Short Story: You can’t buy that (introducing Barry Mitchell).

by Barry Mitchell


I can feel the anxiety start to build from the morning . I’m getting ready for the contest . What if it doesn’t work out for me . Trouble, is I’m not playing . My son is. I wonder if he gets the anxiety off me, they say your dog and even your kids can.

“It’s not the dog, it’s you,” the vet said .

We pack the car up, the four of us, wife and the other two teenage kids . We all feel the same but in some weird way I’m the worst or am I just the worst at hiding it?

Being a former player I know he’ll be anxious cause I always was . That’s what makes the highs so high and the lows so low . After all this is the big league. All eyes are upon him and in some ways me. As we drive in the traffic, it seems to be holding me up on purpose, making me stress unnecessarily, for we will arrive an hour before the start. I won’t be relaxed until l can get to my seat and begin my worry there


As a parent you know how much the boys have invested and also how much it means to him and to us. We are all on show. There is a small line at the entry and, wouldn’t you know it, the old lady in front of me is having trouble scanning her ticket to get through the automated turnstile. I feel like crash tackling her. As we head to our seats I’m leading our pack. The nervous energy makes me scurry more than meander. A quick stop at the toilet for a nervous one. I get a few stares. which are more than looks. The supporters either remember me, recognise me as his father, or it’s my paranoia. Probs the latter. It’s good to be recognised but gee, it’s annoying. I wish I were invisible.

Coming out of the urinal a supporter in full regale stands in my way and blocks my path.

“Young bloke’s going well Barry.”

He’s in my face.

“Yeah, he’s going all right.”

I reply trying to get past him.

Playing it down which I always do. Which I must do even though I’d love to say he’s blitzing it, doesn’t get the recognition he deserves ….Really go on with it, you know, make a complete arse of myself. We all love our kids and see their achievements as major highlights but I can’t stand boastful parents. It’s just my kid is more talented than yours.

See the excuse for us all is we can’t boast about ourselves, although some don’t mind but by golly we can let fly about our kids. Our maker must have inserted some mechanism which like protecting and rearing them we must make them sound better than they are. My daughter came third in her pastel drawing at kinder you know.

Anyway I move back to my seat and greet the other parents there. They put us all together like a team but we are all only really there watching our own.

“If the team wins that’s a bonus as long as our kids get a kick,” one Dad who is a former player says to me.

“Couldn’t agree more,” I say back .

Happy with my seat: nobody next to me and pretty good behind. I can feel the tension as I feign interest in the lightweight conversations

“Yeah, we came in by train and had such a good run.”

We move on to the business at hand.

“Gee, your boy played well last week,” he says searching for my reply.

“Oh and so did yours.”

To which he is in total agreement. Strange one that, how he makes the statement that he actually wants spoken to him .

“So did yours,” I dutifully reply .

We do this every week .

Shuffling back to my seat I run in to a wealthy sponsor.

“Barry, you’ll have to come down and see us At Red Hill. We’ve just bought 1000 acres and, as you would know, it’s prime,” he blusters, his double chin bouncing which has taken more of my interest than his new property .

“Yes, it’s where we’re hoping to agist our thoroughbreds. You would have seen our supermare win the Group 1 last week ?” he rudely inquires.

“No, I didn’t actually. I have no interest in Red Hill, your horses or you in fact . I am interested in your gullet though,” I think to myself

“You must be proud of your son,” he starts.

“I’m proud of all of my kids,” I reply.

He ignores the comment.

“I can’t imagine what it’s like to have a son be able to perform at the top level,” he says excitedly.

“It’s something you can’t buy,” I think to myself, but pass it off with a laugh as I can’t think of a reply.

I arrive back at my seat exhausted. By now they are warming up. I am watching him, how is he moving. Oh no, he missed that shot for goal. What would the coach think if he saw that? His body language doesn’t look great. I quickly look at the opposition. “Why do they always look bigger and rougher than your team?”

I worry for my son’s safety .

I’m beside myself but out put on a cool air.  The umpire holds the ball in the air and moves in to bounce it . It rises into the air. Game on.



  1. Great to read your words Barry. Enjoyed this first story and hope to read more. I am guessing that fiction has its roots in personal experience – but I’m not going to speculate too much.

  2. Great stuff, Barry.
    There is much in this yarn that all footy parents can relate to.

  3. Barry – excellent read. Could feel the tension. Wanting our kids to “get a kick” is an urge that probably goes back to Gronk in the caves, who wanted his kid to have his/her first hunting success. And not get killed in the process.

    Do you get more vocal at the footy watching your own? I do.

  4. We sure enjoyed watching you, Barry! A star Swan.

    And a great pity to lose Tommy.

    Enjoy the ride.

    Cheer cheer

  5. Robert Murphy’esque!
    Great read Baz

  6. Grand writing, B Mitchell.
    Very glad to read your words here.
    Evocative. Sense of tension, of hope, of annoyance. Well played.

  7. Mark McAuliffe says

    Hi Barry, well put the time I have spent with you has made me look at sport and kids differently thanks so much cheers Mark

  8. Grant Fraser says

    Nice work Barry. The Boy…”30+”…. is fitting in well.

    And next time you talk to the Dad who is a former player, suggest his boy imagines that he is kicking to someone in the crowd when having a shot for goal…or he tries bouncing it through (which seems the only way he can get a 6 pointer).


  9. Peter Gentile says

    Hi Barry
    Found your story quite amusing , where can i read more?

  10. Emilio Bernardo says

    Great read Barry

  11. A great read with fantastic insights. I’m looking forward to more.

  12. Joanne Daniher says

    Good read Barry, my word that son of yours is going well ( you don’t have to mirror that compliment either!)

  13. Congrats on your debut piece Barry! Looking forward to reading more, keep ’em coming.

  14. Matt Zurbo says

    Killer start! Look forward to more, mate!

  15. Rod Gillett says

    Love your work Bangers!

  16. Pamela Sherpa says

    What a stress being a parent is! And you have the added stress of being a parent of an AFL player, whose every kick and move is scrutinised. I hope you find a way to relax during the week before the game day stress all begins again. Meanwhile enjoy the thrill of it all and savour the moments of watching a talented son play – for better or worse , good days and bad. Enjoy watching a healthy, fit son play.

  17. Truly enjoyed reading this Barry . I sense a little Tongue in cheek banter in your story which makes it an interesting and grest read. Keep the good work up and look forward to hopefully reading more of your stories in the near future .

  18. Keiran Croker says

    Great read Barry. Nice to have chatted to you briefly at the XXIX Club lunch last Friday. Hope your boy continues his great form, just not against the Swans!

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