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Rd 16 - Hawks v Blues

 Misanthropy (Taylor's Version)

I’m still getting over something picked-up earlier in the week. I’ve got a lingering impatience, and my fellow feeling has sapped. I’ve rushed to Victoria Park Station to make it to the Hawks v Blues. Showers have cleared. Some folks trumpet hot-bloodedness in only t-shirts, while I’m in four layers. The eventual train – an agent of the ever-disappointing Hurstbridge/Mernda line – arrives as though it’s come from Tokyo. What I mean to say is it’s about the most tightly packed I’ve ever seen. A humble football fan, such as I, needs to try several carriages for an opening, needs to settle for a situation where they risk indecently colliding with fellow supporters each time there’s a jolt. We press so improbably close to one another yet retain the civility of little to no conversation between strangers, a phenomenon that must be unique to public transport. Many don’t attempt getting on, preferring to wait 20 minutes for back-up. It’s 12:45 on a Sunday. At Collingwood, the next station, a girl on the platform stands presumptuously as the rest of us writhe into some configuration where her hair shall regularly slide against my elbow. I resent her even though she’s wearing a Carlton scarf.

I suspect I’ve caught my vague misanthropy, my common coldness, from either or both recent experiences of waiting in sluggish Swift queues. They weren’t even queues, in fact – rather hundreds of thousands of people flailing in a cyber morass, hoping to be hoisted by the algorithm. At first, I hadn’t even wanted Taylor Swift tickets very badly, and yet I’d become fixated in support of my girlfriend – plus, my general competitiveness, bruised sense of entitlement, frustration at also missing Slowdive had all entered the fray. Days later, I’m still a little overwhelmed by a fresh battle for space, by yet another reminder life is a series of scraps with those who want the same as you, who’ll proudly, justifiably assert claims to what you think should be yours. Our stories, it turns out, are clogged by the tedious demands and digressions of strangers. Towards each other, we often act like a type of cholesterol. I’m not seeing hundreds of pleasant people crawling out of winter woodwork to attend a football match where ‘KIDS GO FREE’ – instead, we’re all battery hens yet again struggling over scarcity. The most embarrassing part of this malady is that my girlfriend has entered secret negotiations with a ‘friend of a friend of a’ to snaffle tickets, after all. An opportunist had been ushered into Ticketek’s chambers twice, and now is looking to off-load the seats they’d bought in the first case. There’s hope yet – but for some reason my demeanour hasn’t adapted. I’m like one of those deplorables who sooks to the extent of getting exactly what they’d wanted, then are slow to drop their sulky mood out of shame.


The train-press happens to lock me near a kid I taught a couple of years ago, a Carlton supporter. Does he think less of me, as an educator, once I reveal I’ve already been to more than ten games this year? I rabbit on about how we’re not going that bad, and the most frustrating thing about our underwhelming season is that no other teams are especially good – it is, in other words, a low-hanging flag. Charlie’s probably glad once he eventually ditches me on the MCG concourse. Gate 1 has another of those human swarms that rears mild agoraphobia. It’s a fifteen-minute shuffle for all of us grains of sand to reach the hourglass pinch of the turnstiles. Both team songs elapse in that time, and seemingly any chance I would’ve found a decent seat in GA on my own. Point of gratitude: my mate Hugh has that task covered. He waits at the spot I’ve decided as a niche: beneath the scoreboard, level 4, ‘city end’. Hugh’s a Hawthorn supporter and tells me he’s foolishly tipped them – never mind their captain/best player isn’t available. He’s risked a ‘double blow’ in the event of a loss – if you count forfeiting one point in a bogan Nostradamus contest as an actual blow (many do).


We know it’ll be the Blues’ day from the early stages. The best omens, perhaps, are the contributions of hitherto luckless half-forwards Cunningham, Martin, Fogarty. At the Gold Coast game, two weeks ago, our cheer squad had roared at early goals like they’d been revelations – today, on the other hand, these are greeted as if expected. The crowd, generally speaking, isn’t the monstrous size my journey to the ground had suggested, although it’s very healthy for an early Sunday fixture. It would’ve been healthier if not for the scourge of pancreatic cancer, which has necessitated barring spectators from two whole bays in the distant Warne stand and laying down purple sheets as an awareness muster. Collectively, for underestimating the prevalence of that particular cancer, we’re punished by seeming akin to an era, at Adelaide’s AAMI Stadium, where sparse crowds were herded with black tarps. Hugh takes half an hour to get chips and in this period his side continues its bizarre tactic of trying to kick a winning score via behinds, so the match feels done. The Blues should be at a more advanced stage in the premiership cycle, anyway – the ‘family club’ blasted themselves back to near-infancy last trade period. There’s a brief surge of momentum, for them, in quarter three. The Hawks’ fan base comes alive – and later I’ll learn some of this was recorded crowd noise via the P.A.. Jacob Weitering, with what he’ll insist was an open hand, shoves both their ruckman and fightback to the turf. The moment is caught by Fox Footy cameras, and the graininess of the footage stands to reason any accusation our scrupulous centre half-back had been guilty of striking was a conspiracy.


Sitting with Hugh, a foreign supporter, my mood is slightly detached towards the Blues’ victory. I’m already a little anxious about sterner tests, ‘do or die’ clashes that could snuff any season revival in the weeks ahead. And also I’m harbouring a secret. Hugh and I had been communicating while in those bogus Ticketek ‘waiting lounges’ during the week, and were entrusted to act on the other’s behalf if we’d made it through. Of course, this never happened. And my girlfriend’s secret negotiations in the aftermath, shaking off her despair, apply to only two tickets. It's a development I sense isn’t worth fully explaining to Hugh, a bigger ‘Swifty’ than myself, while his team is getting beaten. There’s of course plenty of time for him to scrounge other tickets, inshallah. But, for all of my whining about self-interest and capitalist frenzy, it seems I’ve slipped the bonds of friendship a bit too easily.


The Sunday arvo crowd has extraordinarily landed at 66,000. Many of this number, I’ll bet, are also jilted pop fans who’ve at least once thought about hiding in the ’G until next February. The donut queue, post-game, is an abominable twenty metres/ten minutes, and there’s another crush on the train home. Oh, the humanity! This time I’m pressed near the woollen shoulder of a grey, middle-aged ’Bagger. Peering over his fibres, I can’t help but follow the private analysis he types into an unimaginatively-named WhatsApp group: ‘Carlton’. He writes: ‘Good win, not sure what it means for the rest of the year though’. Huddled amongst penguins bound for Hurstbridge, it does warm my cardiac cockles a little extra to see this man toeing the company line so perfectly.


Emily calls that evening, when I’m driving, to report her negotiations have succeeded. She’s gleeful. We’ll be way up the back, but so long as we plug our nostrils with popsicle sticks as nosebleed preventatives, we shouldn’t miss any of the 40+ songs. All vestiges of my sooky misanthropy ought to now disappear. Here’s evidence of a problem getting solved with collaboration, networking, good faith! Never mind the rascal’s decided to mark-up the seats by an arbitrary $40 – it’s only fair he profits off mere fortune, as most of us tend to do!

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