I am, you are, we are Geelong
Last week while much of eastern Australia struggled with visibility I had a moment of surprising clarity.
Having ceded control of my diary years ago to my assistant Sav, nowadays I have about three hours visibility in my life. I know what I am doing up till about 10.30am but after midday it starts to get foggy.
And yet for three weeks I was completely aware that I would be in Cairns on Friday, September 25. Even more amazingly I was thinking about what to wear.
This clarity was inspired by a dilemma. I knew that on this day I would want to wear a particular tie. And yet in Cairns nobody wears ties.
Six weeks earlier Brian Cook, the CEO of the Geelong Football Club, had given me the official Geelong Football Club tie. For an overweight guy in his forties this tie was the closest I was ever going to get to wearing official Geelong uniform. And if there was ever a day to wear it then it would be the last working day before a Geelong Grand Final.
So in the midst of shorts, t-shirts and thongs, I dutifully and proudly wore my blue and white striped tie. My singular formality together with the significant amount of sweat that it was occasioning quickly became the focus of conversation. But it didn’t matter. It only served to allow me to declare: I barrack for Geelong.
It is great when your team is in the Grand Final. People identify you as a supporter. They empathise with your hope. They share in your excitement. Their attention makes you special. And with all this focus it becomes apparent that the team you barrack for is almost as much a part of your identity as your marital status, your home and your job.
And with Geelong having made the Grand Final three yeas running there has never been a better time to have “Cat Fan” as a defining feature of your character.
So it was, with my soul clad in blue and white hoops, that I woke up on Saturday morning full of expectation.
The AFL Grand Final is one of the best days in Australian sport. It arouses great passions and elicits the collective intellectual engagement of an entire society. All of this is on display around the MCG. Radio stations have open air broadcasts dissecting the impending contest. Face painters ensure that no fan is denied the pleasure of wearing their heart on their sleeve.
By the time of the opening bounce my son, my father and myself were in an exalted state of emotion.
What followed over the next two and half hours is already being etched into history as one of the great contests in the history of the game.
The involuntary leap to my feat combined with a guttural shout as Chapman snapped in the last quarter to give us the flag spoke of a reaction that was far more primal than it was cerebral.
Celebrating with 1000 fans and the team at the after-party this was bigger than just sport. Commemorating its 150th anniversary this year the club is almost as old as the town itself. In the course of the last century and a half Geelong has had many faces and different incarnations making it not the easiest place to characterise. Yet on this night the very identity of Geelong was in that room.
It was a night for the ages. Frank Costa, Brian Cook and Bomber Thomson were all there to be hugged and the cues to do so were long.
I lined up with every other star struck fan to shake the hand of Gary Ablett. When I returned home later, I used the same hand to pick up my two miniature poodles “Gary” and “Ablett” to give them the hug the occasion required.
Be it the way you name your dogs or the colour you paint your post-box footy fans apply to ourselves the brand of the team in some way. The fact that, as of Saturday night, Geelong tattooists are booked out til Christmas is testament to that.
In a modern urban society where some people don’t even know the name of their nearest neighbour a sense of collective belonging for many is found in their footy team. Our team is our tribe and right now my tribe is the greatest team of all.
So Frank and the team, we thank you again. You continue to be magnificent custodians of a large part of our emotional lives.
We are Geelong. And we always will be.
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