Striking the Right Balance

I understand that 2011 is “The Year of Chemistry” according to the United Nations. The UN is the body that seems to take it upon itself to label each year as if such a label might give the following 365 days some direction. I wonder when the “Year of Accountants” gets a run?

I like the idea that 2011 is about chemistry because it fills the year with hope and expectation. I’ve always regarded the study of chemistry as being about hope and expectation. When a chemist mixes one chemical with another he might expect a small red gaseous release, but he hopes against a bloody big explosion.

I never did well in chemistry at school, probably because I was never really interested in the subject at a micro level. I mean, who cares if Al2O3 is Aluminium oxide, or if C30H50O2 makes up Betulin. All I knew was that a mixture of butter and plumb jam on fresh crusty, warm bread gave enormous pleasure. I always looked at chemistry on a macro level. I recall that chemistry exams always had questions like “What do you get if you mix so-and-so with whatchamacallit and explain your answer”. I wish I could have explained my answers with lines like “It just feels right” or “I get the impression that…..” or, to steal a line from  like Dennis Denuto in The Castle,“It’s the Constitution, its Mabo, its justice, it’s the law, it’s the vibe……….”.

I reckon footy is about chemistry too. A season is a mixture of compounds and elements that come together for some teams and not others. The weather, injuries, luck, the tribunal, and nightclub attendances. 2010 was a combination of chemical reactions that delivered the Magpies a flag – Darren Jolly, Scott Pendlebury, luck, no injuries, Dane Swan, good weather, ferocious tackling, an uncompromising coach, equals premiership. Take one of these elements out and the answer could be different.

Professor Julius Sumner Miller once told me to “watch it, watch it, watch it” as a boiled egg disappeared into a milk bottle (remember those?). In 2010 football commentators were saying “watch them, watch them, watch them” as the Magpies swept to a flag. Both of these occurred in their own chemical mix.

So what’s the chemical mix in 2011? All the compounds are still not present, but as I peer into the cooking pot of possibilities a pleasant smell is emerging.  I say it because it has the vibe. I say it because this whole season is a bonus. The expected and predicted fall down the ladder by the Cats has not occurred, the old blokes haven’t fallen in a heap, the Ablett-less Cats are finding a way.

The Cats have Jimmy Bartel playing like Hercules, Ottens towering around the ruck contests,  Travis Varcoe realizing what magic he has at his finger tips, Jimmy Kelly emerging from Gary Ablett’s shadow like the first Spring sun poking over the top of the oak trees, Matthew Scarlett running like a two year old colt, and some young blokes who know they have what it takes.

All this positive thought causes me a great conundrum. I am of Irish stock. The Irish are filled with a peculiar chemistry. They treat optimism with skepticism, they treat happiness with suspicion; something best kept at arm’s length. They prefer to sing melancholy songs about what might have been had good fortune smiled upon them, rather songs about glad tidings and Hollywood endings. Even their victorious rebel songs avoid self satisfied congratulations; they speak of the sacrifices made, the lives lost, the widowed wife, and the orphaned children. Celebration is for the self indulgent; it only occurs upon one’s passing with a vibrant wake.  In footy language this means that every victory should be mourned as a defeat is ever closer. I can’t be happy with the chemical outlook for 2011 because it will exacerbate the possible fall. My footy life is therefore a boiling pot of conflicting emotions and reactions.

When I was a boy one of my uncles, a man of supreme intellect, charm and humour, gave my brothers and I a record by the Clancy Brothers, a group of Irish folk singers who described what it is to be Irish with wit and sadness. I learned more about my ancestry from this record than I did from any book. I still sing the words to one of their greatest efforts:

“I’m a rambler I’m a gambler,

I’m a long way from home,

And if you don’t like me,

Then leave me alone.

I’ll eat when I’m hungry,

And I’ll drink when I’m dry,

And if moonshine don’t kill me,

I’ll live till I die.”

So as the footy season unfolds I’m trying to read the chemistry, trying to understand the signs. I’m battling against the Irish blood that surges through my veins, trying to believe without conviction, trying to ignore and entertain hope.

Like everyone I have no idea what will unfold but I feel a surprise is in store, I feel 2011 will cause a stir. I don’t know why I think this. Perhaps it’s just the vibe.

About Damian O'Donnell

I'm passionate about breathing. And you should always chase your passions. If I read one more thing about what defines leadership I think I'll go crazy. Go Cats.


  1. John Butler says

    No Menzel Dips.

    Does this upset the equilibrium?

  2. JB – he will be missed more than many would believe. You may have detected by now I’m a bit of a fan.

  3. Peter Flynn says

    Nice chemistry pun JB.

    Dips, you obviously weren’t given the experience of watching sodium (Na and an alkali metal) come into contact with water.

    The resulting production of hydrogen gas and molten sodium metal is a ripper. An explosion is on the cards. A bit like Varcoe coming into contact with the footy close to goal.

    I blame Chemistry for my propensity to imbibe. Pipetting white wine by mouth being one influence.

  4. David Downer says

    After reading this I’m now convinced I’m of Irish stock. Some lovely ditties in here Dips.


  5. Andrew Fithall says

    I belive they initiated a Year of Accountants in 2008. However, by mid April, everyone had lost interest and simply ignored it. There was a small flurry of exclitement around 30 June before it disappeared forever.

  6. Ian Syson says

    Not sure why the chemistry metaphor has any valency tbh.

  7. Phil Dimitriadis says

    Methinks Dips may have dabbled in some Kronic before he wrote this.

  8. Lovely musings Dips. Lucky you don’t follow Rugby League in the North of England.
    My one trip to Wembley Stadium was for a Cup Final in the Early 90’s. The highlight of the day was the tube/train out to Wembley packed with ribald drunken Northerners. I suspect the main role of the game was to sober them up in the afternoon for the evening’s drinking on their annual pilgrimage to London. I listened in wonder to the humour.
    Wigan (perennial champions at the time) were playing Widness, and beat them easily. Widness had the strangest team monicker I had heard. They were called the ‘Chemics’. Apparently because an ICI chemical factory was the major sponsor/employer/presence in the town.
    Can you imagine ‘carn the mighty Chemics’ at an AFL game? Personally I love the more unusual nicknames in sport. I am a big Parrots supporter in the Match Committee. Roosters just doesn’t cut it for me.
    Even when you get flogged by 10 goals, there would always be the consolation of the Social Club to get pissed with the p………..(home supporters).

    Any nominations for favourite team nicknames – AFL and other codes??????

    Over to the ‘knackers’ yard for suggestions.

  9. Ian Syson says

    PeterB, some of the English football teams are named after industry/occupations

    Northampton Town — the Cobblers
    Stoke City — the Potters
    Stockport — the Hatters
    Sheffield United – the blades

    Everton are called the toffees after the industry in which a lot of supporters worked (confectionery).

  10. JB, the cats dropping Lonergan is interesting. He has been caught out by those little whippets before. We have a few i tonight.

    We could have a new flag favoutite at 10.30 tonight.

    I am glad we play tonight because some intelligent Yank reckons the world is going to end this weekend. Something to do with an ongoing disagreement between God and the Devil.

  11. Ian,

    Queens Park Rangers – The Champions

  12. haiku bob says

    Peter B

    Adelaide Crows = Fruit Tingles

  13. Dips

    I too has some Irish in me. And I know chemistry when I sees it.

    I also likes a punt. Had a bit on the Bluebaggers, thinking the Cats might be a bit shinshore.

    Hurtin now. Hurtin bad. Felt conflicted all night having to back the Blues.

    Your ingredients included LUCK. You might have used up a bit too much tonight.

    Enjoyed the advantage free when the ONLY player to keep going was Christensen.

    But it was immensely entertaining, as our beautiful game can be.

    Shush this week, Almacats. Twood be unseemly to celebrate.

  14. Alovesupreme says

    I’ve always thought that Yarrawonga (OMFL) players would need a thick skin being known as the pigeons.
    When I was a lot younger Chelsea (English football, not the Melbourne suburb in the Mornington Peninsula League) were known as the pensioners. I’ve just checked Wiki to see why – it is connected with a nursing home for former members of the British armed services.
    Explanation here (including reference to the Chelsea FC conncetion.

  15. Mulcaster says

    According to the ABC nes web site it is predicted that the end of times i.e. the rapture will happen today 21 May 2011

    Let me say despite the general reservations about the world ending today ther would be some positives….
    1. Carlton beaten by less than a goal in the last game of football….
    2. NSW will never win another Origin series….
    3. Warnie has given up all forms of cricket.

    There are certain advantages to the world ending

  16. MOC – you b;oody beauty!! The horrid Pies and pooncy Blues in successive weeks!!! GO CATS.

    Is that taking things too far?

  17. Pamela Sherpa says

    Balance and vibe are tangible and important Dips – more so than plans and processes .

  18. Rick Kane says

    Dips, like you, I didn’t get chemistry at the micro level until my primative urges led me away from the blackboard to what was going on in the classroom. Girls, girls, girls, as Elvis (or Sailor) would exclaim.

    The Cats are looking good. They have the chemistry and the vibe. Have they the stamina?

    re Team names, Peter B and Ian: As I have mentioned before on this site, Bullants is a fave of mine and not just because the 9 year old wears the jumper. If I was choosing a name I’d go with The Murderers. It’s to the point and it’d be fun, when the coaches yells, “I want you to go out there and kill The Pensioners or The Pigeons or The Pies”, to see how committed the players are to the task.


  19. Alovesupreme says

    You probably know that in one sense murderers is already taken – the collective noun for crows is a murder (although perhaps not this year). Yesterday, the Crows threatened murder, but the victim escaped with no more than a flesh wound. Was it the victim’s resistance or did those planning homicide have second thoughts?

Leave a Comment