Footy is a passion, not some cold hearted, spread sheet dominated rational exercise.
On a Monday you want irrational reaction. You want emotion to trump reason.
What you really want is idiotic hysteria.
You’ve come to the right place.
Sydney Swans (10.7.67) v Western Bulldogs (13.11.89)
If you’re a Bulldogs supporter, this was not a dream, this actually happened.
Grand Final day is always the best, and it’s not just because you can drink in public before noon. OK, it’s mainly that, but a game like this one is pretty great too.
I arrived at the ground, and the atmosphere was just electric. For South Australian readers, electricity is the set of physical phenomena associated with the presence and flow of electric charge. Electrical power is the backbone of modern industrial society apparently.
I take my seat, and there are Bulldogs supporters on either side of me and Swans fans behind me.
The Bulldogs fan to my left already looks like he’s run a marathon and the game is still an hour away. He is not coping.
I buy him a beer, partly because I’m a wonderful person but mostly because I worry he will die if he doesn’t relax a little. The beer cost me $80 if I remember correctly and pairs nicely with the $63 chips.
They have the lap of retiring players, and I see poor Ted Richards who never got to be coached by James Hird. I bet he’ll regret things not working out at the Bombers for the rest of his life.
The AFL entertainment is about to begin and is always an excellent way to find out who is still alive.
It turns out Sting is. Before he comes out, we get Vance Joy who does a perfectly reasonable job, not that anyone is paying much attention.
Then The Living End come out and play a song no one knows. They then play Prisoner of Society and people around me all say ‘oh, I vaguely remember that song’.
Sting is then announced and plays ‘Message In A Bottle’, ‘Every Breath You Take’ and ‘I Can’t Stop Thinking About You’ (yes I’ve never heard of that last one either).
These are not really songs to fire you up before the big game.
At least Sting did well enough that in years to come we will never remember he did this. You have to be really awful for us to remember you.
I get chatting to the Dogs supporter, and he tells me that if they lose, it will be the worst day of his life. I say ‘how could that be when you got to see Sting?’ He stares at me for a long time, and we don’t talk again until halftime.
While the AFL run the pre-game entertainment about as well as they run the draw, there’s one area they never fail in, acknowledging sponsors.
It’s a touching moment when an executive from Toyota gets a chance to toss the coin. Imagine wasting this once in a lifetime opportunity on some sick kid or other undeserving loser?
Of course, the crowd really gets going when the two teams come out. The banners going up and the club songs are about a billion times better than the pre-game entertainment.
The noise in the ground is insane. It’s louder than Adelaide Oval, something scientists and the Channel Seven commentary team previously thought impossible.
Finally, the game is underway, after a solid national anthem from the Bull sisters.
Tom Boyd drops an early mark and a Sydney supporter behind me yells ‘that a million dollars wasted’. It’s going to be a bad day for him, the supporter that is, not Tom, who is about to prove everyone wrong and earn his entire salary in one day.
Early on, neither side is allowing the other to do what they want to do. It’s like watching a bad marriage.
Both sides are so well drilled that there are actual tactics going on. They both know what the other is trying and are competent enough to stop it.
To borrow a phrase from arm wrestling, this is a real arm wrestle.
As we plunge into the second quarter, the crowd is riding every bump. There are a lot of turnovers, but that’s mainly because whoever has the ball is about to be smashed by three opponents.
The Bulldogs get away early, but the Swans then get moving.
In the high-pressure atmosphere of the second quarter, Josh Kennedy and Tom Mitchell start to thrive. The Swans appear to be getting on top and look to be taking a good lead into halftime.
My Bulldog friend next to me looks like someone having their second stroke of the day.
Lance Franklin is throwing himself around but an ankle injury from the first quarter seems to be hampering him a bit, that and the fact the Bulldogs defence is insane.
Just before halftime, though, the Bulldogs get a goal through Toby McLean, and we go into halftime with everyone in the stadium stressed out of their mind.
It’s more tense than when Gerard Whateley interviewed James Hird on AFL360.
I try to cheer my neighbour up by telling him not to worry, as I’ve never seen the Bulldogs lose a Grand Final. For the second time that day he gives me a look you usually reserve for a crazy person.
Conversation dries up pretty quickly after that.
The AFL’s running of the halftime sprint is won by an amateur, but it’s hard to tell as most of the other competitors aren’t exactly household names either.
If there’s a less exciting sporting competition than the halftime sprint I haven’t seen it, and yes I did watch that fast tennis thing.
The third quarter beings and Marcus Bontempelli starts to have real impact. His possessions are all quality. His use of the ball is way more important than someone having a tonne of ineffective possessions. He’s like a surgeon, just slicing the Swans open.
Tom Boyd is also playing the game of his life. He’s marking everything and kicking goals. It’s another reminder that football has been invented to make us all look stupid at some point.
The Bulldogs enter three-quarter time with the lead but in some ways that’s worse. Ask Richmond fans; it’s the hope that kills you.
But something is happening. Sydney looks out on their feet while the Bulldogs seem to be gaining strength. You can see it across the ground. Hannebery is injured, the Bulldogs are running more freely. It appears the dam is about to break.
The Swans though may be out on their feet, but they’re very good, and twice they counter punch and pull within one point. These are two sides that don’t give up; you have to put the other one down.
The Bulldogs are the far more organised team as the fourth progresses, despite the Swans hanging in there.
Liam Picken kicks a goal on the run, and you can see Bulldogs fans begin to wonder if 62 years of being hopeless are about to be washed away in a sea of euphoria.
For me, the moment I knew, was when Tom Boyd kicks from 55m into an empty goal square and the ball bounces one way, then the other. Time stands still and then it bounces through. It’s destiny.
They’re now creating their own luck, and another Picken goal seals it.
It is pandemonium. People are crying, yelling, hugging, doing odd dances.
The siren goes, and the song is sung, and again and again.
My friend next to me is in tears. He is sobbing, and it is kind of awesome. We shake hands, and he hugs me. He hugs me for a long time.
Barely anyone leaves, Swans fans included. Everyone is doing the right thing, showing respect for what we have just seen, two teams give it their all and the breaking of a 62-year drought.
The medal presentation begins, and it’s great, but then Beveridge calls Bob Murphy onto the stage.
So much of footy these days is manufactured emotion, but this is raw, and people are getting even more emotional in the stands, something I wouldn’t have thought possible moments before. It couldn’t be more perfect if you’re a Bulldogs supporter.
It was a great moment, and as Easton Wood and Bob hoist the cup, the release is palpable.
As the Doggies begin to celebrate and circle the ground, a Swans supporter taps my Bulldogs neighbour on the shoulder and says “enjoy it mate; there’s nothing like it.”
Isn’t footy the best? I mean it just is.
They clasp hands and then the Swans fans leave. They are shattered. I know that feeling, and it’s not good. I don’t know what the Bulldogs are feeling, though, but it looks awesome.
What a day. It turns out that if you stick with something for sixty years, you can accomplish anything.