Almanac Life: My Football Team

 

 

Years ago in a TAFE classroom, the teacher asked us what was the most important thing in our lives. I was the first to answer: ‘My football team’.

 

All the other students answered: ‘Family’.

 

I felt shallow, and said so, but upon reflection, to say that family is the most important thing in our life is such a given that it’s almost a cliche. The question is redundant. I was 51.

 

One thing I do know is that there might be someone who loves their football team as MUCH as I do, but there is no-one who loves their football team MORE than I do.

 

The irony is that my love doesn’t translate to support, or barracking. I’m not a good football watcher, being an eternal pessimist after 50 years of watching wooden spoons, unassailable leads being given up, and losing Grand Finals. Being a South Melbourne/Swans fan was a curse for many years, bestowed upon me by my father, who came from a Collingwood family but started following football in 1934 and decided to pick the team that had won the Premiership the previous year. With three (albeit losing) Grand Finals in 1934, 1935 and 1936 to come, there was no hint of the drought that was to follow a further Grand Final loss in the epic bloodbath of 1945. My father passed away in July 2005.

 

I don’t barrack, shout, cheer or boo at the football. I shake. I sit there and shake. As a kid sometimes so violently my mother became concerned. As the years have gone on, I have been less inclined to watch my team live, even forgoing games at Adelaide Oval in our rare appearances there, partly because of the lop-sideness of the crowd, partly due to the degree of difficulty in winning at that fortress, but mostly due to my nerves. Watching my team live brings me no joy. If you start well, it just means the other side will come back. If you start poorly, it’s game over. The only respite comes when the final siren goes and we are ahead (not withstanding kicks after the siren…oh the agony!)

 

I have been a frequent early-leaver from games, often when we are in front but the other team is coming home with the proverbial wet sail. Watching at home, that translates to a walk around the block, or turning off my phone, the TV, and suffering in silence until enough time has elapsed that the game should be over. It brings back memories of my Dad at the Lake Oval, getting up out of his seat at a tense time in the match and telling me he was going for a walk. So that’s where it comes from.

 

When turning on my phone, I would pray for a missed call from my mother, because that would signify a victory. No message and we’re in for a long week, plus I’m dreading going in to work on Monday morning. When my Mum was alive, it was often how I found out the result. With Collingwood threatening in the final stages of the 2022 Preliminary Final, I threw my runners on and took off down the street. I managed to walk the length of the block and was halfway back on the other side of the street, thinking to myself, surely it must be over by now, no phone call…we’ve lost.

 

Finally the phone rang and it was her. We won, was my instant thought, but her voice gave an almost resigned ‘Wow’, that made me think she was ringing to commiserate. I had to ask, did we win?

 

The news was good but since her passing in 2023 I now have to muster up the courage to turn on my phone and check the score myself, unless group chats have deigned to tell me, either delightedly, a loss, or with a begrudging congratulations.

 

In the years to come, I can see myself watching less and less live football, preferring instead to find out the result after the event so I can watch the replay in peace if we have won, and can avoid social media if we have lost. I only watch the coach’s press conference after a loss, to see how he responds and whether he knows why we were beaten. I’ve also learned that to live on a diet of the rapidly growing number of football shows during the week after a win can only serve to make the inevitable loss that follows a more bitter pill to swallow.

 

It begs the age-old question, would you rather be at a Grand Final to see your team lose, or not be there and they win? For me it’s simple, the important thing is that they win, surely! Whether I am there or not is irrelevant, and who hasn’t spent countless hours watching the replay of Grand Final victories. I was fortunate to witness the Premierships in 2005 and 2012, and on the flipside, the crushing losses in 2014, 2016, and 2022. I was also there in 1996 and while the loss was devastating, it was the best day I ever had at the football until the ‘here it is’ moment in 2005, simply because I never thought the day would come when I would watch my team in a Grand Final. Sitting high in the Members during the last quarter of 2016, a neutral supporter sitting next to me saw the tortured expression on my face and said ‘It’s bloody hard isn’t it’. He knew the answer, and we were still only one point behind.

 

Driving along Tapley’s Hill Rd one Sunday afternoon in late 2012, my partner next to me, and her nephew in the back seat, they were chatting and I was listening to the ABC end of year sports wrap.

 

They played the highlights from the Grand Final, and I had never heard the commentary as the DVD didn’t include the ABC for some reason, probably a copyright thing. A tear rolled down my cheek and my partner, not knowing what I was listening to, asked, incredulously, ‘Are you crying?’

 

It’s hard to explain.

 

 

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Comments

  1. Adam Muyt says

    Rather not be there and see them lose. 2023 GF still hurts. Who cares how close we got?
    Easy for those who don’t barrack for one or other of the teams to tell you how great a close GF was. Doesn’t soften the hurt or ‘what ifs?’
    Nice writing, Glenn. Thanks.

  2. Malcolm Rulebook Ashwood says

    Glenn I TOTALLY get this I’ve become far worse as I get older and yes likewise I’m a pessimist
    At Norwood I now do the scoreboard so at home games at least I’m busy and doing things I went for a walk during the 22 GF I admit I’m relieved that I was back in the ground for -King Panos moment of brilliance and the final siren

  3. I was about to write the same thing, Adam. Almost wish we’d been done by 3-4 more goals so fewer people chime in about how magic the game was…

  4. As a massive fan of St Kilda, who is the least successful team of all time, with only 1 flag and 27 wooden spoons in 127 years of VFL/AFL football, I would be at the Grand Final every year to see my team lose, if it meant my team would make the Grand Final. Of course, I would rather they win, but even if it meant losing to teams that I despise in the Grand Final, I would take it. I grew up with St Kilda “winning” several wooden spoons. The period from 1983-86 was absolutely terrible, where St Kilda collected 4 wooden spoons in a row.

    At least since 1987, the draft and salary cap has given clubs like St Kilda, a fighting chance.

    I was in the crowd when St Kilda lost Grand Finals in 1997, 2009, the drawn 2010 Grand Final and the 2010 Grand Final replay. I was too young to attend the 1965, 1966 and 1971 Grand Finals. Obviously, I wasn’t born when St Kilda lost the 1913 Grand Final. Yes, they all hurt, apart from 1966, but unless you’re in the Grand Final, you have no chance of winning the flag. You have to be in it, to win it!

    It’s so much harder to win flags nowadays with 18 teams, soon 19, and one day, maybe 20 teams, especially for smaller clubs like St Kilda. The Western Bulldogs winning the flag in 2016, after a 62 year premiership drought, has given me hope, if nothing else. Although, honestly, I was very jealous of them at the time because they had only been in one previous Grand Final, in 1961, after winning the 1954 flag. Yet they got the job done on the day in 2016, even if they later lost the Grand Final in 2021.

    I would happily swap places with Sydney Swans supporters because of their 2 “recent” flags in 2005, after a 72 year flag drought as South Melbourne in 1933, and 2012. For a St Kilda fan, it’s much better than no flags after 1966.

    All I can do is live and pray that St Kilda can win another flag in my lifetime!

  5. DBalassone says

    Terrific piece Glenn. I can totally relate. I always thought these things would get easier as I got older. I was wrong.

  6. Rick Kane says

    Great piece Glenn, I can feel your stress and anxiety. However, for me, I’ve gotta be there win or lose. As I was for the 2012 lose to your mob. That was tough going. There was a Prelim against Port Adeliade when they were storming back in the last and it was almost too much to bear. I was doubled over so I didn’t have to watch, texting my wife how many seconds were left. We won that one but I reckon I shaved some serious time of my life expectancy at the same time!

    Cheers

  7. Nice Glenn! I’ve been to 3 of Geelong’s recent 4 premierships. Missed 2008 (phew) and 2020 (phew again. The Covid grand final).
    But I think I’d rather be there win, lose or draw.

    However I get where you’re coming from. I tend to get way more tense at games we SHOULD win rather than the tough ones.

    Bite the bullet and go!!

  8. Mickey Randall says

    Hello and welcome, Glenn. You capture well the universal anguish of the supporter. How to cope with the beautiful agony? I agree that age doesn’t diminish the difficulty.

    Vaguely connected was the odd situation at the Crows v GWS final at Adelaide Oval in 2017 when a group of Crows fans left early so they could, in their own words, ‘Watch the last quarter home on the TV.’ Yes, the game was probably over but I found it unfathomable that they had paid good money for their seats and didn’t want to enjoy every moment. Surely that’s one time when you stay. Is it uncharitable to note that they had a thermos?

  9. Barry Nicholls says

    Really good work Glenn. Some terrific stories on what it means to be a passionate club supporter.

  10. My god Glenn there is someone else in this world like me. I too was at the 2005 and 2006 with a great mate and team of the century player. My neighbours dislike March till September and now like you I watch the replay if we have won and nothing if we have lost. My nerves, my wife and my neighbours prefer this also. Great read

  11. Keiran Croker says

    Beautiful Glenn! As a fellow Swan I’ve just to be there. 2005 and 2012 were two of the best days ever. 2014 and 2022 two of the worse. I can live with 2016, though we really should have won.

    It does n’t get any easier. Win, lose or draw I struggle to sleep after a night game. But I love it!

  12. Glenn Butcher says

    Thanks for your kind feedback everyone, and for sharing your thoughts and experiences. Much appreciated ???????

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