AFL Round 12: Sydney v Collingwood: Victory is determined by whether I record the game or not

By Andrew Fithall

Given every supporter controls the outcome of every match, it is amazing there are ever outcomes at all. Some people affect the result by attending the game, some by not attending. Listening to the game live on radio when the telecast is delayed has also been known to directly affect the performance of the team being supported. My own ability is to cause my team to lose simply by setting the PVR to record the game for future viewing. If I don’t record, we win, but I can’t watch it, because I haven’t recorded it (note the careful avoidance of the use of the word “taped”). If I do remember to ask my fifteen-year-old son Bill to set up the timer, I never watch it, because we never win. Who wants to watch their team lose when they already know the result? My Collingwood-supporting masochistic tendencies don’t stretch that far.
Collingwood are playing Sydney in the annual split-round game at the stadium formerly known as Olympic. I had briefly considered going to the cost and effort of attending but ruled it out. Helen and I did go one year – a Sydney-based brother in-law who worked in tourism organised a boat trip on the Parramatta River (with free beer!) and we organised our own tickets. Sydney scored the first goal of the game. Collingwood eventually lost by that goal. Apparently my attendance at an interstate venue can cause my team to lose!
Instead of a trip to Sydney, Helen and I are off to Bendigo for Billyarse’s fiftieth birthday. For a long time Brendan Williams has been a man to attract nicknames. And I have known him a long time. We played in the First XVIII (that’s how it was embroidered on the jumper) together at St Pat’s, Ballarat, and then both ventured to Newman College to occasionally attend lectures at Melbourne University.  Vance, Gordon, Sphincter, and Good-Buy Brenzo are just some of the names with which he has been bestowed. The last of those nicknames came about because of Billyarse’s tendency to spend inappropriate amounts of money on ill-advised purchases. Good-Buy Brenzo has been at it again and the venue for the birthday dinner is the woolshed on the recently acquired farm ten minutes out of Bendigo. Brendan, his beautiful and long-suffering wife Robyn (none of Billy’s contemporaries has yet been able to work out how he landed such a wonderful woman) and their three children did live briefly in the house which came with the property. The isolation (I did say ten minutes) proved too much and they have since moved back into the civilization that is Bendigo proper.
We arrive at the stipulated time of 7pm and the bus transporting the Bendigo-based party-goers arrives at the same time. Already there is a throng gathered around the large bonfire. Football kick-off is 7.10pm, so the radio and earphones stay in the pocket. I don’t intend listening to much of the game – just the occasional check-in to get the score.
The dinner venue of a woolshed reminds us that Robyn was once part of a research team that won an Ig Nobel prize for Physics. The study examined the drag co-efficients of various sheep pen floor surfaces as well as floor gradients. As a physiotherapist, Robyn’s interest was in investigating work practices of shearers and their methods of dragging sheep into the shearing pens. If you go to, you can read a transcript of a radio interview on the ABC Science show when Robyn Williams took great delight in interviewing Robyn Williams.
We enjoy pre-dinner drinks outside before we are invited in to the dinner in the shed. Robyn’s brother Andrew Ormsby is a Texas-based professional chef and caterer who just happens to be back in Australia and on-hand to look after the food for the evening. It is a sit-down affair, with table service, for more than 100 guests. Probably the flashest event ever to be held in that shed. By the time we are seated the game is well into the second quarter. No one else on the table has a direct interest in the game. My efforts to tune the radio and get a quick update are impeded by poor reception, dinner guests who insist on conversation and commentators who don’t understand my needs.
So I go to plan B: a text message to Bill, who is at home watching to provide regular updates. The first response is almost immediate. “Half time 16 points up. 33 to 49.” The second message, six minutes later reads (and I quote exactly): “Pendlebury did his knee in the first 5 mins of the match. Out for the game. Doesn’t look good.” Two noteworthy aspects of that message – firstly the loss of Pendlebury, and secondly, other than the abbreviation of the word “minutes”, the message is grammatically perfect. Especially praiseworthy is use of the apostrophe in “doesn’t”. Not what you expect from a fifteen-year-old.
First course is complete and we move on to the speeches. Another uni friend, Chris Poustie, gives a fine performance with a proper balance between esteem for the birthday boy (none) and derision (100%). As Billyarse noted in his reply, some of the stories were even true. An update during the speeches reads” “60 to 63 up at three quarter time. We are tiring. Jack anthony also injured.” I am disappointed about Jack Anthony. No capital “A”.
Another message soon after reads” “Start of 4th. no structural damage” for Pendlebury. Anthony back on but in pain. Possible broken ribs it looks like.” One table guest forecasts a goal after the siren by Barry Hall will get the Swans over the line. Another predicts a Collingwood win by four goals. I would prefer the latter result.
I make another attempt to bring the radio into service but again it is a waste of time.  Finally the message comes through. “64 89 up. 4 to go”. A few minutes later the final result is posted with Collingwood winning 89 to 66. Not exactly four goals, but close enough for my neighbor to brag about his soothsaying abilities.
It is a great party. Lots of people to catch up with. Sharing beer that we know Billyarse has paid for makes them especially enjoyable. Too quickly it is over. Helen and I take our leave as the bus returns to take guests back to their motels. Back home at 2am and a quick check of the PVR. You beauty. Bill has recorded the game. Maybe asking Bill to record the game can cause Collingwood to lose. But if he records it without me asking, we win. That is important. But if I tell him of this finding, it could be construed as being the same as actually asking him. And it could affect every game. I tried to explain all this to Helen. She told me to go to sleep.

About Andrew Fithall

Probably the most rational, level-headed Collingwood supporter in existence. Not a lot of competition mind you.

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