Sunday, July 20, 2008

Community Pride vs Business Pride

I've had a lot of time to think about things this weekend, and not just because I've done very little but sleep since Saturday. Not just about community pride, not just about the indignity of being lost in Melbourne, not just the indignity of being stranded by the Napean Highway at 6 in the morning, not just the mysteries of Melbourne nightlife, and not just seeing someone thoroughly sick outside Bunnings Warehouse and thinking "there but for the grace of God go I", not just working on jokes about Fiddlers nightclub, and not just the mysteries of "is that girl hot, or am I just really drunk..."

No, what I mostly had time to think about was my hatred of my own team, Collingwood, in the AFL football. I went over to see them play the Kangaroos at Telstra Dome on Friday Night. I don't like Telstra Dome stadium, it's got absolutely no soul. Bottled water is 4 dollars a bottle, and I don't think you are allowed to swear. I'm always uncomfortable in the place - it's like going out with a really attractive girl who doesn't say much. I think that's what they always say about Maria Sharapova, she doesn't do good conversation. No matter how many times they say it's structurally sound or built to world class specifications, ot how many times they say your girlfriend is hot, something just isn't right. I always feel tense watching Collingwood play there, and I always end up surrounded by children. Kids at football games always really irritate me, they either cheer when they win a bit too loud, or fall asleep. Mind you, that sounds a lot like me, especially the fall asleep part, I could barely keep myself awake at the side of the highway at 5am...

Naturally, feeling this uncomfortable, we lost. I don't know if footballers care, or some nights even try. I'm sure they do, at least for a while, then they chalk it up to a bad day and stop running. I'm sure though someone like, say, Dale Thomas, listening to an entire ground paying out on him for not trying is thinking that he is doing his best, and what do they know? However, your football team is an extension of yourself, you don't want to turn up embarrassed in front of everyone supporting a lemon of a team. I realised on Friday night that no matter how much I hate the coach Mick Malthouse, and it's getting embarrassing, almost pathological, nothing changes. We think that people care who represent our football teams, but in reality, only a few of them do. Most of the players simply regard it as a bad day at work, and then go home unpeturbed. The main question now is, if I hate sitting their so much, why do I watch? It's the eternal war - disgusted, enraged fans miserable at the disrespect the team representing them and letting them down vs players who regard the game as a job, and believe they have the right to a life. If I have a bad day at the bank, I don't brood about it all week - why should they? They owe me nothing. On the other hand, if they don't try their hardest, there is no punishment - they play next week and still pick up with a greater ease than me. I really struggle with the idea that the Kangaroos wanted to win more just because they had to wear an away jumper in a home game. THAT is all it takes to make a team want to win more?

That's not my real point though. I realised I don't know anything about the suburb Collingwood are supposed to represent. Don't know a shop, don't know a street, don't know a person. Couldn't tell you the mayor, the MP or any history of the place. For a blog about community pride, I was really disappointed about this when I realised it. That said, Collingwood really aren't anything to do with Collingwood (the suburb) now. They are a multi national business, they don't play in Collingwood anymore, they don't live in Collingwood and they probably don't even need to visit there more than twice a year. If we ever won a Premiership, we'd go to a flash hotel, not parade through Collingwood. It's an era of big business, and if Tasmania got a team, it would probably be the same - we'd have kids drafted from all over Australia and represent another big business or brand. Someone like Dale Thomas could just as easily have ended up on the Gold Coast or Geelong as Collingwood. He represents a set of colours and a business, not a suburb or a set of community ideals anymore. This isn't a bad thing, it's just a little saddening. Expecting someone to care personally about their team these days is asking too much. It's an illusion, like an act of kindness in a crumbling marriage or a good day in a terrible job, or picking up a hot girl while you are drunk. It's a mirage, they care about their teammates, and themselves, but not us, not the community, and not the club. Expecting that they would is like pretending the charts still matter.

Community pride doesn't exist in the AFL anymore, we try our best to pretend otherwise, but it doesn't. It exists in a man helping another man get home after being sick outside Bunnings though - we all need to do our bit...

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