For most of my life football has stood alongside who-can-stay-quiet-the-longest as a game I would never be interested in. Swimming with saltwater crocodiles held more appeal than a game where grown men run at each other in pursuit of a funny-shaped ball. Granted, hand-eye coordination has never been a strong point for me, so perhaps jealousy was an issue. Nonetheless I loathed footie. Not to be picky I hated all codes with equal enthusiasm. Until the move out west.
I was strolling through the grocery store today picking up kilos of bacon, eggs and sausages for tomorrow’s pre-game brunch when it hit me, yet again, how much my kill-joy attitude to sport has morphed.
In an attempt to avoid volunteer canteen work I purchased a rather expensive camera and these days I take photos of the games so the lads can marvel at how fit they look in short shorts. I don’t even get paid for it anymore!
Yesterday I helped string up a makeshift orange fence for Saturday’s grand final. I couldn’t think of a less useful way to spend an afternoon but I was happier than a dog in a sewage bog to attach those cable ties. The local newsagency has run out of black and white crepe paper a few times already this week. Football has replaced the weather as the number-one standby conversation topic. Surprisingly it’s not overwhelming or annoying.
It’s hard not to love the community that comes with the sport.
A few weeks ago we were called to Wog’s house for a post-footie fry up. Wog had gone away for the weekend but that didn’t stop half the footie team and their wags using his outdoor facilities. He has a better outdoor setting, apparently. (Please note Wog is a self-imposed nickname and any other politically-correct names are not tolerated.)
The coach was elbows deep in chops and bacon but wouldn’t allow any picking. The boys rehashed the big hits from the day before and the girls talked the talk as if they’d been kicking shins on the field. It was a feel-good moment, especially for someone so new to the town.
This weekend is the corker. We have a home grand final and the shenanigans that come with it. It’s hard to find a spot in town that doesn’t have balloons or crepe paper adorning their shop front, lawn, car, head, whatever. Magpie fever has swooped into town and I doubt it will be gone anytime before Tuesday.
Traditionally I have adopted an I-hate-footie stance at these sorts of events and my ignorance of appropriate grand-final etiquette has never been called into question. But this year I will be embracing the spirit with more enthusiasm than a dog with a full bladder near a lamp post. But I still have questions. For example, how early does the after-party start on Sunday morning? Will Saturday be an all-nighter or is the bigger celebration at the presentation night? And are the boys going to be so out of order that it’d better to stay home and sort out the linen cupboard? What about Monday – is that an honorary public holiday?
And of course, what happens if we lose… Oh it’s too hard to even contemplate that one. Suddenly I have respect for the way South Americans cry when they lose at soccer. I’m not saying I’ll well-up at the footie but I understand what it’s like to care about a game enough to invest emotion in it.
I reckon I’m ready. Spinach has been picked from the garden so we have treats to eat at the game, the house is clean enough to be trashed, enough meat has been purchased to feed a footie team and the camera is charged. So here we go – my first ever grand final weekend.