The Rite of Spring

by Damian O’Donnell

I love Spring. I love what it does to people.

In June, July and August we go about our business. We watch our footy team battle through the long AFL season. We pay the mortgage, keep warm, and ask our kids what they did at school. The grass only grows in clumps, the leaves go on holiday and the trees stand patiently like an empty Hill’s hoist. Dog turds in the park become more visible on the cold, sparse ground, and the local paper is pulled from the letterbox all soggy and mushy. We’re in a holding pattern.

Then on the 1st of September something happens. A light goes on. And when the arduous footy season reaches its climax we break out. From the start of September the football games really mean something. There is no tomorrow, there is only now. Our hearts pump again, the trees dress up in new clothes, the local paper is retrieved from the letterbox dry, and the dog turds disappear under the new spring grass. We stand in them. It’s symbolic.

One footy team is hailed as great while the other 15 teams turn inward and conduct reviews and endless analysis, but we don’t need to do an analysis because we already know what’s wrong with every team. The losers all want to know what went wrong. Sometimes the conclusion is that nothing went wrong, they just weren’t good enough. Trades are done, players move clubs, get axed, get surgery or just get pissed. Clubs add another assistant coach to their ranks who is welcomed and very excited to be there and full of good ideas. We’re already looking to next year. Life is being lived again.

We talk to our neighbours over the fence for the first time in months and discuss the footy season’s conclusion as lawn mowers at our feet splutter and cough because of clogged spark plugs. There is always plenty to discuss. Our thoughts are organized and intelligent.

When the Grand Final is over we turn our attention to the horses. We become little Barts. What we know about the horses knows no bounds.

We start talking about blinkers and barriers, we dissect a jockey’s ride with authority, our sentences suddenly contain a lot more numbers, like “I reckon you can get sevens”, or “He’s never carried 58.5 before”, or “Nothing outside barrier 12 can win at Moonee Valley.” We start having meaningful conversations about whether or not a particular horse can cover a particular journey. We expertly do the maths on quinellas and quaddies and trifectas. We really know these things. We know lots of things we thought we didn’t know – about horses anyway.

We start receiving texts from people we haven’t seen for ages saying “get all over” this or that horse and we know what “get all over” means. It means defying your gut instincts, defying your household budget, defying the logic of hoping, no expecting, a lumbering piece of animal flesh to run faster than the other lumps of meat, it means handing over cold hard cash to a bloke with a hat on who gives you a piece of paper. You will probably see this man with the hat on again, but more often than not it will be when you approach him to continue defying logic rather than approaching him to receive a reward for sound judgment.

But we keep going back. We keep going back because this is living. We are out of the holding pattern. We’re not waiting for anything anymore and anything is possible. Mathematically we can always get out of trouble right up to the last race. But in Spring even having your wallet cleaned out is good fun.

If we’re really lucky we’ll get invited to one of the premier events at Flemington. We’ll stand in a breezy tent called a marquee drinking Italian beer or French champagne and we’ll see famous people walking through the crowds on their way to the toilets. If we’re lucky we might even get to stand next to a famous person in the toilet queue. Super models will be there but we’ll never see them. No one gets to see the super models unless of course you happen to look up at the train station where you might see a 5m x 6m poster of one lounging in her undies. But we know they are amongst us. This would never happen in winter.

Spring contains the light fluffy entertainment after a winter of serious contemplation and footy anxiety. Spring is open and stupid and beautiful and exciting. Spring allows us to be really clever and unpredictable and frivolous for a month or so.

We all need a good Spring.

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. Dips, I like horses but I can’t eat a whole one. The poo is very good for my broad beans though.

    Last time I had a bet, Melb Cup 1997, I had to ask some dodgey looking permenantly ensconsed hardcore punter in the Upper Burnie TAB how to place it.

    Disillusioned as well as the Tassy Govt wants to sell the Tab. Did I say sell, I meant to say give it away.

    Can’t wait for the NAB (or what ever they callit next year) cup.

    Go Cats.

  2. Phantom – did your bet in 1997 produce a dividend?

    I too am looking forward to next footy season. Farewell Tommy Harley. A great captain, and from all reports a very decent person.

    Go Cats (I still have the glow)

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