Monday, 13 June 2005

Take That To The Bank

Everyone knows I don't subscribe to the "Big Book of Footy Stereotypes". We've got a fat enough percentage of dubious supporters and red hot lunatics to match anyone in the competition so it's a bit rich to be hanging it on other clubs just because the bottom 5% of their support base are lower on the evolutionary chain than amoeba. And god knows we're the last people who should be lining up other clubs for the failings of the supporter base - because unless you're talking about Footscray, North or Sydney at least they've got one. Even if they are [stereotype]filthy bogans from the tip[/stereotype] at the low end of the socio economic scale.

But sometimes you just can't help it and on my way to the game I saw the biggest Collingwood stereotypes known to man. It was hard to keep a straight face seeing two trashbags head to toe in black and white with a plastic bag full of Bundy and Cokes which they then proceeded to crack open upon entering the tram. The 'lady' (who we'll call Shaz) was whinging about something or other and her 'gentleman' friend (Erm.. Baz?) was intently studying the map trying to work out how to get to the ground. I'm standing there dreading them asking me and beating me to a bloodied pulp no matter what answer I give them when the tram lurches and Baz is almost sent flying. Luckily he managed to retain a hold on the can or wild scenes may have eventuated live on Collins Street.

Sadly I lost the Shaz + Baz show at some point near Exhibition Street. Would have loved to have seen them lose the plot at each other in the Treasury Gardens and punch on with each other as Shaz screams words to the effect of "I'M PROTECTING MY BABY!" at the top of her voice.

So at this point I was officially finished at trying to predict what the day would be like. For all my speeches, Big Footy posts and theses on the subject I was confronted with the fact that our club was dumping snow outside the ground in order to score a fat payout from Falls Creek and the likes of Baz + Shaz would ride us about it for the full quarters with no sense of irony for the fact that while they're consulting the "Big Book" (which I will one day write - with lovely illustrations) they're the living embodiment of everything Collingwood were supposed to be just a few pages earlier.

For the second consecutive year I shelled out for a reserve seat ticket "just in case" and didn't even use it. Last year I went in on my membership and this time I made use of the ticket but pulled the pin on sitting in my assigned seat when I realised I'd be in the open at the bottom of the Southern surrounded by dickheads who I couldn't get away from. So instead I parked myself behind the pissweak excuse for a Magpie Grog Squad (cue: "how can you tell the difference between them and the other fans?" x50) with a minor faction of unaligned Melbourne fans and prepared to die a heroic death at centre-half-forward.

We were certainly outnumbered. There's no doubt about that. I'm legitimately impressed that the Pies have managed to keep such a fat fanbase over the last couple of years despite having fallen apart faster than Lee Walker's knee on the field. I'm still not entirely sure why so many people jump on their bandwagon but they do a good job of keeping them. The odd Melbourne fan was dotted here and there but as the game started and the second rate attempts at alcohol induced abuse ("Robertson! You're a .... spastic! HAHAHAH!") began it was obvious we'd landed in cockhead central. If I ever achieve my dream of forming a similar, but better, Melbourne faction I'll be banning anyone for farcical attempts at abuse that don't actually make any sense.

The first quarter wasn't too painful. When I looked up as the sides went into position and saw Nicholson vs Tarrant I became slightly concerned that Nicho would suffer against his quicker opponent. Thankfully a combination of fine defending, perfectly executed double teaming, shithouse delivery and the fact that Tarrant is completely shit all contributed to shut him out of the game. The thing that did tear at the soul was our rotten kicking for goal. At one point we were 0.5 and the local "wags" (that's a polite term for "absolute morons") were mocking wildly. Why I'm not entirely sure. It's not as if the Pies are known across the world for their startlingly accurate kicking. Why I even remember The Rich Man's Russell Robertson (C. Tarrant) botching a kick to the final seconds of a game to cost them the points just a couple of months ago. Double standards? From football fans? NEVER. We should all be shot.

It was the second when things started to get ugly. Thankfully the Pies were completely incompetant in their efforts to put the game away - with Shane Woewodin showing us exactly why we gave him the sack everytime he touched the ball - even as we we fumbled, bumbled and continually left players roaming free down the wings. They failed to punish us appropriately for a 1.5 quarter and we went to the main break just nine points down. Things didn't look promising - usually we kick fifteen goals in the first half and four in the second, and today we were sitting on 4.11 at the break. Clearly we weren't going to do squat with anything less than 12 or 13 goals, and despite their heroics early on I wasn't exactly thrilled about the prospect of our backline having to get us out of jail for another half.

Meanwhile, did anyone else notice how many times our players took marks running away from the ball at the opposition today? Rivers and Miller did it at least once each, and there were a couple in front of the Ponsford that I couldn't make out due to the restricted viewing of the bogan section. I'm ultra impressed with that - loving the fact that we've finally got a team that have the balls to put themselves on the line and get smashed for the glory of the side.

Now, if you haven't seen the game and are looking for a good place to start then the third quarter is where you want to be. No idea what Daniher said to them at half time but it worked. From nine points down we were suddenly running riot right across the ground and the balance of power tipped sharply in our favor. The Grog Squad lost the plot at this point and turned to the old favourite "Go back to the snow!" defence. As has been the tradition this season I asked the nearest yobbo for explanation. It was quite a civilised and intellectual discussion, given that he'd been chugging Bourbon and Cokes at a rapid rate throughout the afternoon, as we debated the pros and cons of stereotypes. I had to admit he had a point when he pointed out that our club had dumped snow all over the place, but he was forced to concede that the Pies had an equally sizeable reputation for being home to the biggest freaks in the world of football. As the great debate came to an end Yze kicked another and I copped a patronising "oh good you scored one". Prophetic words indeed as the avalanche began from there. He snagged four for the quarter and more of our fans began flooding into the area - obviously expecting rich pickings and a potential brawl at full time. The only negative to come out of it was David Neitz busting his cheekbone as he delivered a big bump. Six goals to two had given us a sixteen point lead, and the seemingly frame-by-frame accurate recreation of last year's game was progressing nicely except it was us who took the lead into the last quarter. Would we do a Pies '04 and fold like a house of cards in the 4th and get done over? Would we fuck. Do you think I'd have written this much if we lost? Not a chance. You would have gotten four paragraphs, some bitter votes and a nervous breakdown.

No, the last quarter was one of the more satisfying I've ever seen. As the Pies pulled the pin and let us run right over the top the bogans kept hammering the snow angle. As I said during the 3rd quarter debate, I'll accept the legitimate taunts that we've a) got no fans or b) have won nothing for 41 years, during which time we've been mediocre for ten years, good for five and complete rubbish for the other 26 but I just can't take the snow angle seriously. I considered ripping a "WE ONLY SING WHEN WE'RE SKIING" chant as the goal avalanche began but didn't anticipate any backup so I cowardly pulled out. Might have gone down nicely - or led to me being bashed by both sets of supporters.

The fourth term was all about impressive goals and taking the piss. Robbo ripped one from the boundary right in front of us and went wild, Travis Johnstone walked a few metres further inboard before letting it go and Brock McLean, following a decidedly average day, pulled off the unlikely manouevre of picking the ball up, spinning around backwards and then drilling a goal from 45m out hard on the boundary. Wild scenes ensued amongst the minority in the bogan section. I even ended up in a comedy argument with another Melbourne fan.

"Hey, he wasn't a bad player in his day"
"Exactly. But we picked the exact moment his day ended and pissed him off"
"[silence]" - but one of the great silences when people hold their tongue to avoid saying what they really think.

Almost went on the same "greatest silences" album as,

"What does that make Prestagiacomo then dickhead?"
"Go back to the snow!"
"[silence]" - this time from me, in shock and amazement that the line can be used in any situation and still not have the desired effect of cutting us down at the knees.

As the goals flew in throughout the last it was like "meet your fellow supporter" afternoon as high fives were exchanged all around with people I'd never seen in my life. At this point I considered attempting to recruit for my faction but thought better of it. The moment was too lovely to spoil with politics. I can't even remember which point of the quarter it happened at but my favourite moment of the entire afternoon was the one-on-one in the goalsquare when Robbo politely picked his opponent up (how the hell should I know who it is. They didn't hire me for this job because of my knowledge of other teams) and politely placed him to one side before taking the mark. Kick + goal followed along with exciteable scenes. Just before the final siren I scored the big wrestling style respect angle and handshake from my debating opponent. Almost a touching scene, but unfortunately he ruined it by mumbling something about the St. Kilda cheersquad that I probably would have agreed with it if I'd been able to understand it.

I was worried that I might have been out UBP'ed by some of our fans who had shown up as the quarter rolled on but luckily I managed to rip out one of the great performances of this, or any other, season to salvage something. All I remember is being on my knees yelling at the roof at one point, twice turning around and banging on the Steven Kernahan portrait behind me when my voice failed and making offensive and indecent gestures at more than one Pies fan as they walked out. Celebrity Collingwood supporter Amul, who had stopped to visit on his way out of the ground, suggested that they should ditch the real song and instead have a recording of me screaming like a lunatic. I concur wholeheartedly. It was quite the modern art street theatre performance. My gimmick is all about being relatively quiet for four quarters and then unleashing all your emotion and frustration in a giant torrent of screaming singing that makes everyone around you wonder what exact drugs you're on and why haven't they been made illegal yet. I screamed so loudly this time that I felt like my vocal cords were about to start haemorraghing down my throat. I've only just regained the ability to speak again now.

Final note from the game. Who the fuck thought of bringing back Vodafone Fan Cam? Or have I just missed it all season thanks to a newly developed "bullshit blocker" in my brain Player of the Year Votes

5 - Travis Johnstone
4 - Adem Yze
3 - Alistair Nicholson
2 - Clint Bizzell
1 - Matthew Whelan

Apologies to Miller (love his work but must learn to pick better options when he gets it and not just play on for the sake of it), Rivers (welcome back - never go away again), James McDonald (never gets any credit) and M. Malthouse for letting Yze run riot. Further pluses to the guy on Wellington Parade pissing blood out of his head - no idea who he followed or how he'd copped it but it was impressive nonetheless. Then there was Paul Johnson who was nowhere near a vote but continues to stake his claim as the official J. White ruck backup.

Negative votes to anyone who screams BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALL when the player has had it for one second or is actually nowhere near the ball at the time. A similar minus for the guy pulled the suicidal reverse in the carpark, almost killing about twenty people walking past and then was unable to actually go anywhere due to the crowd blocking the road. And for the first time negative votes to myself for the following exchange of views with a kid in the streets of East Melbourne after the game,

Kid (to a car full of Melbourne fans): "HOPE YOU CRASH!"
Shameful adult: "HOPE YOU'RE BORN WITH A BIRTH DEFECT. Sorry.. too late"

Even I felt ashamed of myself for a few minutes.

Player of the Year Leaderboard

17 - Cameron Bruce, Travis Johnstone
12 - Brad Green
11 - Adem Yze
9 - Brock McLean
8 - Russell Robertson
6 - Ryan Ferguson, Clint Bizzell
5 - Brent Moloney, Jared Rivers
4 - Alistair Nicholson
3 - Aaron Davey, James McDonald, Brad Miller, Nathan Brown
1 - Russell Robertson, Colin Sylvia, Paul Wheatley, Matthew Whelan

Dear Eddie,

Enjoy your Queens Birthday Honors. We'll have the four points instead.


Melbourne Football Club (+ supporters)

Next week: West Coast @ the MCG. Grand Final preview or chance to talk about how the Eagles fans love Big Cox again? Bit of both I'd think. Sadly I won't be there. Write in if you're prepared to pay me the equivalent of a day's work and we'll talk. Otherwise it's mobile phone updates, tension and a final suicidal plunge into the waters of Port Melbourne from the bow of the Spirit of Tasmania. Sing the song like a mental patient for me.

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