There is too much hate in this world. Too much of the violence and discrimination that it fosters. Too much that is passed on from generation to generation, in hate’s seemingly endless cycle.
Without wishing to sound evangelical, it is contingent on all humanity to reduce this hate. I’m sufficiently realistic to know that we will never eradicate it, but we should aspire to at least reduce it. This is a central tenet to how we can build a better society for us all.
In Australia, much of this hate is (rightly) directed at the Essendon Football Club. In the 2012 Footy Almanac, I recalled a (woefully incomplete) list I had received that year of “45 Reasons to Hate Essendon.” I was not alone in such references in that esteemed publication (well done, Tony Reed), nor on the Almanac website (kudos to Josh Barnstable). Plus a quick Google search this week on the term “hate Essendon” yielded some other fine sentiments contributed by various footy fans over the years. “I hate Essendon and everything they stand for,” wrote one. “I hate Essendon more than I hate paying taxes” declared another. All perfectly reasonable sentiments, founded in solid fact.
Which brings me to the events of this week. The Essendon steroids scandal presents a rare opportunity. An opportunity to make massive in-roads into the hate that resides in our community, by getting rid of Essendon.
Putting aside the whole ‘presumption of innocence until proven guilty’ stuff that lawyers rabbit on about, let’s make the assumption that everyone associated with Essendon is guilty as sin (it’s not that bit a stretch after all). What can we then do about that?
Some bloggers have proposed destroying the suburb of Essendon and/or the colours black and red. One idea was that “everyone who has ever worn the red sash of evil should be banned for life” (I’m not sure if that related to the events of this week, or was just a general sentiment that could’ve been authored any time in the last century). These are all fine ideas.
Unfortunately, I suspect the AFL will let this rare opportunity go begging. Based on their track record of putting revenue ahead of quaint concepts like fairness, you’d have to imagine that the AFL (having not been able to cover up this one) currently has an army of people hard at work trying to find an excuse or loophole that will allow them to slap Essendon with nothing more than a wet lettuce leaf.
The AFL would be thinking that they need to keep an 18-team, 22-week competition in place to get their money under the broadcasting agreement. Not only that, but they’ve already scheduled Essendon in a stack of block-busters. If they kept the club but suspended the players (leaving Essendon to play with 6 men or to backfill their side with VFL players for the year), they’d be worried about having a Suns or Giants-strength team running around in prime-time. And Goddard is no Ablett.
This is where we, the football fans, must speak up, and come to the fore. Appealing to their commercial nature, we need to reassure the AFL, broadcasters and sponsors that we will indeed turn up (at the turnstile or at the tv remote control) week-in, week-out… to watch Essendon get flogged.
And we would. It’d be great entertainment. Educational too. I would take my son, so that he got the “cheats never prosper” message. At the end of the year, we would buy official merchandise commemorating their winless season. It could actually be quite lucrative.
For 2013, this is perhaps the best that can be done. But our sport should still think bigger, and really take the boot to hate.
Let’s kick Essendon back to the VFL. Maybe they could be North Melbourne’s seconds, just to make amends for pinching North’s spot in the big league in 1897.
Meanwhile Tassie or Darwin could take their place in the AFL. Or Foxtel Cup champions Claremont, if it’s quicker to do it with an established club. The AFL still suffers from a geographical imbalance anyway, and what better way to solve that than by kicking out a club that is both a cheat and an object of hate.
Families would flock to the AFL, revelling in its new healthy spirit. Soon enough no-one would miss them.
A world without Essendon. Hate could dissipate, and society could commence its healing, if the AFL can just do the right thing.