It happened, as these things tend to, in a bit of a rush. The idea planted and positive thoughts about it and it seemed, rather rapidly, inevitable.

But that’s not the start of the story. The start of the story is two days before: when the thought proposition first occurred as a possibility. It wedged into comfortable, unhurried thinking space, gestating, maturing, and taking on a healthy glow of rude good health. The proposition: go to the footy, you hardly ever go, it’s at 2pm and at ANZ Stadium, which is near where you live, in a manner of speaking, you’ll be back by about 5pm, and we really ought to beat the Sharks. Any team can beat the Sharks and most will, each week, and a victory will be soothing, will salve the confusing signals emitted from the Bulldogs of late where people paid to play rugby league just don’t seem to be very good at playing rugby league, individuals paid t kick and pass seem barely able to kick the ball or pass it to a team-mate, and the man paid to coach appears bereft of coaching clues of any sort whatever.

And then the inevitability became more inevitable. Mentioned the plan – still a possible plan at that stage – to Laetitia, thought became consideration and this merged with timetabling. It was on. Almost.

By waking up time on Sunday morning, Friday’s proposition was becoming Sunday’s reality. It would be real when it happened, but it was happening – and therefore it was becoming real.

The Sunday Roast is a particularly silly TV show about rugby league where there is scope for reviews and previews and discussion of the key issues of the day in the game. There’s also scope for panellists to say and do silly things, goad each other, show amusing footage, have mock arguments, and laugh at each other’s jokes. It’s a mainstay of my TV schedule. Only when The Roast had begun did the hammer come down, with a note of grim finality. Footy today, and wear the consequences, whatever they may be. A making one’s bed and lying in it situation.

My beautiful chauffeur drove me to the station, and the train proceeded west, my little radio picking up snatches of commentator conversation as we went. Always a strange feeling, wearing club colours in public. For some, clearly not an issue. But the jersey and other supporter gear are clear indicators of who you are and what you think about certain topics – footy topics – and this strips away anonymity which is hard won and valued by some of us. And, when wearing these accoutrements, comments are inevitable, and some of us are simply never in the mood for these. But it was alright. Safety in numbers, and so on. Not that there were many numbers. Yes, the crowd alighting at Olympic Park station was mostly in blue and white, but the presence was short of what might have been expected.

$20 bought a ticket. There was room to spread in the ground, warmed by the almost winter sun slanting warmly across the ground toward seats at one corner. Near the lighted patch it was warm in a referred way, but glare did not penetrate, and it seemed a good place to sit, alone, not bothering others. And then a group of nine people – accounting for eight seats, as one was a very little baby, later clad in blue and white beanie – sat down in the row in front of me. It was two families. The woman directly in front of me, the only one of the group actually in my field of vision, was the captain of the whole enterprise, making sure all the small kids, and adults, had a drink and something to eat, organising things, and talking to people. This role involved leaning across and back and standing up and sitting down, and moving around to the row of seat in front of this group, where supplies were being held. In all, and this is no exaggeration, this mother stood up and moved around, in my way at least fifteen times. And after organising some kids to go to the fence of the playing field to be photographed with the bulldog mascot, she returned, collecting all the children, her woman friend/relative, and marched them off to toilets and refreshments. The game was barely half an hour old. Halves of rugby league last forty minutes.

It seemed ridiculous to be put in this position. I sat down first, and then they came along, and it didn’t seem right to move. But almost no details of the match were clear with all of this activity, and when a discreet exit could be made the chance was taken at halftime.

Halftime meant an opportunity for a treat. A glass of red wine, small, very, pathetically small, plastic ‘glass’, and the woman serving me seemed not to know how to remove the cap from a bottle and top up the meagre amount she poured in with the first bottle. After a colleague chivalrously helped out there was a full plastic glass of wine and the search for a new seat had begun.

New seat was better. Uninterrupted view. Very soon uninterrupted was revealed as a bad thing in this case. For it was a bad to view: a bad view of something very poor. The Sharks were still the Sharks, but the Bulldogs were like puppies who have just woken from the cute afternoon nap they have in pet shop windows, and aren’t really ready to play yet. Let alone ready to fight. It was dispiriting.

Coaches talk about positives. Coaches, sportsmen and women are all semi-literate – even when they are a netballer or rugby union player who earns a living as a lawyer they still talk this way – and so they get away with using positive as a noun. The positive from the day, for me, is that I didn’t spill red wine on my jersey.

Published in: on June 20, 2011 at 8:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

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