"Who's your footy team Bearsy?"
So it goes. Some things are guardianship decisions, life matters that parents take it upon themselves to decide until the child rebels a few years down the track. Religion, or in our case lack-thereof, is another.
I'm not huge on any of the boofballs, neither is Beloved. I sort of see them as a proxy for a rather outdated form of group combat, the ball being a mere red herring in what is clearly designed to be an emulation of apes smacking each other with branches. Accordingly I prefer to strip away the veneer and go to the martial source, fascinated by all things hand-to-hand combat from the meditative qualities of Tai Chi, Bagua or Iado to the crunching realism of Arnis or Brasilian Ju Jitsu.
Beloved isn't convinced; she recently woke on the couch to find I'd 'accidentally' allowed cage fighting to appear on TV. "Revolting" she observed rather truthfully before going straight back to sleep.
Anyway, it's Melbourne, and the process of becoming Melbournians is inextricably wrapped up in our sense of ourselves as a couple. We moved here together shortly after hooking up in London, and here we've stayed, married, had children and now bought (touch wood!) a house.
The footy has woven its way into that narrative. We've started watching it together, picked a team (see above) together, rocked down to the 'G and sat in the stalls in the rain, huddled under plastic ponchos eating Four 'n Twenty meat pies, sipping (normally untouchable) Carlton Draught, whooping and cheering...
To the point where I'm tempted to find a local team to also follow, just for that experience- cars parked around the oval, honking horns with each goal, running onto the ground with the kids to kick a ball during half time.
I used to do the lefty thing and harp on about how soccer is the world game, domination imminent, and so on. It seemed sophisticated and inclusive. Nearly 3 years in the UK made me rethink that, and besides, why not take pride in a small vestige of local culture? There should be room for both...
So here it is. We've been here almost 7 years. The team we picked, St Kilda, were underdogs back then with some promising young talent. They've grown as we have. They've let themselves down more than once. And now, the first season in which Bear can actually tell you that what's on TV is "footy" and pick the colours of her team, we are in the final.
It's a rare experience, but I'm nervous and excited. I wouldn't bank the house on a win, Geelong (our family '2nd team'- a long story in itself!) appear virtually unstoppable. But it's still good to be in the final. A strange sense of bonding with long-suffering fans across the state, the nation.
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