Chasing the meaning of football and life
To become a member of the Geelong Football Club you need a name, a birth date and an address.
In March 2007 my wife Rachel was in the family way. Thanks to an ultrasound, a planned caesar, and a stable household, for yet-to-be born Harvey I already had the three pieces of information. So with Rachel twenty weeks pregnant, Harvey became a member of the Geelong Football Club: in utero.
He is, to this day, officially the youngest ever member of the Cats.
The move proved to be an omen. As the Cats proceeded to win their first flag in my lifetime, Harvey had a premiership under his belt along with six months of Cats membership by the time he was just three months of age.
And so when Harvey announced last month, at the tender age of 4, that he was intending to barrack for the Bulldogs it was a moment of crisis.
What was going on? Had I not explained properly the meaning of footy and life? Was I somehow to blame?
Rachel assured me that it was most certainly my fault. Apparently in a private conversation some months ago Harvey had confessed to Rachel that he was barracking for the Bulldogs because he hates the Cats.
“Hates the Cats! But why?” I asked.
Well apparently it had something to do with the fact that I was trying to make him barrack for the Cats and wouldn’t let him support anyone else.
This was true. But what made him think he had a choice. It’s not as though he got a choice over his name, or where he went to day-care, or where he will go to school. Certain fundamental decisions in our lives are the sole province of parents and there is nothing more fundamental than your footy team.
And moreover, if he was going to abandon the Cats why on earth barrack for the Bulldogs? The answer, Rachel told me, is that he liked the picture of the dog on the front of the Western Bulldog’s jersey.
Bloody hell! We are talking about foundation questions of tribal identity and loyalty which go to the core of the human experience and Harvey was going AWOL because of a dog on a jersey.
As the walls of my existence began to crumble I turned to Rachel.
Her advice was to give a little. Don’t buy him a jumper but give him a bulldogs scarf or t-shirt, she said, on the basis that it can be his second team and on the strict condition that Geelong be his first team.
You had to like her style. This was Machiavelli meets Mum and thankfully she was on my side.
Harvey and I went to a footy shop where I put the proposition.
“OK but can you buy me a Bulldogs jumper later?” Harvey suggested.
I had him on the hook. But agreeing to buy a Bulldogs jumper, even at a future date, would dog my relationship with Harvey for years to come. And more to the point there are limits. Engaging in a little manipulation for the greater good is one thing. But buying Geelong’s youngest ever member a Bulldogs jumper was simply beyond the pale.
“No mate, I’m never going to buy you a Bulldogs jumper, but you can have a t-shirt.”
A game of brinkmanship ensued which I lost. Harvey stormed out of the shop unsatisfied. As we drove home there we tears from Harvey for the Bulldogs and their doggy jumper and there was anger from me about Rachel having sold me a lemon.
It was at this darkest hour that nature came to my rescue. As we were watching the Today Show a YouTube clip was shown of a cat facing off against a dog which concluded with the cat chasing the dog down the street. When Karl came back on he observed: “when will dogs ever learn? Cats always win.” Harvey was dumbstruck.
Then I met Kevin Rudd’s celebrated pets: Jasper the cat and Abby the dog of children’s book fame. I asked how they get on. The Foreign Minister told me that normally they are friendly, sometimes they fight, and when they do Jasper always wins. I faithfully reported this to Harvey. Cats really are better than dogs.
What’s more the Cats have made the finals and the Dogs are in the kennel for the remainder of the season.
As finals fever takes hold in Geelong, I can happily report that the Cat’s youngest ever member is getting back on board.
Without wanting to add to the pressure, however, the battle is not yet won. There is one thing that would put the issue beyond doubt and that is all about October 1.
Go Cats … for Harvey’s sake.
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