but this is the AFL, where everything is PR and spin. There is nothing real about it. Nobody is a bastard. No villains are allowed. It is a fiercely proud and fast game, played by fiercely proud and fast men of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds, all painted over to look exactly the same.
I am in love with football so much it hurts, but if I let my child be raised by the AFL’s comic book standards, I would be the one committing the crime.
Thank you Brendan Fevola. For your football, for your entertainment, for your colour and failings. For bringing sanity to my block. For teaching my ten year old neighbour about the importance and value of real role models like Judd and Bartel. Of hard truths and highs and lows. For bringing reality back to AFL football.