Passion Is No Ordinary Word

I was asked yesterday by my pimp (that’s contractor slang for “mob who I was told to put my contract through”) what I’m passionate about. I deflected the question because I knew what the answer was (i.e “not much anymore”)

My first passion was reading; newspapers first (Advertiser in the morning, News in the afternoon, Sunday Mail on, erm, Sunday), then whatever was in stock at the Elizabeth South library.

Next up was SANFL footy generally, Centrals specifically. Cricket soon followed, then, due to its popularity at my school, baseball.

Parallel to this was popular music (not my parents’ diet of Engelbert, Marty Robbins and Johnny Cash), as seen on Uptight then Happening 70 (as opposed to Showcase 68, 69, 70 …) and made available to us on the Music for Pleasure label (took me a while to work out that they weren’t the originals but session muso versions of the current day hits).

By the age of twelve, the foundations of my future passions were fully formed.

My devotion to these strands (note, not links in a chain) has waxed and waned, ebbed and flowed, systoled and diastoled (yeah, I cheated on that one) since, but each has endured, perhaps in a different form. But I’d be kidding myself if I said that I feel as strongly now as I ever have about any of them.

The retrospectometer has me yearning for those times are when you can chase your passions unencumbered by other responsibilities or commitments. But I’ve learnt that you should never lose sight of them, because once gone, your passions might never be coming back.

I grew up. I didn’t let life get completely in the way. I threw myself into coaching, playing and umpiring softball in my late teens/early twenties, again, because I could, because I wanted to. I was club secretary, treasurer, inaugural secretary of the SA Men’s softball association, state player (being a state selector helped) – you get the picture.

I settled down domestically and took an interest in more self-centred matters like gardening, but found that a regular trip to the trots on a Saturday night was still a source of enjoyment, especially when the omen tip Treat Me Right (16/1) bobbed up at the Interdominion the week before our wedding.

I played senior footy, but that was more of a one-sided transaction. I didn’t put much back into the Blacks and didn’t really buy into the single-bloke get-pissed-with-your-mates every week part of the deal. As long as I could get a game, training whenever I could (or felt like it), I was content.

Good advice

Good advice

I discovered movies (both good and bad ones) and the video age allowed that new passion to flourish for at least for a couple of years, dragging others along to see Eraserhead, Plan 9 from Outer Space, Videodrome, The Monkees’ Head and Spinal Tap. I even had Harry Medved sign my copy of the Golden Turkey Awards in a desolate John Martins book department one lunchtime.

But I eventually let work get in the way. Accounting systems were a kind of a big deal in my eyes. I had given computing a wide berth during my teens, thinking that it was all about punch cards and Snoopy calendars.

Then Highways, SA Police and ETSA needed my newly found, self-vaunted ability to replicate org structures and budgets on the sprocket-holed pages that waited expectantly below the matrix printers of the 1980s corporate world, one perforated sheet after another. Just like dunny paper without the quilting but a similar end result.

I set myself some goals – get a systems accounting job – TICK, work for a software company – TICK, work for a consulting company – TICK, form a consulting company – TICK, sell that company for untold riches – NOT QUITE,  quit the buyer in a huff to go my own way – TICK. Was I passionate about all this? Up to a point I was, but when I realised that I was spending more time worrying about the User Group that I was running than my kids activities, there was no contest.

Playing sport was shelved through these years, but when our eldest became involved in junior netball, I was suddenly team manager, secretary, treasurer etc of her newly formed club for the next dozen years. I had a new passion, or was it an old one rebadged and rekindled? It gave me enormous pride while it lasted.

Which is where you all come in.

With netball winding down as the kids make their own choices, I discovered the joy of writing at/with/for the Footy Almanac. Although it may not be obvious from this piece, nothing gives me more of a thrill than the opportunity to turn mundane historical moments into articles that lob on this site. Sure, they might only appeal to older types that once had addresses with post codes starting with ‘5’, but they give me something to get me through another spirit sapping day on (or is that with?) the virtual tools.

Who doesn’t want to see another edition of the Footy Budget brought to life? (Oh, really? You should’ve told me sooner, now I’m embarrassed).

But maybe I’ve got to find some new passions too. I’ve given some brief thought to other volunteering options but I’m more Elvis than Tim Costello – lip service is all you’ll ever get from me on matters of social conscience.

So, any suggestions for me (apart from home maintenance)? What are you (still) passionate about? Does passion matter?

About Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt

Saw my first SANFL game in 1967 - Dogs v Peckers. Have only ever seen the Dogs win 1 final in the flesh (1972 1st Semi) Mediocre forward pocket for the AUFC Blacks (1982-89) Life member - Ormond Netball Club -That's me on the right


  1. Ditto.

  2. Ben Footner says

    If you want to get back into sport Swish, I can recommend lawn bowls – not the night owl variety, the serious Saturday stuff. It’s not just an old fellas game anymore, it’s become a sport for all ages (I’ve been playing since I was 15 – I’m a veteran @ 35 and still hopefully have a good 40 – 50 seasons left in me! Haha).

    Plenty of clubs around and it can be as serious or as social as you want it to be.

    Otherwise go back into your local library and get back into your reading – public libraries are pretty awesome places these days, particularly in SA (although I run one, so I’m a bit biased!).

    As one of George R. R. Martin’s characters in Game of Thrones states – “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”

    Good luck finding a new focus for your passion!

  3. Jeez Swish, if this was an episode of The Bold and the Beautiful you would be the ‘separated at birth’ twin come back to claim the Forester Creations fortune.
    We diverge at the Globe Derby Trots. You went home after the last, but I never did. Passion becomes obsession becomes addiction becomes hopelessness. But that’s a story for another day. You may have opened up a whole new memoir thread “How I found Redemption and the Almanac”. Pastor Harms would approve.
    I have always thought “just be yourself” is the most useless piece of advice that any friend or counsellor can give. Sort of like “If I had the vaguest idea who I was or where I was going I wouldn’t be here talking to you about this shit”. I think Groucho Marx said it simpler.
    So life is an ongoing process of trying on new shoes until you find which ones actually feel comfortable and carry us safely through our exploring.
    And surprise, surprise they are often the things we first fell in love with but discarded in our race to be sensible, important, rich or cool (unsuccessful on all counts, m’lud).
    I discovered the wonders of music streaming on our last trip overseas, and I haven’t stopped trying to remember and relisten to my thrice hocked vinyl collection on Apple Music since then.
    I have an Almanac series called “Forgotten Songs and Unsung Heroes” (one of the album titles) in mind. Had been considering “Old and Obscure” but it seemed too self-referential.
    TS Eliot said it best:
    “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Neil Anderson says

    Sounds like you might have peaked a bit early Swish. In sports, career and family.
    No wonder you’re asking yourself, ” Is that all there is? ”
    I will be seventy this year and I’m still not asking that question. Mainly because I was such a slow starter and I’m still catching up with my peers. I did everything out of order. Marriage and family sort of coincided at age twenty-five, which was normal, then part-time uni for about seven years along with a a career of sorts in the Public Service. Football, tennis and table-tennis were done and dusted by my early twenties.
    I was always playing catch-up with regard to promotion at work and finding that elusive deposit for a house. I feel like I’ve been on that merry-go-round for most of my married life.
    After all that catch-up struggle, I have never stopped learning and in recent years I actually achieved a few things, particularly in writing. Firstly discovering I could actually write plays and see them performed and more recently, discovered the Almanac, where I could combine my passion ( your word ) for the Bulldogs and the joy of writing.
    i feel lucky now that I have these writing interests to keep me going post-retirement. Maybe you will have to re-invent yourself yet again, if it is at all possible, after achieving so much at a young age.

  5. Well you’ve sparked my interest in this Almanac stuff and even old Footy Budgets. That’s coming from someone with a ‘5’ in their post code, but 20 years your junior.

  6. Mark Duffett says

    If you’re looking for a semi-volunteer pursuit, cricket and footy always need more umpires. That’s been my middle-age sporting Indian summer, and I’ve enjoyed every minute.

    thanks for sharing,

    Mark (5108, 5412, 5064….)

  7. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks all, some wise advice there.

    Tony – Beth?

    Ben – I tried ten pin bowling for a decade, but it lacks the club/community aspect. Don’t worry, reading is still up there.

    PB – the lost solo recordings of Bobby Gibson?

    Neil – “Peaked” is relative. I wish I’d done as well as you think I have.

    Mike – Can you pop down to Brighton Road for me, there’s a good boy.

    Mark D – I’d think about softball umpiring. Really enjoyed that.

  8. Swish
    You have plenty to offer.
    Keep plugging away.
    I cannot express how much I enjoy your Almanac pieces and Swishter tweets

  9. I like your stuff Swish. Postcode 5052 then 5061.

  10. Luke Reynolds says

    How about golf Swish? Or finally getting around to recording that solo album?
    Love your passion for writing and the almanac, it clearly shows in your work. Keep them coming!

  11. As indicated in the title of your post I think a company running Skyhooks-themed tours of Melbourne with you, of course, the chief tour guide. You could take ’em to all the key locations- Balwyn, Carlton, Toorak etc.

    Regards former resident of 5373, 5662, 5641 and current resident of 5045.

  12. Sorry Swish. Delete 5662 and add 5652. 5662 doesn’t exist, or is yet to be established as a city, town, or municipality.

  13. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks, now I’m blushing folks.

    The nearest I’ve been to Balwyn was working with a guy who was once President of the Balwyn Tigers (g’day Gerry)

    5112, 5096, 5065, 5062, 3204 for me.

  14. Swish
    You must continue the Footy Budget reviews. Not only do you revive the faded memories of those who knew, you also enlighten the minds of those who never knew.
    I have a 1970 Grand Final Sturt v Glenelg budget I would love to forward to you for review.
    I was only six and have little memory of the time other than the Budget. It is a wonderful amusing historical document that can only be improved by your analysis.

    Informative years 5049.

  15. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says


    I’ve recently acquired the 1969 Budget, same two teams, same result. It too is worthy of an article, if only for Royce Hart’s limited involvement. Maybe I could do them back to back – let me know.

  16. I am so unqualified to provide advice – think you’re ahead of me up the road as it is. Have always been a passionate gatherer of information, even if to do nothing useful with it. Was throwing myself passionately into being busy at work, particularly if it meant I got to play with numbers and write words. Doing the same thing for the Almanac is more fun.

    Please continue delving into the Budget collection and any other sporting historical curiosities for that matter.

    2600, 2617, 2615, 5158, 5163, 5046, 2615, 2614, 2602, 5048, 5067, 5092 my full list I think

  17. That’s an impressive list Dave. P. Keating would call it a “beautiful set of numbers.” Our English postcode was AL1 2DP- and no, I still don’t understand the system, while our last Singaporean postcode was 248368. In Singapore every building has a postcode! Ours was a medium sixed complex of about 800 apartments set across 6 towers, so I can see the need. Who knew postcodes were such fun?

  18. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    I’ve been thinking of reviving Ardath and Viscount for the Asian market. huge smokers, apparently. I need a creative accountant/systems analyst. You’ve got the brains, I’ve got the looks. How can we go wrong?

  19. OK here goes – 5081, 5063, 5024, 5341, 5576, 5554, 5083, 5086, 5064, 5035, 2611, 91367 (USA), 2607, 2604, 2905, 6169, 6052 (a few other ones under 6 months not included). Does that win me the Bobby Gibson Medal?

  20. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Dave and PB, quite a coincidence that both of your families were in witness protection.

    Phil(l), we could use 7467 as our test market. Howzabout a new line of Greek smokes, Kaftan Capstans? And I think you got our good points the wrong way around.

  21. The People's Elbow says
  22. John Butler says

    Talk about pitching to the right demographic…….

  23. John Butler says

    Phil, haven’t you been warned about quoting the Pet Shop Boys before?


  24. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Nicely spotted JB. However, the ‘Un-Collingwood’ bit is a misnomer since Collingwood has been the gay capital of Victoria for over 20 years. Like your footy club, you are still living in the 1980s. Not so much ‘Se a vida e’ but more ‘Esa es la forma de vida era’.

  25. John Butler says

    Geez Phil. Has anyone told Jock?

    Regarding Carlton and the 80’s, compared to the Naughties, why not live there?

    Where’s my DeLorean?

  26. Neil Belford says

    I’m with Neil A. 13 actual years behind him and a decade behind all my semi retired mates I have been trying to catch up on my misspent (or well spent) 20’s for nearly 30 years. I’m still surfing but I can barely paddle and my left shoulder is completely shot. Its a bloody good question Swish, I’m not sure if I’m still surfing because I still have the passion or that I am just too scared to find out who I would be if I stopped. Maybe it’s time to give the shortboard away – I would definitely get more waves, but then I would be a mal rider (which from time to time I am – I have got one of course – is this getting really confusing now). I started long enough ago to have grown up as part of the shortboard revolution, and the ‘us and them’ inside my head has never quite gone away.

  27. Neil Belford says

    Oh two more things – Great song Swish – we have all missed the Graham Parker reference, and if you have included a postcode for somewhere you lived before 1967, then you have to take it out.

  28. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks Craig, really enjoyed that

    John , Phil(l), What have I done to deserve this?

    Neil B, thought about going with an obscure Sports song, Mrs Swish keeps quoting from Fame. I like the idea of retrospective post codes, but my list doesn’t need trimming anyway.

  29. This is probably a growing feeling, Swish.
    More often felt than discussed.

    A timely link from Life squared (UK) here reminds us that, regardless of what anyone else may be doing/ feeling/ posting on their Facebook accounts, “your life is enough.”

    Passion is overrated. Muddling underrated.

  30. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks E.r – I’ve been inundated with perspective. There’s a line from Spinal Tap in there somewhere.

    It’s the expectation from someone that didn’t know me from a bar of Solvol, that rankled, not really any self-perceptions of lacking passion.

    As I tell my kids, life’s not a race.

  31. Malcolm Ashwood says

    I entirely get where your coming from,Swsh may be it is as life evolves, may be our tastes change and life changes I no longer watch any where near the amount of afl footy I used to I prefer writing about it n the almanac and the nteraction which follows.Cricket wise this is the 1st summer since 81-82 that I have not played or cached and I am not missing it overall, less tolerance for being taken for granted is part of it as well re amateur sport

  32. Rented a car in PER last week and Lo! the printed receipt was on a sprocketed A4 sheet! How’s that for a flashback!

  33. And spinal tap was on REALLY LATE last night – hasn’t lost anything in 30+ years either. DOn’t know if I’d sell haberdashery as an alternative career though…now 5081 (and LOTS besides).

  34. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Book, cricket’s loss in your case

    Rabs, I’d love to know who supplies dot matrix ribbons these days. Puppet show.

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