Round 16 – Carlton v Adelaide: Blue Bagger – The team I love to hate

My old man went for Carlton because he lived there. He was fresh off the boat from the UK in the 70s and living in a share-house where he met my Mum at a party. He liked the excitement and the spectacle of the games. He was easily convinced by Mum to switch to Collingwood when they moved to Ivanhoe.

 

My first job was as a pie boy at Princes Park in the 90s. I used to take my money and use it to buy dope in Nicholson Street.

 

I hate Carlton.

 

Usually this would end the article for many football fans. The sense of satisfaction of saying those three words out loud warms from you in a way that a Princes Park Thermos never could.

 

The rasp of letting those three words wander out of your soul and into the ether can jolt you into standing taller and sharpen the focus.

 

I’ve always hated them. Always.

 

The droplets of a haters mind will cast warped movies of Harmes in the fourth row and John Elliott lunging back darts in the Elders box. There will be stills of Kouta standing over slain halfbacks unable to keep up with the archetypal modern footballer.

 

Sure, this is envy. Plain and simple green eyed monster. Carlton have a lot to be proud of and front runners are the usual targets.

 

But the Blue Bagger monster inside me is set so much deeper. It runs through plummeting circles of damning spite like a cold, cold chill that will never be shaken. It infiltrates anything and everything in my gaze.

 

It snarls at the footage of Kernahan butchering ‘Stand By Your Man’. It bristles at Aaron Hamill’s ‘poker’ face at the tribunal.

 

It has a firm hold of me as I head to the pub to watch them take on Adelaide.

 

This is the power of the Blue Bagger monster; it will drag you to enemy territory to fuel its spite. Somehow, I’m in the suburb of Carlton. I’m still unsure how this happened.

 

Now it should be said, Collingwood fans have had a good run on the ol’ Carlton Schadenfreude in the last little while. The words; Fevola, Salary Cap and Wooden Spoon bring a mirthful grin to the visage of the toothless army.

 

Still, the Blue Bagger must have its fuel. Some of their supporters are loudly talking between mouthfuls of Parmagiana as I enter the front bar.

 

My eyes narrow and turn to the beer selection that reads like a conversation with a vegan brewer from Portland that doesn’t get out very much.

 

That’s right, I even hate Carlton’s pubs.

 

The coddled brew nearly hit the framed no 5 navy jumper on the opposite wall as the players burst the banner; one of the resonant Blue Boys yelling;

 

‘CEEEEEOOOOOOOOOMMMMEEEOOOONNNNYEEEEWWWW BLLLLOOOOOOOOOOOO BAAAAAAAAAGGG-EEEEERRRRS!’

 

No matter if it’s in an 90,000 auditorium or a confined front bar that phrase has all the grace of a boil being lanced.

 

It doesn’t just sound like Carlton, It feels like Carlton; Brash, confident, loud.

 

Nails down an eternal blackboard or Kyle Sandilands reading the dictionary are appealing alternatives to the timbre of the call of a club as proud as it is old.

 

And it’s that pride that has brought the club undone on a few occasions; letting Ratten go to take a big name coach. Years earlier Dennis Pagan was the quarry for the scalp of Wayne Brittain but he couldn’t prove himself to the faithful as ‘a Carlton person’.

 

(Looking around Rathdowne Street I’m guessing that’s a former lawyer in polar fleece with two Scotch-Terriers)

 

The reliable recruit Weitering had his work cut out in the first quarter as Adelaide smirked at Carlton with efficient basics that put them ahead. But it was the non-cult figure of Dennis Armfield that kept them in the game with long bombs from outside 50.

 

Typically, Armfield has been the type that befalls the Blue Bagger gaze. In a Bulldogs jumper his goatee is Danny Southern. In a Richmond lace-up his tatts are Bones McGee.

 

In other jumpers he is iconic. In the Navy Blue he has had all the excitement of a train station in Northcote.

 

Today it’s a different story. He’s a livewire keeping them in the game. He’s giving the fans something to cheer on as he did against Essendon, breaking open a dour contest.

 

The other difference is the feel of the fans. The plates are wiped clean and the bombs are being eaten up with as much fervour as the parmas. They’re not showing up expecting Kouta to monster or Diesel to accumulate or Sticks to grab and wins to spurt forth like sauce from sachets.

 

They’re excited by progress.

 

New Carlton is Bolted on. Its coach has given the place a spruce and a lick of paint that has the team walking the walk (for a ways at least) and looking like it’s got a strong grasp of what’s required.

 

After the hedonism of cash (too much) and big names (on field and off) running interference, this is a lucid state. Perhaps for the first time in many years it truly is Mens sana in corpore sano.

 

Having said that, Adelaide have not had to endure the extended dips that Carlton have and run over the top of them by a margin. Dennis is no longer a menace but looks much more capable of being so than seasons previous.

 

This Blue Bagger has had all that he can take (I’m broke from craft beer) and sated by a delicious Carlton defeat, heads out into the cool evening and takes in the wide streets on the way home.

 

This Carlton is different. It’s no longer the share-houses of students and kids running down back lanes in simple times.

 

On the way I pass a fellow hard at it, dragging old floorboards out of his terrace house onto Richardson Street. He dumps them underneath the Council Notice that calls for objections to proposed planning.

 

We exchange respectful nods and shiver runs up my spine.

 

….

 

I still hate Carlton.

About Dan Toomey

Dan Tooms lives in Melbourne and writes fiction on his tram ride to work. He watches sport happen around him and occasionally documents the antics of his cricket club. He produced and hosted Park Cricket Radio where he talks cricket in a pub and broadcasts it to anyone that is interested. He also drops in to Whiteline Wireless to call cricket live from time to time.

Comments

  1. Ben Footner says:

    Wonderful imagery Dan. Glad my team could be of service to you last Sunday.

  2. Peter Fuller says:

    Dan,
    It’s very gratifying to learn from you that we still inspire hatred. I thought that our years of under-performance (contender for under-statement of the week) that we were more likely to be patronised these days. You’ve warmed my Blue heart.

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