Roller-coaster? Not in the lexicon of this disciplined writer.

by Jonathan Rivett

I won’t use “roller coaster”. I refuse to flog that dead-horse metaphor.

It’s not that it’s a fatally flawed analogy – if you think of the roller coaster car as your emotions and then make the track the experience in question, it works reasonably well. It’s also not that it’s been monumentally overused – although that certainly comes into it. It’s mainly that it’s been debased so thoroughly that it’s become totally inadequate as a description of a season (or even a fortnight) as a Melbourne supporter.

(Apparently watching Australian Idol could be a “roller coaster of emotion” (maybe for the hyper-sensitive weirdos who were the show’s contestants and judges, but not for the viewers, unless they counted “prosaic and tiresome”, “very prosaic and tiresome” and “extremely prosaic and tiresome” as the peaks and troughs of their figurative showground ride). So too were films such as He’s Just Not That Into You and You’ve Got Mail. Certain mass produced foods have been described as providing a roller coaster for our taste buds (presumably the low-points referring to depths of saltiness, rather than depths of inedibility) and just about all Generation Y relationships, no matter how brief, are, like, so like a rollercoaster.

While the carapace remains, the innards of the roller coaster metaphor were long ago penetrated, liquefied and sucked away. Consequently I will not use it to describe what it’s been like watching the Demons this year, this decade and forever.)

The past two games have been the perfect microcosmic expression of what it’s like to be a Demon supporter who gives a stuff.

One week Carlton: a match in which the game plan appears to have in fact devolved since (evidently not) reaching its nadir in 2008; in which we can only be described as a constipated football side, with our back line being our bowel, and the forward line being the unused pan; in which even the handful of players you’ve fallen in love with and internally promised never to criticise look either old, slow, not quite as willing to die for the jumper as you’d originally thought or all of the above; in which the much-vaunted ‘new blood’ looks already infected and after which one football club exercises their god-given right to speak about the Melbourne Football Club with complete and utter disdain.

The next week Essendon: a match in which the game plan looks fresh and supple; in which we look like a side who gets precisely the right amount of fibre in its diet; in which not a single player looks out of their depth, not least of all the fairly gigantic contingent of first, second and third gamers; in which I fall in love with five more players – Gysberts, McKenzie, Trengove and Watts – and after which the only criticism comes from bitter former Essendon players who don’t like watching others expressing joy.

One week embarrassment mixed with resignation. The next week pride mixed with hope.

One week frustration at the constant excuses about “youth”. The next  week delight at that youth refusing to hide behind excuses.

One week the stolid, solid, earth-bound one-track album that is Matthew Bate (86 games). The next week the agile, quick-thinking, multidimensional sky-walker that is Jeremy Howe (1 game).

The only consistent element might have been Jared Rivers who in both games (and for most of his career), played as if opposition scores are a personal affront to him, so repugnant that he would rather risk personal harm than let the ball move unimpeded past the goal line.

Consistency. What a precious thing. What a gift it would be. Not the consistency that allows us to routinely vaporise teams like we did Adelaide earlier in the year and Sydney the year before that – that is the stuff of fanciful football dreams – but the consistency that allows us to keep our inevitable losses in the realm of Bearable.

But nobody has presented us with this gift yet, so I know I need to temper the excitement that comes from the Essendon win.

This is West Coast-in-Perth-followed-by-Adelaide-in-Melbourne-all-over-again, just with slightly more modest margins. “A week of turmoil” followed by a “triumphant reply to the critics”. And the problem is, if we follow the trend, we’ll get comprehensively beaten next week – and next week doesn’t hold a slippery-at-best North Melbourne, but a punishing-at-worst Collingwood.

I don’t expect a win. But if I were to use the roller-coaster metaphor, which I would never under any circumstances do, I’d unambitiously hope that the coming dip is shallower than it has been in the past. Another huge plunge and I couldn’t promise the patrons wandering the fairground below that they wouldn’t cop an upturned face-full of indiscriminately blasted red and blue sick.

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