As published by The Footy Almanac, 6 July 2012
The earliest VFL season I can recall in much detail was 1984. As you can see in the photo, duffle coats were clinging to fashion by their last thread. As for big brother #2 and his girlfriend in matching gloweave Advance Australia sweaters… well, even Daryl Somers almost made them cool in 1984! At least they had their day – less can be said for the cap which had me looking like the Elephant Kid. Meanwhile, the only uncool thing about my father is the Viscount cigarette which he’s ironically sucking the life out of.
The photo was actually taken at Victoria Park by a Mr Johnson, the kind Essendon supporter seated in front of us. He sent the pic to us by snail mail with this letter. It’s the only image I have of us, or me as a kid, at the footy. He’d have no idea how much I appreciate his trouble now (even less if he’s passed on too). People just don’t do stuff like that anymore.
At VFL Park on ANZAC Day we held on to beat the Blues by 5 points in an epic struggle. When the siren sounded a Collingwood larrikan jubilantly hoisted me high in the air as the rain tumbled down. These are the ties that bind – for that one moment in time the notion of family extended to anyone within hugging distance wearing black and white. With today’s sensibilities, people just aren’t like that anymore.
There was no such rejoicing when my patriotic brother and his Footscray supporting girlfriend took me across town to the Western Oval. As it does now, the traffic along Cemetery Road and through Royal Park moved at glacial speed. It was a memorable year for music too, and I’m pretty certain the radio made the journey seem shorter pumping out the likes of The Models, Queen, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Tears for Fears and Feargul Sharkey. Having spent a couple years balancing on a small stool at Vic Park, I had no qualms about the Western Oval outer. As if it was yesterday I can see a horizontal Denis Banks taking mark of the year, and the ‘Pies grimly holding on as the timekeeper shifted in his seat. Alas, Gubby Allen pinpointed Simon Beasley with an across goal pass meant for Greg Phillips (if only Gubby had Frankie in his head telling him ‘Relax, don’t do it…’).
For some reason I can easily access random memories of 1984. Such as Darren Millane bursting onto the scene via the ressies at the MCG, subsequently providing a dynamic presence in the ones.. Daics averting an upset loss to the Dees by roosting a torpedo goal about 60m out from the boundary, despite his stumpy injury prone legs.. Much later, armed with porn moustache and blonde rinse, my hero busted the Blues with 7 in a Semi Final at a sunny Waverley. I even managed a few goes myself on the other side of the fence for the Tiger Littlies, including a Moorabbin mud heap and on the ‘G when Collingwood eliminated Fitzroy. A tumultuous season ended at the hands of the Bombers by a margin I can’t even bring myself to type.
During those ‘wonder years’ when my grip on the game firmed by the week, there was rarely a compelling reason or distraction preventing us making the effort. The rudimentary facilities barely entered the equation; we went to the footy on autopilot.
The game was at a crossroads though in 1984. I had no idea my club was so close to being shut down by the bank. TV rights were given away to Seven for little more than a Patra OJ and a Ballantyne Entertainment Mint. No more baby steps towards a national competition, things had to progress, pronto. The masses were slow to warm, but apart from some collateral damage along the way, for a good period the national competition struck a fine balance, affording football goers and TV viewers the best of both worlds.
Getting to games in the 2010’s isn’t such a drag for inner city Gillon McLachlan types, and others who don’t know any better might be happy at home on the couch, but as suggested last week, it appears the rest of us are being weened off the real life experience. I don’t see this as progress – or a solid long term strategy. That a world of other entertainment is just a click away doesn’t seem to concern the bean counters who forget the communal outlet, and feeling part of something on a grand scale, is the game’s greatest hook. I don’t get any of that consuming footy on the teev, no matter how wide my screen.
As I leave for the footy now, usually in the remains of the day, I sense a guilt trip ahead. My boy asked to come for the first time a few weeks ago and I struggled to provide a 5yo-friendly answer. For now he’s happy enough with Spiderman, but it won’t get any easier methinks. But taking the kids to the footy on even a semi regular basis the way the game is heading… people just won’t be able to do that kind of stuff anymore.
Unlike the players, coaches, umpires and media though, no supporter association or lobby group has been mobilised. Just lone voices like mine struggling to be heard above Jaimee and the rest of the white noise. I shudder to think what learnings Andy D will bring back from his Olympics
junket broadcasting reconnaissance mission.