A Certain Infidelity: Bearing All (sic – as you will see)

by Tim Watts

I never thought I’d be unfaithful. I’d always been a militant believer in US sports writer, Bill Simmons’ most important rule of fandom; “Once you choose a team, you’re stuck with that team for the rest of your life”. Growing up in Queensland, the team I chose was the Brisbane Bears and I stuck with them through wooden spoons, Premierships, a merger and an interstate move. More than a decade after moving to Melbourne, I was still that guy singing the Bears’ (original) team song in the crowd after lonely Victorian wins. I was married to the team. For life.

I stuck with the Bears even after I was elected as the MP for the Federal Electorate with a stronger connection to its footy team, the Western Bulldogs, than any other seat in Australia. I wasn’t going to be one of this pollies who cheaply trades away their loyalties for political gain. I wasn’t going to be a ‘Sports bigamist’ either, cravenly pretending to support two teams. I looked Peter Gordon in the eye and told him too that the club had no claim over my affections. And nor did they want me – this was a club that was too proud to accept ‘second team’ platitudes.

But the Doggies aren’t just a footy team in Melbourne’s West, they’re one of the biggest institutions in the community. The ‘Sons of the West’ have a finger in nearly every pie in Melbourne’s West and I slowly developed a ‘professional’ interest in them. Strictly business I told myself, just enough of an interest to allow me to hold up a conversation at the festivals, school events and citizenship ceremonies that they hosted.

It grew from there. Living in Footscray it seemed reasonable to start following the Footscray Bulldogs when they returned to the VFL last year (a new team being founded in the area that you live in being an explicit exception to Simmons’ bar on switching teams). It didn’t feel like cheating to stand on the hill at Whitten Oval watching Lin Jong bursting a pack or Brett Goodes wobbling a kick towards goal. In fact, the thought of going to suburban footy games there with my young kids for years to come felt pretty damn good. I started to like the idea of my kids growing up to support this scrapping, battling, proud team of the underdogs. I started to envy the connection that they would have with our community that I would be excluded from.

Then, the Western Bulldogs calamitous 2014 offseason hit and I found myself emotionally invested. Expressing strong views about Ryan Griffen at community events. Telling people from the other side of town about the young guys in the VFL team who were ready to make the step up. Anxious and depressed about the exodus but rooting for the youngsters in the playing group to fight through the adversity. And when the season started; watching more of the Bulldogs than the Bears.

If the Dogs hadn’t been playing so well this season I would have owned up to my infidelity sooner, the added shame of being seen to be a bandwagon fan (another Simmons prohibition) has been the last thing holding me back in recent weeks. But while I was listening to the second-half of the Dogs’ collapse against St Kilda last week, shouting involuntarily at the radio, I knew I had to come clean.

I still feel ashamed about it. I’m embarrassed to think that I could disappoint Jonathan Brown or Michael Voss. But the reality of it is that my heart lies elsewhere now. As the Bulldog’s captain, Robert Murphy writes on the first page of his book, Murphy’s Law, “Football is tribal”. I might not be a Son of the West by birth, but like the thousands of migrants who’ve come to Melbourne’s West over the past 50 years, Footscray is my tribe now.

Tim Watts is the Federal Member for Gellibrand.

Comments

  1. Nice work Tim Watts!

    You are a worthy member of the Tim’s club

  2. cowshedend says

    Nice that you’ve seen the light. When you were drumming up support for pre-selection you rocked up to my place…whilst the Dogs were playing..now that’s bloody sacrilege, and i don’t mind saying i was far more concerned with McCartney’s lack of planning on that day than your well thought out plans for Melbourne’s west!
    You’ve turned, Nicola Roxon turned, now if we can picket Ralph Willis’s joint till he gives up on Norfffffff, all will be right with the world.
    Keep up the great work Tim!

  3. Welcome Tim, great to have your insightful and amusing words on our site.

    I know exactly what you’re talking about. When I first came to Melbourne in 2003, we lived in Carlton and the Blues did catch my eye – for that very reason, they were local.

    I love what the Dogs do in the western suburbs. They are genuine in their charter: to be the club of the community. It will take strong leadership to preserve that, and an AFL City Hall that pays more than lip-service to the value of footy clubs in their communities. How do you measure social capital?

    Thanks again.

  4. Ha! I remember that day @cowshedend!

    It wasn’t a great result for the dogs sadly

  5. First a mention in Hansard, now a federal member…

    Tim,
    As one of your constituents in Gellibrand, all I can say is “Well played”. And welcome to the Almanac.
    Cheers
    Smokie from Williamstown

  6. As one of your constituents and someone who converted from the Dons to the Dogs last year I fully endorse your decision. See you at the footy.

  7. Clem from Dudley Street says

    You got my vote Tim

  8. Chalkdog says

    Buckle in and enjoy the ride Tim.
    I gave up on the cats in 82. One preliminary final loss too many (to Collingwood no less). Went across to Dogs as they were local and were never going to disappoint. Well 1997 proved me a poor judge.
    I will make the trek back to Barkly St soon and enjoy the fact that we’ve survived. Welcome aboard.

  9. Its a slippery slope Tim. I started out in Adelaide before there was an AFL side and had migrated to Canberra (big mistake – you have been warned) before the Crows. At age 11 I swore allegiance to the Saints and beer.
    Many hangovers followed culminating in the Alves humiliation and the Blight bender.
    In Perth I had met a local pusher called the Avenging Eagle and I was hanging around Subiaco dives on weekends with her. I could smell the strange new drugs in the air.
    Soon I was hooked and by the 05/06 GF’s I was a serious user.
    As you know the Ice Scourge has trapped many unsuspecting victims – young and old. Just say no. XXXX needs you.

  10. E.regnans says

    G’day & well justified, Tim
    There’s both something admirable and something weird about people rationally choosing which team to support.
    We all find meaning somewhere.

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