Monday, June 02, 2008

Losing my Religion

I’m an Essendon supporter.

A one-eyed, red-and-black blooded, lose my voice, cry when my team wins a Grand Final Essendon tragic.

Obsessive might be too strong a word, but what else would you call someone who booked a hotel room and time off work the day the fixture came out and we realised James Hird would be playing his last game in Perth? We knew we probably wouldn’t get tickets to the game, but we held out a slim hope we’d get a ticket off a scalper at the game, so West-ward we headed.

(For the record, we got in. The last three standing room tickets available for sale, on the day of the game. My mate and I nearly wept with relief. His girlfriend looked as though she was torn between relief that the trip wasn’t wasted, and sorrow that we wouldn’t be watching the game from the bar we’d seen on the walk from the station)

We’ve spent many a night wet through at the G because our excellent MCG seats are not undercover. We’ve spent three hours getting lost on the way to Windy Hill for the family day every year on the off-chance we could get our favourite players signatures on our jumpers. We spent a very chilly day at Casey Fields in Cranbourne watching a practice match against ourselves. I couldn’t tell you how much I’ve spent watching my team play or buying associated memorabilia for myself, for A or having it bought for us.

Which is why the state of play at the moment is so hard to take. We love to go and watch our team, and we’re always ready to cheer. And to take on the “supporters” who do nothing but whinge when things aren’t going our way. But it does get hard to stomach when you’ve put up with terribly results for this long.

And two weeks ago, I think I hit my lowest ebb. The last match I’d attended I’d watched us getting creamed by the Bulldogs in one the worst games of football I’ve ever seen. But nothing could compare to the feeling, at the MCG against Richmond in that first half. I honestly feared, for the best part of a half of football that I would be leaving the MCG without witnessing a single Essendon goal.

It didn’t help that I was attending with someone who was hoping that would be the result. Who smirked every time the opposition scored a goal.

And I did something that night that I’ve never done before. This takes a lot for me to admit, because god knows the amount of time and energy I’ve spent deriding the people who do this.

I left the game with fifteen minutes still left in the last quarter.

In my defence, I was freezing. I’d been up and out since eight in the morning (attending a certain pro-choice event) in some very cold weather. I was tired, and I knew there was no possibly way we could win that game. Plus, I didn’t want to get stuck on the Jolimont platform until the wee hours of the morn.

But that isn’t really an excuse. I’ve sat at plenty of games and watched my team go down by more, or play worse than we did in that last quarter. Truth is, I couldn’t stand another last quarter than ended in standing there trying not to look bitter as the other team’s supporters sang their team song. Another train ride home listening to the other teams supporters prattle on about Essendon being nothing without Hird (As if I need a reminder that he was the heart and soul of that team!).

So, please, Essendon, give me something to cheer for this week. Let me hold my head high when we walk out of the Dome this Saturday. Do me, and yourselves, proud. I don’t want this to be a repeat of waiting 14 weeks for a win.

Play like the team I love again, please.

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