Stresstember Reflections…Bad Currency Drives Out Good

 

by Stephen Alomes

 

It is the time of the year…when a footy follower’s thoughts turn not to flowers or fillies or fun but to the last steps to the top of the hill or perhaps in the DeMillean AFLspeak ‘the mountain’ or even ‘the summit’.

 

It is the time of Sturm und Drang. I have forgotten what The Sorrows of Young Werther were exactly – those written by J.W. von Goethe rather than the 2010 band – but they must have prefigured footy angst.

 

While the final stretch is always slightly better than dying like flies in the Russian snows, as captured by Mark Seymour’s Holy Grail,  (but don’t mention that story to Craig W or Andrew D), it is hard.

 

Significant others offer misplaced gestures of comfort, wishing for us to be transferred to a different time or place, not really understanding our plight any more than we can empathise with their referred pain.

 

It must be hard for those who do shape the events, the players and those who assist to a degree, coaches and trainers.

 

However, it is harder in a different way for those of us who can only watch and wait, as well as to will. It is even harder when we see it as a struggle between good and evil. Ever it was, since I was a boy.

 

Premonitions of the struggle for good came to me in a different time and place. Even in June in Yamaguchi, Japan, I predicted that the dominant imperial evil would triumph in the spring. The evil empire in monotones with its chanting hordes would defeat good.

 

In recent years, as a footy lover and a Cats’ supporter it has been even clearer. I am on the side of good – good footy. Not thug footy played by ‘unsociable’ teams. Not presidents who show as much discrimination in defending unlimited pokies as they do in commenting on the public revelations of someone’s troubles, even when they may never have met the person in question. Or McMillionaires who one week wanted a limit on pokies, the next worried about the cost of the altitude room or the latest hyperbaric chamber. Oh, it must be hard to be a Toorak leader of a rabble!

 

Taking the equations back onto the field, it is even clearer. The Cats play footy as it should be played. The others, lots of them, are not just like their supporters’ car stickers – born mad and committed later.  Several key ‘players’ – aka evil masterminds – are ‘pros’, to use an accurate if not always seemly word. First, wearing coaches’ hats, or some say horns, Paul Roos and then Ross Lyon decided that if you could not win with skill you could win with the lockdown, the rugby tackle, the endless stoppages, and the zone and beyond. Having driven supporters away – it is pretty simple why St Kilda has poor attendances – they then decided that win at all costs was the only priority.

 

Then came the Arizona stranglers, the McMillionaires who went to the Grand Canyon and nearby mountains more often than Perth and Subiaco. Supported by the arms race they had an almost American view of the distribution of resources as they looked out from their golden centre by the river.  They took their inspiration not from Donald Trump, bar one gold jacket, although well they might, nor even from Tony Abbott, the Dr No of politics. Their guru was General Rommel crossed with the Daleks of Dr Who.  When it came to open football, they chanted ‘Exterminate!’, chants echoed in subtexts of ‘zones’ and ‘structures’.
‘Why play football on an oval of 170-180M x 140-150M when you play the whole game inside the 50 metre line and in one pocket?’ they cried.   Aided by the arms race and the Dr Strangeloves of coaching, and orchestrated by the former back pocket Mick Malthouse, the unmentionables decided that it was all about ‘the press’, all about the tackling. With buckets of money to throw at fitness and conditioning – as well as Business Class fares across the Pacific – they returned the ground to a new angle – not the traditional slope to improve drainage, but the bias of a rorted competition and a deadly game.

 

Turning from the angsts of the poor footy supporter – who likes a good hard contest like the Eagles vs. Carlton final – to the larger picture, it is hard to find consolation.

 

The genius who understood it all was not Goethe or Montgomery or even Mark Seymour but Thomas Gresham, the Elizabethan banker. Even before Lehmann Brothers, he knew what the big corporate boys of football as well as business were up to. In Gresham’s law it is all very simple: ‘Bad currency drives out good’.

 

Thomas Gresham wasn’t talking about the neo-drachma or the American dollar. He was talking about the corruption of a currency, and for us of a game. He knew that without care and regulation (that is ‘rules’ to thwart evil) debasement becomes the order of the day.

 

In other words, despite some individual talents and brilliant moments, we face a Murdochian tabloid rush to the bottom of the barrel. When the game was first degraded by a brilliantly creative player and a brilliantly destructive coach at Sydney, the model was there for all who cared about nothing but winning. That is after all the coaches’ contract – exterminate the opposing team or be exterminated from their position. It might destroy the game. It might turn it into Ugby, a cross between Rugby and Ugly as Ted Hopkins termed it, but it is the difference between winning and losing your position. ‘Stuff the footylovers, stuff em all if we can win….’ a kind of mentality that has understandable appeal for supporters of many clubs, and even more one whose bumper stickers proclaim a black and white understanding of the world.

 

Now, you may say that there have been moments of greatness, not just endless ‘heavy traffic’ and smothered handballs, and that the finals contests were close. You might suggest that the reasons for Weltschmerz are many, not just the forward press and tackleball: the clouds of the GFC, the hot, warm and black clouds of global warming, the reality as well as the threat of rising unemployment, the super funds eroded by a falling sharemarket, or even the emptiness of a culture of shopping and Me-ness.  You might almost be right.

 

However, our consciousness is sorely afflicted by footy. If evil triumphs on Saturday, after this month of stress and strain, as so often it does in politics and football, or even life, I might take a pause for reflection, read the poets, paint scenes of beauty…and wonder what solution Gresham might have found to the plight we find ourselves in. Or, perhaps, my long distance vision from Yamaguchi had all the accuracy of an economist (a footy Steve Keen?), or even of a 21st century banker. Perhaps, when it came to foretelling the future I was wrong. Perhaps….

Image of a Coach

Comments

  1. Clearisghted says:

    Great piece, Stephen. Couldn’t agree more re. your thoughts on good vs evil.
    It feels to me that this week, the Elven Kingdom are taking on the army of Orcs.

  2. What a detailed rationalisation for your support of the Cats, Steve. And about as relevant as if I was to say that Collingwood are the good guys because the majority of their supporters are working class men and women from the North East of Melbourne while Geelong includes a disproportionate number of Western District Graziers and Geelong Grammar and Geelong College graduates amongst its supporters.

  3. This is a joke piece, right?

    ……because if it’s not, it’s further evidence of the Geelong smugness, the self-righteousness, the holier-than-thou, the no-flies-on-us mentality that has pervaded footy since The Long Drought was broken.

    Beggars belief really….

  4. And this is where an independent, objective opinion steps up to the plate: Great piece Stephen. Almost felt like you were on the couch. I took some notes.

    First, I agree with Bakes (to a degree) about the Cats and their holier than thou world view (Phantom, Harms Clearsighted, you’re in my sights). In your piece Stephen you say, “I am on the side of good – good footy. Not thug footy played by ‘unsociable’ teams.” Hmm, I wonder what you mean. A casual glance at the 2011 Brownlow results is quite revealing. The club with the highest number of players who scored Brownlow votes but were ineligible for the award was none other than the Cats. And let’s not forget that the high priest of good manners himself, J Selwood was put out for 4 weeks after taking a Hawks player down behind play. Behind play! Good? No Sociable? I don’t think so.

    Second, this point goes to the humility of the Cats. The Pies get lambasted (and rightly so) for the over-charged claim in their team song that “the premiership’s a cakewalk”. We have all scoffed through the years as the Pies have found themselves an aging mould on that cakewalk. But the Cat’s take self aggrandisement even further. They reckon they’re the greatest team of all! Phew! The Hawks reckon they’re mighty (and we are) but it takes a special kind of cock-suredness to say no one is better or has ever been better or ever will be. Certainly the claim rings hollow in many of the years from 1964 -2006 (and 2008, boom, couldn’t resist).

    Third, and here I have to get personal. If the Cats win the Grand Final (and I think they will and hope so as well) a thank you to Hawthorn wouldn’t go astray. Early in the year we tenderised the Cats (but lost) and within weeks they had been softened and flattened enough for the Dons and Evils to have their way with them. This time around we put the Pies through a meat grinder and served them up to the Cats this week to devour. What can I say, footy, it’s a team game.

    Cheers

  5. Hello, in what universe am I visiting. As I see it, it’s one special game, one team will win their third in 5 years, or the other their second in two. Either way, there are 15 other teams that envy both of you blighters seeing you are both at the top of the heap that everyone else wants to climb. Enjoy the day, nerves and all. You are at least both in it, both have a mighty chance of taking it, and as an outside observer who’s team has been put to the sword by you both in the last two years, you both deserve whatever comes your way on the day. Bring it on. In the end, we all wish that our teams were there and in with a chance at every Grand Final.

    Yvette

  6. Rick,

    Well written. Your brave Hawks may well have tenderised the Pies but you may also have switched us back on. I suspect the latter.

    Time will tell.

  7. forwardpocket says:

    Here’s a funny thing about club songs Rick. They are rarely sung after a loss.

  8. Yvette,

    They started it……..

  9. Clearisghted says:

    Cast back, oh you pie-boyos, to the GF parade last year. First time that I have EVER witnessed a competing GF team being booed, as they were announced onstage, by opposition fans.
    St Kilda, were the team that I refer to and, you guess, who were the graceless Orcs doin’ the booin’?

  10. Clearsighted,

    I stood there with my fledglings last year and we applauded all the Saints players. I heard the boos but don’t tar us all with the same brush – that’s the soft option.

    I’ve been to many games v the Cats. You have some work to do in the stands as well boyo….

  11. Clearisghted says:

    That should read, “girlo”, or “womano”, or maybe even “femmo”.
    And good for you for cheering. But that is as it should be.
    Have a chat to Eddyo and, in particular, Joffao and his best friends, re. investing their betting earnings into education aimed at good behaviour in shared and public spaces.
    We all have dills barracking for our respective teams. Perhaps I should not address those supporters who behave in inappropriate ways – Geelong, Collingwood or otherwise – in Welsh?
    Diolch yn fawr, boyo.

  12. Chicko anyone?

  13. Clearisghted says:

    Too macho for me.

  14. Steve Alomes says:

    As I think was clear my argument concerned the footy calculus – what’s good for footy.

    The corollary argument concerns the Benthamite calculus – otherwise known as ‘the greatest happiness of the greatest number’ (from Bentham rather than Gresham).

    Even the B&W critics might find it hard to argue with the proposition that the greatest number can think of numerous things they would prefer to a Magpie flag.

    I rest my case even though it does not guarantee victory for virtue.

  15. with you Dave and Bakes…cept I’ll still probably prefer a Cats win (head under pillow!)

  16. Dave Nadel says:

    Well you can stop being self-Righteous Steve. While the Cats won and deserved to win since they played better on the day, during the final quarter they played EXACTLY THE SAME STRANGLE THE GAME AND RESTRICT THE OPPOSITIONS TIME AND SPACE GAME THAT ALL SUCCESSFUL MODERN TEAMS ARE PLAYING. They played the Forward Press. They beat Collingwood by playing Collingwood’s game better than Collingwood.

    It was a good victory for the Geelong Football Club. It was not a victory for all those silly pretentious things that you suggested in your article.

  17. Dave,

    the Cats played the ‘stifling’ style in the last quarter, but they were much more daring and inventive early on, compared to us. I was very deflated by our negative mindset, especially because Cloke and Krakouer were so dangerous when we got the ball down quickly. We were outplayed and outcoached…again! Malthouse coaches to avoid defeat, hopefully Bucks will coach to our strengths, corridor to Dawes and Cloke with our crumbers ready to swoop.

  18. Came down to key moments when Geelong were able to win situations where Collingwood had more numbers around the ball. When a team gets that belief and the other has doubts sown, it stands out. Hawkins rise, and the contributions of the injured players were key. Jolly was ok in the ruck contests, but not able to contribute around the ground or get forward. Reid was not operating at the same level. Johnson was ablento do his job and more than expected. Shaw and Davis not able to run out of the back line stifled them too. Collingwood midfield contained. Geelong even all over the ground…

  19. Steve Alomes says:

    Dave was wrong again, if I might be frank, as well as smug, euphoric, happy, and ecstatic….about the greatest team of all, as well as understanding his pain.
    The team which kicked goals won, the team which played the more attacking football. Of course, in the last quarter after kicking those goals it was a desperate scramble to keep the ball in. That’s normal, inevitable and is acceptable.
    It was a good game of football despite the high levels of stoppages, smothers and tackles which hardly enhance the contemporary game.

    The only stat that has not yet been noted was the dominant Collingwood performance earlier in the game of deliberate out of bounds. That is, it did not look deliberate but the ball was almost certain to go out. One for Jeff Gieschen to address next year.

    The next stars of the game could become the boundary umpires!

  20. Steve Alomes says:

    Gee it’s hard to be umble…..
    Upon reflection, if Dave is right and the Cats PLAYED ‘EXACTLY THE SAME STRANGLE THE GAME AND RESTRICT THE OPPOSITIONS TIME AND SPACE GAME THAT ALL SUCCESSFUL MODERN TEAMS ARE PLAYING’
    then Gresham’s law applies. Bad currency drives out good.
    Since my footy philosophy is not ‘my team wins at all costs’ over what’s good for footy, I have to worry about this.
    Hope this is not so, even though in my Football vs Tackleball article, which was run on footyalmanac last year, I noted that the Cats had had to develop the hard-bodied tackling aspect of their game.
    So I am confused, but still happy.

  21. Dave Nadel says:

    You are allowed to be happy. Your team won. Just get the reasons that they won right rather than drawing elaborate long bows from politics, economics and philosophy to explain it. Both teams tried very hard to kick goals in the first three quarters and played attacking football when they had the ball and defensive negative football when they did not. Indeed the most attractive goals kicked in the match (along with one of Varcoe) were kicked by Travis Cloke and Andrew Krakouer. I draw no comfort whatsoever from that fact.

    In the last quarter, a fitter, less tired and less injured and possibly more inspired Geelong seized control of the game using the Forward Press as developed by Collingwood last year. Congratulations to Geelong they did it brilliantly.

  22. Dave,

    Well said. We acknowledge that the Cats are worthy premiers in 2011. A super effort by a magnificent football side.

    I look around at my mum & dad, my brothers & sisters, my grand parents, my kids & my friends that follow the Pies. I don’t class us as orcs, or pokie heads, or evil, or arrogant. Just normal footy fans like most others on this forum. Yet I think about all of the rubbish we have to cop along the way.

    This forum along with others will continue to provide an outlet for this stuff to continue. It actually takes real intelligence to be even handed but I truly am amazed at some of the views shared here. Embarrassing at times. Oh for more if Haiku Bob.

    So – on to 2012. Will anything change? Probably not. But we’ll saddle up again, get over our disappointment, and try to chase down the benchmark Cats.

  23. Bakes – I feel your pain (2008 is not long ago), but the Pies supporters dish it out as well – aplenty.

  24. Sticks and stones will break my bones………………!

  25. Obviously a bit too deep for them Stephen.

    Try Pidgin.

  26. Hey Phantom,

    We’re more than happy to cop plenty about footy so fire away. That stuff doesn’t bother us and it’s all part of footy.

    It’s all the other drivel…….

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