Sunday, July 31, 2011

Grrr, politics - you do my head in!

Well, a political post was inevitable. That little blurb under ‘About me’ says I’m a politics geek. True – I’m interested in public policy and enjoy discussions (not arguments, discussions) and debates, thrashing out issues in a meaningful way. But frankly, ‘politics’ gives me the absolute shits sometimes.

Just look at how it’s talked about by the media and politicians alike, accepting it – promoting it – as a sporting contest. How tragic! How utterly pathetic to see serious policy discussion degenerate into cheap stunts and empty rhetoric, as pollies scramble to kick goals in the polls.

Political parties are driving the political discourse into the ground, well beneath the lowest common denominator. I wonder if they have actually become the lowest common denominator. They should lead and inspire us, setting an example of how people from varying backgrounds and ideologies can work constructively for the common good – isn’t an interest in the common good supposed to be their common trait? Isn’t that a lovely dream? Maybe not for media proprietors.

I know political parties are a necessary evil for the practical functioning of our parliamentary system. But being a necessary evil doesn’t mean it’s necessary that they are evil. Right?

And a parliament without political parties would still bubble over with ambition and power struggles. But there seems to be far more integrity and maturity from independent politicians in recent years – people like Nick Xenophon, Tony Windsor and the late Peter Andren. They sometimes influence power, but never hold it; they have little interest in fortnightly polls and can instead test their policy stance against their values instead. But how many people have even heard of Peter Andren, personally the most inspiring politician from my lifetime?

The parties on the other hand are essentially sporting teams, with polls providing the scoreboard between elections. And they are each out to win at all costs, even if that cost includes good long-term policy. In Australia, Tony Abbott puts significantly more effort into relentlessly campaigning against the carbon tax and shifting opinion against such necessary urgent action on climate change, than engaging in productive efforts to mitigate the fallout of a serious issue that he claims to believe in.

Meanwhile, in the US some Republicans see the looming debt crisis as an irresistible opportunity to damage Barak Obama’s re-election hopes next year, regardless of the impact on the Americans they represent.

Indeed, that’s politics. A robust and effective opposition is imperative to hold the government to account, but when they oppose for oppositions sake they become counter-productive. Again, indulge my idealistic naivety, but wouldn’t it be nice to see a harmonious parliament? One where our elected representatives worked constructively together in the collective interest of us all? Where honest mistakes or reasonable shifts in opinion were accepted for what they are, not used to sink the boot in? There are, no doubt, rarely publicised instances where politicians from different sides do work together. But wouldn’t it be more productive for us all if the general perception of parliament could be of a forum where a constructive contest of ideas fleshes out the best outcome for the nation, rather than one of division and fighting, which are celebrated in those wonderful sporting clich├ęs but do little to progress the debate.

And then there’s the media. The contest between personalities and the struggle for power is far more interesting to them than boring policy analysis. So it comes back to the game. People like Michelle Grattan examine polls and performances, wasting column space on the politics of politics, while Andrew Bolt stirs succeeds by stirring up anger on both sides of the debate and Alan Jones berates ‘Juliar’ Gillard for introducing a carbon tax without a mandate, while he uses his significant profile to push his own agenda. Would he still berate the Prime Minister for policy shifts if he was – stick with me here – actually right and able to convince her, and the rest of us, of it?

The thing is, as much as I dislike the man, Jones has a right to his opinion, even (*gulp*) the right to use it as a rallying call, if he actually believes in the bile he coughs up. I’d be pretty hypocritical to suggest otherwise, I’ve been variously inspired by a range of political activists including, pertinently, Midnight Oil.

After all, the political and policy discussion goes on even when we aren’t voting as the ever-changing climate (not just environmental) shifts around us. So it isn’t unreasonable for a politician or party to alter their policy after an election if circumstances change, and it frustrates the hell outta me that we aren’t mature enough to deal with that in popular political discourse. I just wish it wasn’t based so much on fucking polls!

Seeing I’ve mentioned the Oils, I’ll finish by saying that, yeah, it saddens me to see Peter Garrett stripped of his power and passion by the party machine. I like to think he’s fighting the good fight behind closed doors. Maybe he is making a difference there, although I’d be surprised if it’s very much. Meanwhile, while towing the party line, he can no longer inspire people to stand up for things they believe in, environmental or otherwise, and encourage them to engage in issues the way he did successfully for 25 years with the Oils.

Seeing Mr Garrett spit out party lines does nothing for me, watching clips like this gives me chills.

Monday, July 25, 2011

If you came here via Facebook...

This blog started out as a deeply personal – even private – messy, ad-hoc experiment in reconnecting with my passion for writing. The idea was planted by an ‘old friend’ last September. She said to me:

“Dear Sam. I’ve put some serious thought into how best to tell you this. I’m sure that at the end of the day until u come to this on your own – the absolute truth shall not sink in. In the spirit of the masked avenger, your creativity & passions. It should be plain to see. You need to write and maintain an annonomous [sic] agitating political blog. Love Emma

FYI - the ‘masked avenger’ is a reference to my mild obsession with Batman.

This was a shove from someone who believed in me more than I believed in myself and – not just because it was linking me with Batman – I was more than a little flattered and motivated by it.

Much as I love politics though (check in on my Twitter feed during QandA), there are plenty of better informed people and insightful people blogging in that sphere. So I continue to explore what this blog actually is; what the primary theme or issue is, if indeed there is one, and I started with some random ramblings that, with any luck, I’ll look back on some day with (more) disgust (than I currently do).

Initially, I kept it under the radar – I don’t think I ever even told Emma about it. Enjoying the anonymity of a blog read by no-one I knew, in fact almost no-one at all, I took the opportunity to get a large weight off my chest and write a lengthy account on my life with depression.

That post was the first I actually promoted - through Twitter where, as here, I don't use my surname and am followed by very few people who actually know me. But it’s still by far the most viewed post I’ve written, and the most soul-baring. It also led to an appearance on Hungry Beast discussing my OCD, largely ending my lonely secrecy, and related embarrassment, of hiding my condition. I then released a deep sigh of relief in all circles of my life with friends, family and some work colleagues now knowing the basic details.

Still, the only posts Facebook saw were the less personal ones that I was sufficiently comfortable with, but I was no longer being too fussed about what else the clickers might find here.

Finally, a couple of weeks ago, in a somewhat narcissistic attempt to boost visits, I quietly included this blog in my Facebook profile information as my website. Since then I’ve been interested to see if any visits came here through Facebook; none, until the weekend when two came through.

Unfortunately for me, I don’t know who steps into my confessional booth. I figure distant acquaintances won’t be looking through that profile information and I do know of one person who came here via Facebook and, through the blog, found me on Twitter – someone I don’t keep in touch with much anymore, but am stoked found something of interest in my writing.

I’m becoming more and more comfortable with all of this; being more open about my thoughts and experiences, and my ongoing efforts to maintain good mental health. I'm doing so quite well, just so you know!

Not everyone will understand things written on these pages, but bless those who do, or at least try, and bugger those who don’t.

I’m also coming to realise is that if this blog does develop a dominant theme mental health is the most likely candidate. After all it is probably what I know most about, is something I am passionate about, and I’m keen to share my experiences with others.

So it will only get more personal I suppose.

I don’t know who is reading, and some who do may be known to me and get more than they bargained for!

If you came here via Facebook, I’d love to know that you stopped by and now know some of my open secrets. But you don’t need to tell me if you don’t wanna :o)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Run, Sammy, Run

Forget sore legs or blistered feet, my biggest weakness when I started out running was my mind. In the wrong headspace, going for a run is dead boring, painful and tedious.

I’m not enjoying this. I could stop and walk. Why keep running? I can’t go much further, what difference will a few less metres make anyway? I could just walk. Fuck it, I’ll walk. Next time I’ll run further.

With every step thinking more and more about the path ahead, the challenge getting harder and harder. And why not stop the pain; shooting through legs, up into the mind. Think more, feel more; feel more, think more.

It is a great way to get into the right headspace though. In this busy world, it’s a good way to remove yourself from all the stresses and superficial distractions and even burn some frustration!

In April 2006 I did the Run for the Kids with a few workmates. Result: 4.5 kilometres in 49 minutes and 43 seconds.

Yeah, we walked most of it. I think we started out jogging but a little physical discomfort was all it took to be overwhelmed by the mental anguish of the road ahead and ease into a stroll.

If I had something to run to – something to focus on or a ball to chase – I’d go at it like a dog chasing a bus. But running for the sake of running … now why the hell would you do that?

Until 18 months ago I couldn’t get myself past that mindset.

Thinking 'oh shit, my knees are hurting'
On Sunday I ran my second official event, this time the 10km course in the Run Melbourne.

And – wait for it – I finished in 51 minutes and 16 seconds. Yeah! You’re excited too, right?! An extra 5.5km, only one and a half minutes longer!

Here’s another example of how far I’ve come – I love running. How stupid is that!?

Five years ago – heck, one year ago – I found the thought of a 10km run impossible. Same way I think now about doing a half marathon; maybe someday, but it’s a way off. And, no, I am unequivocally NEVER doing a full marathon. I love running; I am not a masochist.

Anyway, I don’t so much enjoy the act of running in itself; it’s not ‘fun’. What I do enjoy is the effect it has on me, helping me turn discomfort into relaxation.

My mind and legs can’t run at full speed at the same time. No jokes and walking and chewing gum. If I can hear myself think, I’m not running hard enough. Dealing with anxiety and OCD, I spent most of my life suppressing my thinking when it got messy. Running forces me to let go of my thinking, so thoughts come and go freely. In a good stride, thinking too much can actually makes me a little ill.

And some of the best ideas and solutions come from a relaxed mind, when thoughts aren’t forced. Sure, that can be a difficult situation when you don’t want to focus on them but want to remember them for elaboration later.

Wanky as it sounds, running also proved to me that I can achieve things I believed I couldn’t. When I started running regularly I’d walk 1.5km to the Tan, run a little over 1km up the Anderson Street hill and around the bend, walk another 1.5km around towards the Sydney Myer Music Bowl, run another kilometre or so back to Anderson Street and walk the last 1.5km home.

One of my 2010 new year’s resolutions was to run the full Tan track. A stranger told offered some good advice that I could do it if I just breathed properly. In the first couple of weeks of 2010 I passed my usual ‘stop-and-walk’ point and kept going, just to see how far I could make it. I focused on my breath, let my thoughts and expectations go and just ran. About a third the way around I realised I could probably finish. I did and, goddamnit, now I had to every time I went out there.

I used to see a basketball teammate who lives a little further from the Tan than I do, and ran there and back as well as around. Without modesty, I am fitter than him, so that surprised me and I just figured it was beyond me. Then one day I did it, increasing my 3.8km run to a 7km run. And again, once I knew I could do it I had to meet the new standard.

And now I’ve run 10km. Just twice, but I know I can. Other than finding a 10km route, and the extra time, there is no excuse not to continue at that distance. But I don’t have the route or the time, so there we go, 7km it shall stay for now.

I’d only run 10km once before, but I’d run 10km once before. I knew I could do it, and even though I ran without music, which helps channel my energy, I had a running mate. I think we were the only ones who talked during the run, but we were in our own space most of the time.

Early on a good looking, very fit girl ran past us. I upped my pace briefly but she broke away through the crowd. Soon after I noticed she was only about 20 metres ahead. ‘She’s my benchmark,’ I said to Rick. ‘I want to keep her in my sight.’ I think he thought I just wanted to keep an eye on hear arse. But I also wanted someone to keep up with. Sadly, we lost her at about the 6km mark. I figured she’d shot off, but as we emptied the tank sprinting to the finish line, I passed her with 50 metres to go. That was satisfying.

When I finished the run I felt great. I’d done a better time than I expected; I was up early, fresh and sober on a Sunday morning; I had pushed myself physically and mentally and succeeded; and I felt like a floodgate of endorphins were rushing through my brain. Physical discomfort came and went, but letting go of it and pushing on when you’d really rather stop is the most rewarding challenge of running.

That’s why I run. That’s why I love it.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

On the Road - Jack Kerouac

I picked up a copy of On the Road in mid-2007 in the lead up to my first trip to North America. It was a significant journey – I was newly single after a five year relationship, was heading overseas for the first time (if you don’t count New Zealand, which I choose not to) and, while meeting up with family and friends along the way, I was largely making my own way around the great continent.

The legendary story and it’s mad, majestic protagonist, Dean Moriarty, were familiar to me through knowledgable friends and I thought it would be the perfect read for the time. Even as I struggled through, I conned myself into buying the sell – the maniacal adventure with no obvious plot, just rambling ‘spontaneous prose’ that seemed to go everywhere but nowhere in particular. The proof of my struggle was in the fact I didn’t finish. In a way I wish I had, as it was a timely read for me, but on the other hand I just wasn’t in the right head space. At that time I couldn’t find the relaxed focus required to deal with Kerouac’s style; it was too great a challenge for my racing, anxious mind. Even if I had finished, I wouldn’t have gotten much more out of it. I was just reading words to get them read and move onto the next thing. I was always looking to the next moment in those days, not allowing myself – or perhaps able – to revel in the moment.

And now it seems to me that this is just what the book is all about - living in the moment.

So I’m glad I didn’t finish it four years ago because I may never have come back to it. I returned to it as part of a current effort to read more, including ‘classics’, and it was sitting there on my shelf begging to be completed. I couldn’t even remember how far I made it through last time; not that I seriously considered continuing from that point. Well maybe momentarily as the devil on my right shoulder (surely it sits on the right) spruiked the short cut.

Four years on I am a different person – ‘rewired’ and more relaxed – and in a particularly interesting, if terrifically uncertain, phase of life. Things are changing in and around me; living in the moment has become a goal and mantra. So it turned out that this was the ideal time to tap into the spirit embodied by On the Road.

I quickly fell in love with the book this time.

After my struggle with Ulysses I was a little reluctant to jump into another classic novel. In other words, I felt I needed something light. Yet, while neither book contain simple, straightforward prose, Joyce seems to delight in complex, intricately constructed writing for the sake of it, to the point where the style overbears the story and comes across to a relatively unsophisticated reader like myself as somewhat pretentious. Kerouac’s often breathless narrative (the original manuscript of which was written in a ‘non-stop three week burst’) on the other hand, hit upon an attitude to life that resonated deeply.

And it’s nothing to do with the geographical adventure – the road itself is really just a means to the end. The novel captures the excitement, restlessness and beauty of the moment; no looking back, no time to pause and reflect, just dig and move on to the next thing. But you must dig. Don’t just choose life, dig life. Respect others, but fuck their expectations of you. This is your one shot at life, we’re all going to die so why waste time being caught up in what’s passed by or social norms that seek to dictate to you where happiness resides. Find it in and for yourself.

My love of this book is summed up neatly in this, probably my favourite passage:

“But then they danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across stars and in the middle you see the blue centrelight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’ "


Like narrator, Sal Paradise, I am generally the one chasing the madness more so than exuding it. I’m the one looking for, and basking in the glorious influence of, the Dean Moriarty’s.

And they do come along. People that burst into your life like a firecracker in the dark sky, their sparkling influence reaching far into all aspects of your being, and eventually they often fade and fall away – but tiny particles of their presence land scattered about and remain always, hidden but going nowhere. I’ve known them.

I might come back to and enjoy Ulysses someday the way I did with On the Road. I have my doubts though. I can’t see it ever having the same impact. Ulysses is sophisticated and intellectual, but On the Road is for the everyman, the Dean Moriarty that lives somewhere in all of us, as it did in Sal Paradise, waiting to ignite the spark of life. The only reason for the comparison here is that they are the most recent two books I’ve read (this is my blog after all and I can do what I want), but they are not entirely dissimilar in style. When it boils down to it though, I just couldn’t understand what Ulysses was on about so the exercise, for me, was somewhat pointless.

But man did I dig On the Road!


Monday, July 11, 2011

Family and friends


Your family is probably the most influential group you’ll ever belong to. But they are a strange, arbitrary beast.

A group you became a member of purely by the dumb luck of your birth, with no more than shared genes and ancestry. Not that there was ever any chance of being born into a different family.

Of course, for most of us they become more than that over time; as we grow up they’re at the centre of much of our learning and life-experiences. The bond becomes one that usually endures throughout a lifetime, while friends come and go.

Friends are the ones you get to choose though. Finding the people who inspire you, make you laugh, challenge you, understand you, provide comfort and support; you can build your own, perfect ‘family’!

I knew someone who has done just this, somewhat cutting herself off from her biological family, and truly considers her core friends her real family.

On the other hand, I have a friend who often prioritises time with his siblings and parents over socialising with friends – even leaving the farewell drinks of an old friend, who is heading overseas indefinitely, for a couple of hours because the drinks were down the road from his brother’s house, which is only 20 minutes drive from his own. I, personally, found that bizarre, especially as someone who agonises over missing a chance to hang out with my friends if I’m tied up with family, and will actively seek reasons not to visit my folks for dinner twice a week. It’s absolutely not that I don’t love them, just that twice a week is just more than I can handle right now.

At the moment friends are more important in my life than family. They’re the ones I look to not just for fun and socialising, but for inspiration, learning, new experiences and the exploration of life in general. And also for support and comfort. My good friends get me in a way my family don’t. That’s not their fault.

I don’t think there’s anything outrageously unusual in that, but I’d hate for my family to read it and feel more than a twinge of guilt saying so. But I’ll still hit ‘publish’ when I’m done writing this.

Fact is I’ve become somewhat of the black sheep in recent years among my fairly conservative family. I’ve become more outspoken and challenging in my outlook on life. Discussions often quickly become arguments, and I dislike myself when I get defensive and argumentative. I much prefer open discussions with particular friends where our purpose is not to win an argument but explore ideas.

Conservatism lives in my family both politically and the general attitude to life. The Liberal Party were supported in our house like a sporting team, although Mum has a progressive streak on issues such as the environment that she kept well hidden until I brought some similar, new thinking to the dinner table after starting university.

At this time, one of my brothers asserted that I had been brainwashed. A few years later he moved to San Francisco and now we actually agree on most issues! Our relationship is interesting in another way. Growing up it was he who – as the middle child – was the black sheep (maybe now there are two of us, which in a family of five really only takes one more convert to swing around the whole colour scheme) and we argued and fought like bitter enemies, and I spent a lot of time and energy brooding hatred for him; five years younger I couldn’t win a fight, but I sure as hell persisted in trying. We are both Scorpios after all.

We are also both quite independent and strong minded people. So I find it strange, but it probably makes sense, that as soon as he moved out we started getting along much better and have hardly argued, and never fought, in more than eight years. In fact we probably have the best relationship of anyone in the family and I do consider him a good friend as well as a brother. There’s a different level of understanding, and – dare I say – respect that comes from that understanding.

To his credit (credit in my opinion) Dad was somewhat open to the views I brought home, and at least admired my passion, and has abandoned the Liberals at least once in the last three federal elections, possibly at all of them, and, like Mum and the Frisco bro, is a strong supporter such things as environmental protection. So while they may be somewhat conservative, they are not nowhere near the ‘evil’ end of the scale.

In terms of life, my parents persist in pushing me to invest in property and (more) shares, while any money I have I just want to spend on travel and digging life around Melbourne. They get offended when I choose to decline an offer for them to go 40 minutes out of their way to drop me home from a family event, when I’d actually prefer a short stroll, and time reading on the train while I fare evade.

This needy generosity drives me mad at times and is a pertinent current point of tension as I assert my need to challenge myself and learn through good and bad experiences. I’m the youngest by five years; they still want to protect me I guess.

And so I look to my friends to find the adventure and exposure to life’s riches that I crave.

I love my family dearly. They will always be there for me, always have been; I know that they will provide me with anything I need (‘need’!) as far as they can if I ask, and I would do so for them.

For me that’s what family’s about. Not everyone is so lucky to have such support and love, but that’s how it should be. No matter our differences, or our arguments, we will always be tied not just by a biological, but also an emotional bond.

And when/if I have my own children I will learn from my parents – both their mistakes and their wisdom, and I will most likely take a somewhat different approach and make my own mistakes. But hopefully they’re around long enough to offer an additional, alternative approach as grandparents well into my children’s lives.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

My tweet cloud


This is my tweet cloud, my most used words in tweets over the last three months (1058 tweets - shit, that many, really??).

The top words were 'People', 'Time' and 'Love'. I expected 'Love' would pop up, it's so overused it would surely show up in everyone's.

'People', I'm not so sure about; given my most prolific tweeting is during QandA and other political shows, chances are I was berating 'people' in general, and 'actually' being a little condescending... But 'Please' also made it in, so at least I'm being polite. And 'Thanks'.

And I have no idea how 'Time' placed so highly.

'Politics' as a topic clearly dominates, but as a word I'm not too surprised. 'Asylum' is there purely because of Go Back to Where You Came From and last night's Leaky Boat and QandA. I think the discussion of boats probably pushed 'Stop' up the list too. I'm not one to tell people what to do! Unless it's 'Change'.

Nice to see 'Read' and 'Melbourne' in there, suggesting some cultural content as well maybe?

'Stop'

Disappointed that I'm tweeting about 'Twitter' itself?! But the inclusion of Perth - I was only there for six days - is maybe an indication that it didn't take much to get into the cloud.

Anyway, over 1000 tweets in three months. Over 300 per month. Over 10 per day!

So 'tonight' I stay away from it and live my 'life'.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

you

if you are reading this - you, you who know who you are, you who inspired this whole goddamn experiment, you who loved and loathed me in the most absurd platonic fashion, mistaken for something else, something real that was merely respect and fear lost in moments of the spark, of life, of beautiful madness that couldn't go right - if you are reading this, and i think you might be, i'd actually like to hear from you. i've no time for bitterness, only friends, only inspiration.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A man's love for footy

I don’t get AFL.

I mean, I understand the game; I frikkin love it. What I don’t get is why it means so much to me. How can watching a bunch of guys – most now younger than me – running around after a piece of inflated leather and trying to put it between a couple of poles engage my most basic, instinctive, raw emotions.

What the hell does it all mean? I know its best for me not to think about such things too much, but overanalysing the curious elements of life is one of my curses.

Tonight I spent a lonely Saturday night at home glued nervously to the TV, enthralled by the efforts of my boys – Essendon – to overcome the undefeated Geelong and a month of shitty form, and fight out the best win I’ve seen since ‘AnZaharakis Day’ two years ago (I’ll come back to that one).

I don’t often find myself watching Essendon games alone. My main Bomber buddy was at a gig tonight and I don’t much go to Docklands anymore since they cracked down on the ability for me and my mates (and seemingly many others) to enter the ground with a cheap child’s ticket purchased online. I often wondered what Ticketmaster and the AFL made of all the children buying tickets with no adult accompaniment.

But you can’t beat being at the MCG for a big game, one of 90,000 people all focused on that little ball, yelling in an absurd manner and tapping into an instinctive, irrational, but oh so enlivening emotion.

It’s a crazy experience really. People around you are nervous, excited, angry, jubilant, hysterical, hyper-active, dumbfounded, and just about any other emotional adjective you care to throw in. Some sit in silence, maybe with a twitching leg, or biting their nails; many yell out intermittent “Go Bombers!” in an attempt to help lift the players, others keep it more subdued, maybe seeking to reaffirm their own faith; and others will yell instructions and abuse to their own players as if they are better qualified to judge their decision-making than the coach or players themselves. Then there are the words yelled towards the opposition team, but I think that's more of a release, healthy or not, than the other behaviours which are seem to be more tied up in the emotional experience of following a sporting team. I do find myself telling the ball to ‘bounce!’ before landing in an opposition players arms, or muttering ‘punch!’ to both myself and almost telepathically to, say. Dustin Fletcher in a nonsensical effort to will these outcomes.

The way people react to their own team fascinates me most. Yeah, I'll admit I’ve been part of the vocal Brent Stanton anti-fan club at times, and I take credit for any proliferation of referring to Prismall as Brent ‘Dismal’. I'm not proud of that, but that’s generally when I’m at my most frustrated. I like to think I’m a fan who cheers the positive more than deriding the negative.

But I’m staggered by the people who continue to bag the team, and particular players, even when the team’s winning. What’s the point in going if you can’t find anything to enjoy, right?

The 2009 season was one of the most enjoyable of my life, in many ways even more than our (yes, ‘our’) dominant premiership year in 2000 when winning games, including the grand final, was little more than a relief and enjoyment had to be drawn out from gloating about our dominance. In 2009 though, the team overachieved, unexpectedly producing a bunch of amazing wins from nowhere and I remember Facebook being a frenzy of Essendon love after every win. I have a lot of friends of varying degrees to share the love with and it was, plain and simple, a load of fucking fun. In some cases it’s all we have in common, but its just about enough.

AnZaharakis Day
Clearly ANZAC Day is my favourite match of each year (while we’re not playing finals especially), and I’ve already written about it from a different perspective. That 2009 match is one of the best footy experiences I’ve ever had – I just remember being in the standing room as Zaharakis kicked that goal and moments later when the siren went, jumping around madly in a moment of lost adult sensibility, hugging and high-fiving friends and strangers alike, sharing emotions created by a group of guys we have no real connection to. Whatever – it was a true moment in life.

But where does the meaning come from? The clubs aren’t community-based clubs anymore, they’re businesses. The many suburban teams around Melbourne in the AFL are also linked less and less to their traditional geographical base – Hawthorn and Collingwood don’t even train in those suburbs any more. Is it the jumper? Those change too with marketing and merchandising having its way at most clubs – not so much at Essendon thankfully. The players mostly have no previous link to the team when drafted, and are traded around as commodities of the business, rather than enduring representatives of the culture.

At least in one-city, one-team sports you have a sense of shared allegiance within the general community who follow that sport. I’m dead keen on going to a Geelong game at Kardinia Park, the last true suburban ground in the AFL, in a one-team town, and remember thinking it would have been amazing to experience the celebrations of the two recent premierships in Geelong. But it was their moment.

Until recently I didn’t even know why Essendon is my team. It’s a northern suburb, far from the eastern base of my dad’s family who almost all staunchly support the Bombers. Apparently the reason is that my Grandfather owned a pub in Essendon that was frequented by many people from the club. And so a tradition was born, despite the fact they lived in Ivanhoe, probably a Collingwood area if anything. Thank God for the drinkers at Essendon back in the 1950s.

I can see why people don’t get into it. Sure, on a level it is superficial, meaningless crap. The players are overpaid entertainers, the clubs and league are more and more detached from the community, but in Melbourne the AFL remains at the centre of a significant, inescapable culture. If you don’t have a team you may as well ignore half the city’s winter conversation.

Resist the urge to think too deeply about it, even if a lot of journalists are paid far to much to do so, and just enjoy it. There’s nothing wrong with riding the rollercoaster of emotions and having fun with it.

I don’t know why watching David Zaharakis kick that goal was one of the most exhilarating moments in my life. It doesn’t matter. It feels kind of sad to say that, but I don’t think it is. Maybe if I’d been sitting at home alone and it was one of the most exhilarating moments of my life it would be sad. Or if I was in a cheer squad.