Friday, March 31, 2006

The Football Chronicles, Part 1

Manfred: Look, if either of you two can make it across that sinkhole in front of you, the sloth is yours.
Sid: That's right, you losers! You take one step and you're dead!
[Sid throws a rock, which bounces across the sinkhole without leaving so much as a crack ]
Sid: You were bluffing, huh?
Manfred: Yeah, that was a bluff.
"Ice Age"

Two posts in one week, my I am spoiling you all with my presence.

I've got a live game on tonight, should be interesting. It's a cash game (no SNG or tourny), and the buy in will be the biggest I have ever played in to date. Ok, so it's only $50 buy in, but that is still my biggest live game buy in. I think my biggest online buy in was only $100, so you can see I am decidedly small time all the time. I've only met one of the players before, and I know he is fairly decent so the standard tonight might be up there. I'll need to bring my A-game to walk out winner tonight.

I'm starting to get back into poker too, after such a lengthy lay off. This probably has a lot to do will decent results as late, which I have surely jinxed by posting here. I've also been reading non-poker blogs where they have been talking about poker, and that made me more interested, if that makes any sense.

The Distraction has wanted to upgrade our pad to include Pay TV. The free to air TV reception in our building is terrible, and I am tempted to do it if it were not for the adding of extra costs to our already strained budget. Another reason is the start of the AFL season last night. Aussie Rules – hence forth referred to only as "footy" from here on in – is probably my biggest obsession/crutch/addiction. It really is for my whole family. With the extra money coming in from running the poker games, I have been thinking that perhaps we can afford this little extra luxury to put ourselves further into middle class poverty. I suppose, in order to qualify as middle class you must have a net worth above $0, right? Man, that just makes me low class then doesn't it?

Footy is religious in our family, especially on my father's side but surprisingly enough the most tragic fan in the family is mum. My two uncles are both Western Bulldogs supporters, my mum and older brother are North Melbourne Kangaroos fans, and dad and my little brother are Richmond Tigers supporters. I'm the black sheep of the family, the sole Hawthorn Hawks supporter (link on the side of the page for the interested). I remember once my uncle bought a Bulldog's polo shirt for $5 at a discount place, and grabbed a Hawks one for me – because hey, it's $5, and he was acting as a sort of surrogate parent at that stage since I moved 1300 kilometres from my own. I remember in a slightly drunken haze looking at the shirt, thinking that it really embodies who I was. I was the one member of my family that did everything differently, I was "Hawthorn" to my family, and I felt kinda proud for some reason. Yeah, I was drunk but the memory has stayed with me for the past few years. I still have the shirt too.

Some times I really miss playing footy. I don't want to become one of those guys that just reminds everyone about their highschool sporting achievements, and I never even scored 4 touchdowns in one game for Polk High (ten points for the reference there). But I want to talk a little about it right now to illustrate a greater point… well let's hope it si a greater point. It will also serve as a little lesson in footy for my North American friends.

I really really don't want to turn this into a "Remember how cool I was in highschool" post, but this story has a few very poignant moments and lessons in it. It's going to take a few posts to get through it all and I fully admit right here that this is more for me than my readers – but couldn't that be said about 99% of this blog? Enough – lets begin…

I played footy since I was maybe 3 or 4. Our town had four teams, North, South, West and…Central. It's just the way the town was set out that it worked out like that. Anyway, our North Bulldogs junior team was pretty stacked, and one player in particular was exceptional compared to the rest – he now makes a living earning about 10 times what I do playing footy, a good mate too. Anyway, I took the game as another sport right up until my junior year in the "Colts". The colts were the last age group grade before you played in the men's competition.

I remember the first game of that season, because leading up to it I thought it was just another season of footy. Our team had taken a bit of a hit as the exceptional player from before was asked to skip the colts and go straight into the main team. This only happens to a few players a year, and is a real badge of honour for our little town. But it meant our colts team could be down our best player, so we wouldn't be dominating as we had become accustomed to.

We get the game started, and something happened. Since we hadn't played a game for 5 months or so, it takes a while to get back in the groove of things, but something weird happened to me. It seemed I had grown stronger, faster and bigger over the summer. I was prepared to play a supporting role this season in the forward line as I was a junior (there are only juniors and seniors, no freshman or he like. Grades go up by increments of two here). By the end of the first quarter, I felt unstoppable. I could do as I wanted and nobody could touch me – a fact that the coach picked up on very quickly and he put some extra tasks in front of me. Well, specifically he asked me to take out another player if I got the chance to do it legally – which is one of the great aspects of footy. I chose to ignore the request, because the player he asked me to deal with was pretty useless, he was just an annoying dick and I thought I could hurt them more on the scoreboard anyway.

We won that game, and most of the others as I soon got moved to Centre. I'm trying to think of a reference to another sport more familiar to my North American friends here that would apply describe the job of the "on-ball" positions in footy like centre. Basically you know how big a footy oval is? The centre gets to cover all of it. Usually you have two guys per position in the "on ball" department (4 positions) that swap in and out through the game. They didn't bother with centre, because I wouldn't swap out and just ran it my way for the whole game. By the third game, I had a "tagger".

A tagger in footy is a player form the opposition who basically sacrifices their entire game to stand by your side and stop you from getting the ball. Some taggers have been known to be hit in the back of the head by the ball, and yet they don't move lest take their eyes off their target. So I got that treatment for the next few games. By round 4, I was having multiple taggers swap through out the game on me. I always choose to ignore them and pretend they weren't there and kept on my dominating ways. It was a great time, I would look forward to the Friday night games all week.

I recall once one of the coaches of the other team sent a message out via a runner – trainers who are used to get messages from the coach to the team during the game as footy has no time outs allowed. The runner yelled at my tagger, right in front of me, "Great job, he's hardly done anything this quarter, keep going" or words to that affect.

I felt insulted, and stupid because I hadn't even realised that I was having a quiet game. There was 5 minutes left in this quarter, and I decided to make the coach pay for that comment. We won comfortably, and I finished with 4 goals which is a handy return for a centre.

In the senior teams (there is an A grade and B grade team, and the town takes A grade very seriously) the guy who got called up from the colts (also a junior) was killing them, and this was when people around town were starting to realise he would turn pro eventually. A 16 year old was dominating against the 30 year olds and forcing them to change their entire game plans around him.

In the B grade, they were usually short of 2 or 3 players a week, so they got senior guys from our colts team to fill in. I guess I was kind of jealous that I hadn't been asked, when I realised that none of the other guys had been asked either and they more or less put their hand up for the job. So after one training session during the week, I said to our coach (a B grade player himself) that if they were short any players I wouldn't mind a game on Saturday. Coach said sure, and two days later they asked if I was prepared to back up Friday night's colts game with a Saturday morning B grade game. Of course I was, this was exactly what I asked for, so I prepared to play my first game against grown men the following weak.

In my next post, I'll go through that game and the genuinely inspirational talk I got after getting my ass handed to me in that game that changed me.

1 comment:

huma said...

heya

link me up and I'll do the same - http://humanaut.blogspot.com

I bought a copy of munchkin bites a few weeks ago and we've played it here a few times, great fun :)