Friday, 24 September 2021

One more heave - Grand Final thoughts

It has, more than any other time in my supporting life, been a big week in football. Would like to say I was coping well with the idea of Melbourne in a Grand Final, but that would be a big, fat, lie. I've never clammed up and gone into denial about anything like this in my life, to the point where I'm worried about being co-opted against my will into an anti-vax rally.

After the flat first week of waiting, I thought I'd get right into the last few days. My intentions were to rewatch the 1994 final against the Bulldogs, pen a lengthy love letter to Nathan Jones, and write something half-resembling a match preview. I got the first part done early enough in the week that The Fear hadn't crippled me yet. It's not quite the Pulp's "This is the sound of someone losing the plot, making out that they're ok when they're not", but the build-up hasn't been as pleasant as neutrals think. I'll enjoy it retrospectively if we win. For now, I'm lucky not to be hyperventilating into a bag.

When the sun comes up on Sunday morning, our premiership drought will either have reached a full 57 years or be about nine hours old. In the grand scheme of things it's a bit silly to worry about that sort of thing, but bad luck I am. Having spent 32 of those years dreaming about what I'd do if we won a flag the small matter of the game being played on the other side of the country won't stop me from going off like it's the most important thing happening in the known universe at 19:15hrs AEST on Saturday night.

That's what I'm expecting to happen anyway. I don't think Max Gawn's third quarter in the prelim broke my brain. Even forced out of my comfort zone and forced to watch on a normal TV for the first time in three years, things are projected to get rowdy. There was even a Friday night test event when I watched a My Little Pony movie (with my daughter, it should be noted) to get a feel for the angles. I've already thought about how quickly I can plug the backup TV into an aerial if this one picks the worst possible time to die. If my aerial falls off the roof, well I guess we're stuffed.

Given that we've already established how wound-up I get for less meaningful TV games, it's almost certain that this will end in a commotion. Every time I think about Footscray winning in 2016, I feel bad for the guy who had a heart attack 10 minutes before the end. I suppose if the Bulldogs do win, it will be nice for him to be upright for it this time. He might want to check into hospital and watch from there just in case. I've considered doing the same, because by the time this is over I'll be an emotional and physical wreck. Part of me says I've grown up a lot since beating Carlton in 2014 gave me such serious migraines that I needed to be MRI tested for a brain tumour but if anything's going to set me off it'll be starting favourites in a Grand Final.

I might have been in full emotional retreat this week, but my stomach gave the game away. Since Wednesday its contents have been in an advanced state of liquefaction. In the immediate aftermath of the Geelong massacre I wanted as much Dees content as possible, and would have rolled around in a vault full of Melbourne articles like Scrooge McDuck if you'd given me the chance. This week my coping strategy has been to shut down. 

I've bought newspapers that will only be read if we win, reluctantly watched a handful of TV shows with my jaw clenched like an ice addict, and replayed moments of a game that hasn't happened yet in my brain a thousand times. The terror became so all-consuming on Friday that I couldn't bring myself to watch TV coverage of our final training session. I don't really ever want to watch training, but that's just what you do in Grand Final week isn't it? Not when you're desperately trying to avoid anal leakage.

I don't know if we're going to win, but I assume the result won't come easily either way. A breakthrough like Geelong 2007 literally happens once in a lifetime, while Footscray had to work for three and a half quarters to realise their drought was breaking, and Richmond slightly less. And let's not even get into what St. Kilda went through before coming away empty-handed. I refuse to believe anyone could be as nervous as I am now having seen even a single premiership in their lifetime.

24 hours from the time of writing we'll know the result, and I've got no idea how to tackle Saturday. Even politicians can spend the last day of an election doing something, no matter how token, to influence the result. I ran the clock down for a few minutes on Friday talking to SEN, but on Saturday there will be nothing left to do but ponder scenarios from glorious to doomsday over, and over, and over again. Lucky I don't drink or I'd be schindlers by midday.

All I can do is offer an amateur view on team selection. With May and Spargo seemingly fit to go, the last question is who starts as sub. Usually not something I'd give a fat rat's clacker about, but important in a game that could swing on an injury. Your options are Melksham, Jordon, Hunt and Chandler. I think you can rule out option four, but the rest all have claims. With all love and respect to Melksham, and especially Jordon, I'm going for Hunt. He can play at either end, in an emergency can run through the middle, and if we're intent on pulling off a scam, Charlie Spargo's questionable ankle provides perfect justification for a pace-injecting change when things get hot. Might be a bit unethical to rort the rule, but if we don't do it they will.

That's as close as you'll get for analysis from me. There's plenty of time for every TV pundit under the sun to talk about that sort of stuff before the game, and for BT/Brayshaw buffoon friendly commentary team to ignore it after the first bounce. If there's every been a time for Seven to run the same game on all their channels with different callers this is it.

You'd think that once the main event started - and I'm not talking about the hotly anticipated 'Chemist Warehouse Zorb Race' at three quarter time - the focus will be entirely on the footy. However, in a moment of "show me you're theatregoers without saying you're theatregoers", locals are being encouraged to support Victoria's two years of unsuccessfully battling the 'Rona by standing to applaud during the first quarter. It wouldn't bother me before the match, in a break, or on Wednesday afternoon, but in the early stages of a major event the city has fallen arse-backwards into hosting, it ranks up there with the boat doing doughnuts for healthcare workers. We know our state is stuffed, save your pity for fans of the losing team.

Once that ceremonial wankfest is over, and we've been through a half-time show that could be The Beatles for all it will mean to me, the answer to the question you've been waiting some/most/all of your life for will be revealed. I'll be nervously pumping out rubbish on Twitter @demonblog until there's no more rubbish to be pumped. There should be some kind of placeholder post on here by midnight, before I get cracking on what will either be the most joyous report in history OR a session of misery so bleak it will come with a trigger warning.

Have at it comrades. We've come this far together, may as well go off our nuts on Saturday night.

Dees by 10, Luke Jackson to shock the world by winning the Norm Smith, and me to miss it by having a massive brain hemorrhage halfway through the last quarter. It would only be right.

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