It will come as no surprise to anyone who has cocked an ear (not to mention a snook) at the Full Catastrophe, that I cannot support any football team that is not flawed. It sets you up for heartbreak, but when love comes it is river deep and mountain high.
And that brings me to the Western Bulldogs. OK, we lost to the Saints, but I still love my Doggies – Friday night’s alcoholic devastation reveals that all too clearly.
When I departed Sydney, I was given a footy scarf as one of my leaving presents from work. A couple of colleagues had studied me lovingly and closely. They did their research and did the football math. My love of the underdog, my respect for hard work and my predilection to difficult causes meant there was only one team for me – the red, white and blue of Footscray aka the Western Bulldogs.
And, of course, it’s a perfect fit !
I want to sing the praises of the motley mob which follow the club – generations from the west, johnny come latelies like me and all manner of folk in between. I look around and see no common theme as I do with other clubs’ supporters. You know what I mean. No massed ranks of bottle blondes, no car park full of Volvos etc etc. What I see is a veritable rainbow coalition of footballing fans. Wonderful. Rainbows are wonderful things, wherever the pot of gold happens to be.
And on the field, what variety of human effort. The hard graft of Daniel Cross, the loveable lump of Will Minson, the one-club trojan that is Brad Johnson, the teenage promise of local lad Callan Ward, the gritty engagement of Liam Picken, the silky skills of Robert (Bob) Murphy – who writes the only column by a footy player that’s worth reading. I haven’t even mentioned the Brownlow Medallist Adam Cooney or the enigmatic Nathan Eagleton. I could go on. I will. Lindsay Gilbee played on while his dad was mortally sick in a statement that said so much more about the individual and his values than any post-match on the field exchange of nothings with a fat ex-player. Real tragedy and joy and no “going forwards”.
So, what I love is that each team member has his own personality and back story as I watch from my nervously occupied seat in Bay 23. Over time all is revealed and it’s not always pretty, but these are my Doggies . These are real people connected in some bizarre way to me and the people around me.
If you don’t “get it”, it’s hard to work out. I know that. But many would say the same about the crowd turning up at the Leather Fair this weekend. Two tribes, very different – but not always foreign to each other!
So there it is. Footy love, pure and not so simple.