The hour I first believed – a football post

And now for something completely different…

It’s September, getting towards – dareIsayit – LATE September (I’m sorry people, just speaking the truth here), and I’m feeling it in the atmosphere already: the change, the lightness of mornings, the promise of sun, the battle-lines suddenly drawn again for another year. The tension, and the rivalry of stripes and colours among people who would otherwise be friends. Shops even, decorated in flaccid balloons and fly-specked streamers displaying loyalties, or divided loyalties. Even now Kmart has a Collingwood manequin on display.

I’m not the religious sort. I’m the football equivalent of a Christmas-and-Easter believer, but I’m married to a diehard, and therefore I’m married to the Collingwood Football Club as well. That’s how things go. They’re called the Magpies – often shortened to the Pies, and supporters (of which there are many, and only of the fundamentalist diehard variety) are known utter the phrase “Carn the Pies!” in their sleep* My husband still talks about the Great Grand Final of 1990, and has the boxed set DVD collection of the Great Draw and Subsequent Victory Including Alternate Commentary from 2010. Pies fans are like that.

I don’t care, not really, but I can’t help but love the atmosphere. You can’t help but want to be with people so passionate, want to be caught up in their tears, in their pain, in their white-knuckled eyes-tight-shut enthusiasm and their wild elation. There are no other words for late September. Passion is contagious, even if, like me, you’re not a true Believer.

I read this poem yesterday, from a famous Australian poet (with thanks to Annette Young who inspired me to find it). Bruce Dawes sums it up well:

Life Cycle, by Bruce Dawe. For Big Jim Phelan

When children are born in Victoria
they are wrapped in club-colours, laid in beribboned cots,
having already begaun a lifetime’s barracking.
Carn, they cry, Carn … feebly at first
while paretns playfully tussle with them
for possession of a rusk: Ah, he’s a little Tiger! (And they are …)
Hoisted shoulder-high at their first League game
they are like innocent monsters who have been years swimming
towards the daylight’s roaring empyream
Until, now, hearts shrapnelled with rapture,
they break surface and are forever lost,
their minds rippling out like streamers
In the pure flood of sound, they are scarfed with light, a voice
like the voice of God booms from the stands
Ooohh you bludger and the covenant is sealed.
Hot pies and potato-crisps they will eat,
they will forswear the Demons, cling to the Saints
and behold their team going up the ladder into Heaven,
And the tides of life will be the tides of the home-team’s fortunes
– the reckless proposal after the one-point win,
the wedding and honeymoon after the grand-final …
They will not grow old as those from the more northern States grow old,
for them it will always be three-quarter-time
with the scores level and the wind advantage in the final term,
That pattern persisting, like a race-memory, through the welter of seasons,
enabling old-timers by boundary fences to dream of resurgent lions
and centaur-figures from the past to replenish continually the present,
So that mythology may be perpetually renewed
and Chicken Smallhorn return like the maize-god
in a thousand shapes, the dancers changing
But the dance forever the same – the elderly still
loyally crying Carn … Carn … (if feebly) unto the very end,
having seen in the six-foot recruit from Eaglehawk their hope of salvation

It’s September, month of passion. Let’s Believe, all of us, because believing is fun, even when we do need to suspend our disbelief. Let’s belong, if only for a week or two, because it belonging to something bigger than you is a joy all of it’s own. Let’s all laugh and shout, and care, and mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those crazy people who are laughing until the tears run down their faces. I know that in October we’ll forget, and by December we’ll be caught up again in the culture of Me-and-My-Life, but for now it’s September. Getting onto Late September.

Let’s believe. Image

*”Carn”, for my non-Australian readers, means something along the lines of “Tally Ho Gentlemen!”, or “Come, let us Rouse This Madness To Action!”.

Also, Demons are the Melbourne team. Saints are the St Kilda team. In case you were worried…

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8 thoughts on “The hour I first believed – a football post

  1. So, you sound about as enthusiastic about footy as I do. I sat in the lounge on Saturday, deeply engrossed in a book, while my hubby watched the Pies vs Whoever-they-were game. When it was over, I looked up and said, “So, who won?”
    I must admit, I do like to get involved in the mud-slinging – I don’t need much of a reason to get in on harmless banter. It’s fun to poke fun at the die hards (especially the toothless Pies supporters). I hear them rant and rave and then I shrug and say “I worship God.” Hee hee.

  2. Great post, I’m in total agreement. Our American football season has just started a few weeks ago, and every year we have season tickets to every home game of my husband’s college team (I went to design school, so no sports there!). It is really the classic American experience and it’s fun to go for that reason, the band playing the fight song, the dance team and cheerleaders, the fireworks, everyone in red, white and black. Our biggest rival is Chapel Hill (where Michael Jordan the basketball star came from) so no “Carolina blue” clothing certain times of the year. A little silly, but oh well. The pageantry is really something.

    • Wow, it sounds like it! You have cheerleaders and a band at every game, and fireworks? That’s big production business.
      Granted, they may happen here for AFL games as well – I just watch it on the telly, and my experience of football is, like my experience of most of life, very small-town-small-state.
      I’m sorry that I’ll be missing baseball season when I’m in the US. I’d LOVE to see a game…not because I love baseball, I barely understand it, but because the “religion” is so strong, and the people so passionate!
      Ah well…next time 🙂

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