“The festival was over and the boys were all planning for a fall
The cabaret was quiet except for the drilling in the wall
The curfew had been lifted and the gambling wheel shut down
Anyone with any sense had already left town
He was standing in the doorway looking like the Jack of Hearts.”*
I love footy because it is a morality play resolved within 3 hours. It is often exciting and sometimes unexpected (witness both Collingwood and my Eagles last weekend). It is complex enough to keep me engaged and guessing, but not so impenetrable that I have no idea what is unfolding.
My pessimistic younger self used to say that golf was like life. You swing left to make it go right; you hit down to make it go up. I used to tell people I was counter-intuitive. When things were easy I could never focus and would waste endless time. When there was pressure and stress I was strangely serene and productive. Until a good friend dismissed my ceaseless introspection with “you’re just a perverse wanker.”
Even a bad sporting contest can have me enthralled. Ryan Harris in the Fourth Test held me as spellbound as Ashton Agar in the First (can we please have him back as a batting all rounder – sans Watto?) Watching Harris with the new ball was like a Warne lunch break master class in real time; without the commentary. Working a batsman over. Setting him up with brutal artistry.
We lost – but so what. Someone always does in sporting contests. Only politicians and conjurers pretend there are actions without consequences; where flowers grow magically in thin air. That is why they are strangely captivating – but we don’t believe either.
For my sins I recently spent a week doing jury duty. In the breaks we spent less time considering the evidence than lamenting the legal process, and the seemingly incompetent lawyers who failed to ask the questions we wanted. It was a shadow play that left us grasping in the dark for answers and justice.
Which of course brings me to the current cause celebre’ of the chattering classes – the Essendon Football Club and its cast of miscreant managers. Now I admit that I have been first among many in my calls for heads to roll to preserve some sense of fair play and an even playing field in sport. I find poking sticks at bears one of the most engaging parts of contributing to the Almanac community.
But a couple of things have given me cause for pause in recent days. The first was the endless trawl for the dirt on the Age website that I now contribute $25 toward monthly. I used to devour this ‘investigative journalism’ until it became apparent they had become like A.J. Weberman picking through Bob Dylan’s garbage cans in search of ‘the truth’ about his life and lyrics.
This culminated in the sight of Caro doing her Madam Defarge on Footy Classified on Monday night. Knitting at the foot of the guillotine, while relying on the juicy entrails that dripped from whatever ‘reliable sources’ (victim or executioner) presented an opportunity. Her sharpened needles weaving the names of her victims into the cloth. I found myself agreeing with much of what she said, but repelled by the bloodlust desire that seemed to motivate it.
The final act in my descent was spending most of yesterday checking websites or the radio for signs of the AFL/ASADA hanging judge. Only to be eventually rewarded by a statement of impenetrable legalese that had me searching through Fleming’s “Law of Torts” (LLB failed circa 1979) for meaning.
“The hanging judge came in unnoticed and was being wined and dined
The drilling in the wall kept up but no one seemed to pay it any mind
It was known all around that Lily had Jim’s ring
And nothing would ever come between Lily and the king
No nothing ever would except maybe the Jack of Hearts.”*
What was I expecting? What had I hoped to learn that I didn’t already suspect? Hadn’t Litza, Sean and Sir Frank Downright been telling me this was the only possible outcome? Why did I think there might be justice and clarity instead of process and delay?
Above all why was I wasting time and energy on this charade when there were good friends; good sport and good books being evaded as a consequence? Our minds have an endless appetite for distraction at the expense of the life well lived.
So my resolution from today is to avoid the ceaseless speculation about which of the 10,000 legal, evidentiary, political and commercial permutations will befall Essendon FC and AFL Inc. I have come to believe that history and justice is on the side of good intentions, so things will unfold in time. But I have also learned that justice borrows its timetable from the Italian Railways. So there is little point in gazing down the tracks hoping to catch the first glimpse of the Vatican Express.
There are little bliss bombs of joy to be created and experienced when I focus on the possible, rather than expecting power and self-interest to suddenly bend to the wind of justice. There are friends and music and sport to be nurtured and enjoyed. The sorry Essendon saga has little to do with sport except for the business occupation of its protagonists. It is about greed, ambition and folly. Timeless themes that have long been the stuff of theology and literature, but can never be resolved by sport as Monty Python showed us in the Wrestling Epilogue:
“On the program this evening we have Monsignor Edward Gay, visiting Pastoral Emissary of the Somerset Theological College and author of a number of books about belief, the most recent of which is the best seller ‘My God’. And opposite him we have Dr Tom Jack: humanist, broadcaster, lecturer and author of the book ‘Hello Sailor’. Tonight, instead of discussing the existence or non-existence of God, they have decided to fight for it. The existence, or non-existence, to be determined by two falls, two submissions, or a knockout. All right boys, let’s get to it. Your master of ceremonies for this evening – Mr Arthur Waring.
Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to a three-round contest of the Epilogue. Introducing on my right in the blue corner, appearing for Jehovah – the ever popular Monsignor Eddie Gay. (there are boos from the crowd) And on my left in the red corner – author of the books ‘The Problems of Kierkegaard’ and ‘Hello Sailor’ and visiting Professor of Modern Theological Philosophy at the University of East Anglia – from Wigan – Dr Tom Jack! (cheers; gong goes for the start)
“Now Dr Jack’s got a flying mare there. A flying mare there, and this is going to be a full body slam. A full body slam, and he’s laying it in there, and he’s standing back. Well .. there we are leaving the Epilogue for the moment; we’ll be bringing you the result of this discussion later on in the program.”
And here is the result of the Epilogue: God exists by two falls to a submission.
*There are no more authoritative sources on matters of theology, politics and philosophy than Bob Dylan and Monty Python.