Had myself an epiphany this morning. Outdoors, atop a grassy knoll and well away from sharp objects, which I’ve always felt is the best way to have these things.
Today is Monday, it’s summer and I have the day off work. Whenever these three things align it means that at 8am I will be standing on a hill at Griffen Oval in Coorparoo, watching the Lions pre-season training. It is the unquestionable certainty with which I make this statement that herald the winds of revelation that sweep over me. Allow me to explain it you the best way I know how: long winded, overtly theatrical and supported by unnecessary anecdotes.
I once stood in line at a shopping centre for in excess of 3 hours in order to have the auxiliary cast of Home and Away sign a promotional photo that was destined to line many a birdcage that evening. I did it willingly and of sound mind and body. Agreed, there are better ways to make use of one’s time. Performing any other task known to mankind would be one example. I won’t lie, it wasn’t easy. I can’t remember a time in my life where I have ever felt more estranged from mainstream society. I found myself wedged mercilessly between a perpetually sweating woman in a floral kaftan on one side and an over stimulated pubescent in nipple hugging cargo shorts on the other.
Each time I became aware of the anxiety bubbling to the surface in me I would draw comfort from the beaming face of my beloved wife, cheerfully ignorant to the throng of social misfits and carnival workers that engulfed us, before returning to the mantra of “For better or for worse. For better or for worse.”, under my breath.
She would squeeze my hand ever more tightly each time we inched closer to the semi-literate scribbling of a fleeting pseudo-celebrity whose apparent lack of theatrical prowess would later see him perish on screen in the now obligatory mineshaft collapse or freak boating accident. Seriously just once I want to see one go out trampled by a rogue marching band or an exploding meth lab. You know, stuff the kids can relate to.
But I endured. I did it because my wife hasn’t missed a single episode of this visual torment in over 20 years. My reward in all of this is watching her untold joy at racing the 8×5 glossy addition to our home inside, sliding it proudly into our finest sterling silver picture frame, not even stopping long enough to remove our wedding photo first.
At the time I never understood it. I feigned interest like a pro but I never could fathom how a perfectly useful member of society such as she, could transform so dramatically in the face of obsession. Nor did I when hearing of a close friend re-telling of her brush with fame.
She is the State Sales Manager of a reputable and highly successful transportation company. A position she earned through years of study, strategic networking and good old fashioned hard work. However all of her acquired intellect and life experience went on hiatus when, on a casual visit to her local supermarket she stumbled across her singing idol – Pete Murray – idly thumbing through the magazines.
You would hope the confidence one might acquire from managing over 100 staff might have inspired her to approach her musical hero with a “Hey there Pete, loving your work right now” or a “Zoo Weekly hey? How ‘bout those implants?” but no, nothing. She quite rightly squirmed through every disappointing detail of how she merely fell into stealth (read: stalker) mode and gingerly followed him around the store, peering around corners and fondling random fruit as part of her covert operation. Never once approaching the man in any meaningful way and standing idle as he paid for his goods and drove out of her life forever.
I was appalled to say the least and promptly relayed to her the story of how I once stood next to Jennifer Hawkins in a bookstore at Sydney airport. My opening gambit to the pageant queen was measured and confident. “You’re quite tall”, I observed. “How’s that working out for you?” I figured a light dusting of humour would make for the ideal ice-breaker. Her smile, equal parts pity and contempt, followed by a hasty departure suggested otherwise. Now that I think about it, I’m not even sure she paid for the magazine that she used to fend me off with. In fairness to my friend Ms Hawkins approached me (or at least my immediate vicinity) and I can’t honestly profess to being a fan as such (more of a Megan Gale man myself), so perhaps my comparative tale was a tad unfair.
Before this morning I held a somewhat contemptuous view of such compulsive behaviour yet here I am, standing under an old scoreboard on a hilltop of revealed truth. My own obsession laid bare for all to judge. All those years I spent needling the Collingwood faithful for resisting the urge of gainful employment to attend training sessions and here I am doing largely the same thing. And if catching myself transfixed as my team stretched and cantered about at ¾ pace wasn’t bad enough, I begin to reflect back upon the ritual that preceded it.
The laying out of my clothes the night before was a deeply considered process. Too little in the way of Lions merchandise and I lack credibility. Too much and I look like a spy from another club or worse, like I’m on day release and it may as well be me in the floral kaftan if that happens. A discerning eye cast over all options and several hours deliberation later, I elect to go with a 2012 members polo and a neutral cap.
Dear lord what have I become? I mean, I consider myself an intelligent enough member of society. I can fill out a tax return, change a tyre and I frown in all the right places when other adults discuss politics. I no longer tumble dry acrylic thus displaying a capacity to learn but when it comes down to it, I’m no better than those that I have ridiculed for so long.
So why, Jamie? Why do it? What is it at the core of your obsession that brings you to where you stand right now? Well, third person Jamie, I have asked me an excellent question here but if I’m being honest I think it’s because I still cling tenuously to the fantasy. Perhaps you know it: The ball spills over the fence, coming to rest at my feet. In the one motion, I scoop it up one handed on my non-preferred side and off two steps I hit an approaching Jonathan Brown or Simon Black on the chest. The thud of leather on pectoral echoes around the park and is promptly swallowed up by the open mouthed silence of all the players. Coach Voss extends a quivering index finger toward me, “It is you” he bellows, breaking the silence, “It is the chosen one. The prophecy is fulfilled!” Or words to that effect.
That’s the fantasy version anyway. The nightmare version runs along similar lines only with a dislodged shoe and the simultaneous tearing of a hamstring as points of difference. Oh, and with Coach Voss raising a different finger as well. The reality of course lies somewhere in the middle, with me tossing the odd stray ball back into play before scurrying back to the safety of my vantage point.
So there it is. I feel a slight cleansing of the soul I must admit. This game is my obsession. This glorious, frenetic, sweaty ballet is the opiate in my veins but of course, it isn’t the drug of choice for all and I see that now. I just hope the foregoing paragraphs will act as an apology, in some hopelessly inadequate way to anybody whose passions, no matter how bizarre they may seem to me, I have ever dared to ridicule up to this point.
Epiphany shared (and a much better man for the experience) I don’t see myself stopping any time soon. Look for me in the background next time Voss fronts the media post-training, slightly out of focus and grinning inappropriately. I’ll be the guy in the Lions cap and kaftan.