We love it, don’t we.
I LOVE IT.
No, I really do. It’s the one thing about me that flies in the face of everything
anti-establishment I like to believe about myself. I love my footy.
I am an unashamed, one eyed, drugged to the eyeballs, West Coast Eagles supporter. I love my boys, whether they win, lose or get busted smoking meth. A great one hung up his boots and whistle this year, but we’ll always love Woosha, arguably the single biggest influence on a personal level from any one person in the history of our club. Jako (Glen Jakovich) is my favourite ever Weagle, from a very big list of absolute superstars, and I even have a bottle of dirt from the 1992 MCG where the young big birds from the west made history. The first non-Victorian team to win the coveted cup. They hated us, and the more they hated, the more we gloated, it was a heady time. Yes, it brings out the worst in me. Yes, I yell and scream at the umpires at games. YES, I LOVE THE FOOTY.
Let’s face it what’s not to love. Young, athletic, muscly men at the peak of physical condition, particularly with amazing upper body definition; greased up, poured into tight little shorts, long socks and sleeveless jumpers. OK, that could possibly be a very female perspective, but clearly we have views too. This week sees the appointment of the first ever female president of an AFL Club. Congratulations Richmond.
We take our sport very seriously here in Australia, with sporting heroes reaching national icon status. The flip side of the coin of course, is the stunning fall from grace from some of the most gifted we have ever seen. Gary Ablett Snr, Ben Cousins,
Wanker Wayne Carey – just to mention a few.
We expect a lot though, don’t we.
Our AFL footballers are widely called “professionals”. In sporting terms, all that means is a distinction between someone who gets paid to play sport, as opposed to someone who undertakes it for recreation. There is no requirement for the individual to meet any other standard of education or achievements, study or responsibility level, like would normally be attached to someone who practices a “profession”, eg: Doctor, Lawyer, Accountant, Engineer etc.
Yet, because these boys, choose to earn a living playing a sport, we expect them to live their personal lives to a set of standards that are defined by their employer, their regulating body and the government. Then they are put on a pedestal by fans, discussed relentlessly in both sporting and tabloid media. They are expected to perform at peak, even “elite” levels, week in, week out for two thirds of the year and maintain physical condition for the rest of it. Most of this begins before the good ones have even finished high school, their emotional and psychological maturity still in infancy.
They’re typical teenage boys.
Their skilled profession is chasing a ball around an oval.
Unlike actual professions, like scientists or doctors, these kids don’t have the ability to heal or cure a single solitary problem. Neither are they charged with drafting legislation that controls society. No, they’re just co-ordinated and genetically gifted boys (and why aren’t girls allowed to play – another blog topic) who work for an employer.
The AFL is nothing more than a very big business,
a very big, very rich, very self-important employer.
If you take away all the rhetoric, the pompous self-promoting bandwagon, what do we really have here.
A whole pile of old, rich guys who find the fittest young specimens from around the country, train them, control their diet, sometimes even tell them who they can be friends with and where they are allowed to go. Then once a week, the rich guys transport the well trained specimens to special arenas, where they are fenced in and people are charged money to come and watch them fight over a prize. Certainly sounds like a sophisticated, highly evolved process that serves the higher good.
The other significant difference between these gorgeous young men and genuine professionals like Accountants or Physiotherapists is that their career has a very short lifespan. Dustin Fletcher, still playing for the Essendon FC, is the oldest to have pulled on the boots. He is 38 and has a one year contract. This is a young man’s game.
This week, following his team’s Premiership success at the Grand Final, Lance (Buddy) Franklin announced he was leaving the Hawks to take up a very lucrative playing deal with the Sydney Swans.
Last week, straight male Hawthorn supporters were prepared to bear children to this man, he was worshipped and adored in every possible way, by every single Hawk fan. In the last few days he has been called a traitor, washed up, scumbag, asshole, we’re better off without him piece of trash.
How is that we can expect so much from these young men, most of whom NEVER claim, nor set out to be, these role models we must create for ourselves; and then not expect them to see that if they’re going to be an integral cog in the wheel, then they’ll make hay while the sun shines.
Good luck Buddy, invest wisely Son, look after your joints, you might need them when you’re not much older.
Dedicated to Chris Mainwaring
No. 3 guernsey for the West Coast Eagles 1987 – 1999
I feel much the same about our baseball (GO TIGERS!!!) and hockey (YEAH, REDWINGS!!!) teams.