Nail biter

Ive bitten my fingers right down. I can barely type this because of the pain. It starts when the game starts. I’m a Carlton supporter. My Dad who I no longer have any contact with was and still is a Hawthorn supporter. I grew up going to watch Hawthorn games right throughout the 80s and I still have a soft spot for the family team. It’s funny that I should choose Carlton in direct opposition to my father’s wishes. Perhaps at the time I knew I didn’t like him, even though I loved him and that my choice of football team had to reflect my disdain for  him. I mean I chose Carlton. Hardly run on family values. We ate our own and still do. My phone was abuzz late last night after Carlton’s loss to the Saints. Off with Ratt’s head, we’re soft, talented, highly skilled but soft, and Ratts sits down there on the bench with his sports scientists barracking for us….These were my fellow Blues supporters.

I knew they were coming. The texts. They always do. I agree with much of the analysis, but not the method to fix it. We at Carlton are still certain if we bring in a Malthouse we’ll right the wrongs. There is little concept of loyalty, faith and even far less of the journey, all the things a Hawthorn side still seems to be permeated with.

I have faith. I had it in Brittain, I took a while to warm to Pagan but did so overwhelmingly and now I have it in Ratten. He’s not the perfect tactician, but he’s one of us and he’s gathering steam every year since he came on board. Sure, I want to see less emphasis on running and speed when we get ourselves in trouble and more on closing a game down Sydney/Freo style until our opponents can’t breathe and then run. Like Rocky Balboa in whichever Rocky it was. Absorb the punches, take the punishment and then right when we look like we’re down, let Mitch give em a one two, Juddy feed it out to Jeffy and watch him run like hell.

It’s a different theory to just running for the sake of running. At the moment when Jeffy is tearing down the wing off the half back flank, ball under arm it’s like we are running from something. And we are. In two games this season when we’ve been hunted, we’ve run. Id like to turn around whilst the hunter trains his guns on us and say, shoot ya bastard.

So why the hell did I start by telling you about eating my fingers and going to the footy with my dad who I no longer see or like? Well….he left me with the one thing that still makes 100% sense to me in my life. A game of footy and everything that goes with it. The crowd, the publicity, the people, the thrill, the devastation of a loss, the quiet satisfaction that comes with winning. I don’t know anything else like I know footy. I feel like I know everything, I don’t but I feel like I do and I dont have that anywhere else. I know how it works and importantly most of the time I feel part of it working. This is the wonderful myth around football. We feel we are part of the process. I have no idea if we are.

I only get lost once and that’s right at the start when I can’t tell if my team Carlton is on or off. And it’s in this space, where things are ill defined, not yet spelt out, where I fall apart. I shake and I eat my fingers. I remember  my dad was an inconsistent, dishonest bloke who led his family a merry dance only to take me and my brother along to each game every Saturday, stand us on a crate at Princes Park and give us something solid for 3 hours a day (actually it was six. We watched the ressies from go to wo as well). This was as reassuring as it got for me and I value it deeply. But the start of a game where I cant tell who’s up and who’s down or which way the ball is gunna bounce or what my team is going to do if it doesn’t bounce our way, this is the most anxious 15 minutes of my life. It must remind me of  much of my life  spent under the roof with my dad , not knowing. Last night for the first time ever I resented this feeling or maybe I just understood it. I resented the fact I only prosper when I can pick the lay of the land. What I don’t resent is that this game can unleash such powerful feelings inside of me. That is something I cling too, however mythical it all may be.

Next week against Adelaide I’m going to try and enjoy the uncertainty. Who knows which Carlton will turn up?

Actually, I wish I did.


  1. Thanks Jerry. That is one of the best things I have read on the site for ages. Honest, insightful and different. I often muse about why sport and footy in particular mean so much. Belonging and shared experiences are a big part of it. I treasure my memories of early days at the footy with my grandparents and occasionally my dad – he often worked. Probably the greatest regret of my life is being wrapped up in my own stuff when my kids were younger, and missing the opportunity to share simple things. As the great John Lennon said “life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans”. When the pre game nerves stop it means you’re dead. Hope we get to hear more from you.

  2. Jerry, you don’t read stuff like this every day. Well done, glad to have you on the site. I had a good relationship with my dad and bang on about my boy whenever I can. I was lucky, and my boy will be lucky. I haven’t had much experience with those who had a rough time with their parents. You really made me think. Great piece. Thanks for sharing.

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