The two sides of September.

Part I: The sun arrives.

It’s nice when the sun comes out. People seem to be in less of a hurry. More likely to smile at no one in particular, and muse about the delightfulness of life. They’re not busying themselves in their private matters as much, not burying themselves in their phone as they moan to their friends about how miserable their life is. They’re not avoiding social contact, watching season after season of One Tree Hill wearing their dirty tracksuit, scooping ice cream out of the tub. Rather people are falling in love with the simple things all over again because the doom and gloom of life doesn’t happen when it is 24 degrees, with only a small patch of white clouds blocking the gloriously clear sky. As I type this, a young woman passes me scratching her neck, growling to herself. She obviously didn’t get the memo. I wonder how she can be so frustrated when the birds are tweeting something along the lines of ‘these non-flying beings are all smilin’ #amazingspringday’. The remnants of the gloomy winter months are still compartmentalised within my melon as I consider the worst. But no, I’m writing a piece that is about sunshine and lollipops, not schizophrenia and messy breakups.

Last week I was pondering my luckless run with love and how ridiculous and frustrating this whole ‘life’ concept was. That was August. This week, I couldn’t desire love with an individual less. I want to marry the whole world, fuck the free world (in a Prince kind of way, not a Rage Against kind of way) and kiss, I don’t know, a flower? A candle? A peach? Just something that represents nature. Do candles represent nature? I suppose wax is a wondrous thing but is it more man-made than natural beauty? Peaches are delicious though. So juicy and fun to bite into. That explosion of peach juice and the taste of furry flesh. I suppose reading this you could prepare a thesis on my state of sexual frustration, but I promise you, loyal readers, that I am merely musing about the delightfulness of a voluptuous peach. Voluptuous, round, thick and juicy. Anyhow, everything kind of drifts on days like today. Flags drift slightly to the side, people drift along the concrete toward a café or a meeting, opinions drift through the morning air into a dank pile of irrelevance as they don’t seem to matter as they did in the winter. Throughout the winter, outrage stains the air as all kind of folk fight for a chance to scream out their grievances about the plight of society. While some argue that it’s Un-Australian, others cross their arms and cry out for the good old days. I’m just thinking, dude, it’s cold and I want to go home.

Not in Spring. Nope, none of this ‘you said this so you should apologise and be removed from society’s good books for a period of between one and three winters’. Rather, we just talk it out, kiss and make up and listen to the indie-pop anthem of the summer. Something that isn’t too extreme as to brutalise our still tender eardrums, but something quirky, something full of frivolity. We don’t want to rush into anything too serious here; it’s not bloody 45 degrees in January yet! People don’t rush to get outraged either. Instead they drift to find solidarity and substance. I’m sure this is not everyone, maybe just people like me who take weather as the tone for society. Winter is a stern and curious time. I think a lot of us start thinking, ‘why are you people talking to me when I just want to alone?’ during the week and ‘why are you people avoiding me when I just want to drink scotch and get black and blue at some dingy bar?’ when the weekend hits. It’s hard to find that balance of being grumpy as fuck and being fucking grumpy. There are the moments when it all looks to be getting better, but the light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t really arrive until the transition from August to September, winter to spring starts to unfold.

Long, weary thoughts become distracted, whimsical imaginings, overcoats become light sweaters, beanies turn into hats and scotch turns to… well, there’s still a bit of scotch floating around. Lame love songs seem to be more attractive. I mean, even listening to Guy Sebastian’s debut single ‘When Angels brought me here’ left me a moment away from tears before I had to chuck the remote at the television. That ‘fro though. Go the bloody ‘fro! That’s another great thing about Spring. We are at the end of reality TV season. Hordes of desperate housewives/husbands (EQUALITY STREET) and equally desperate pre-teen girls… and boys, are screaming at me from their lounge rooms saying it is legitimate entertainment. I’m screaming back at them saying, ‘have a lovely day!’ We have a good relationship.

Women with their quirky clothes and their subtle smiles and infectious laughs start to appear on every street corner. Not in a red light district way of course. In a ‘where have you been all my life’ way. Over and over again. They say that man’s fatal flaw is their ridiculous penchant for falling into infatuation over and over again. And in spring it’s not just the pretty girls catching our gaze. It’s the pretty boys too. The context of some of these comments must be justified in the light of me watching particularly androgynous music clips accompanying the music of the 80s. Namely Terence Trent D’Arby. The bloke’s ascetics would confuse even the straightest (self-appraisal) man. Back on topic, reluctant eyes start to look up from the pavement and find eyes staring into theirs. Cold, frosty faces light up as slow gazes heat up the darkest corners of our bodies. Attraction ceases to simply be about the person you swiped right to as you sat giggling with your buddies on a drunken Saturday night. You start to swipe right in person. And it feels kind of nice. You don’t literally (lit-er-ally) swipe right in person though. I’ve tried it and she swiped left back and we never saw each other again. Such a shame. Rather, the cold seems to make people more receptive to human interaction, in particular interaction that occasionally leads to a job interview for some casual, part time or full time lovemaking. People talking about the job crisis don’t know nothin’ about my world.

I’m reading my words back and all I can think of is…

‘I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all’ – the great Joni Mitchell, Both Sides Now.

It’s true; I really do not know love at all. But I know about attraction, lust and passion. And that is most likely the best way to be when you are dubious about why people even bother. Seriously irrational scorn is being thrown love’s way right now. It truly is a wonderful thing, don’t abscond your responsibilities, lovers. Hold hands, hug your friends, kiss and make up with your enemies! All for the sake of the sun re-emerging into the frame and plying its trade once again.

Part II: Kicking a ball around for the sake of entertainment.

I’m not sure what it is, maybe the laborious tax law material being spouted by our attractive replacement lecturer or the ridiculously idiotic questions being asked by the kid in the front row, but I really cannot concentrate at the moment. The main reason? No, not some attractive woman clicking her fingers for me to run to her front door (although that occasionally seems to pop in to my head from time to time). The reason is September. We’ve entered the month of September and September means two things to me. Number 1: It’s Spring and Spring is delicious. Watermelon, swimming holes, shorts, thongs, fresh green leaves and outdoor music. Number 2: Footy.

I’m not going to deny it, I am the classic footy tragic who non-footy fans cringe at. That’s not to say that I can’t have a conversation without dropping some obscure statistic from 1972 when Carlton and Richmond kicked a combined total of 327 points in the Grand Final. I’m a good conversationalist. We can talk about novels, plays, food, beer, travel, our favourite pokemon, non-footy related sport and so on and so forth. Or perhaps you like talking about politics, history, pop culture, bushwalking, brownnosing, ‘affluenza’, tax law (actually, scrap that), future careers and how hotdogs are made. Don’t look the last one up if you enjoy the half time hog stuffed into your gob. You will never be the same again.

However, something changes within me in September. This gnawing desire and want. This virus that infects my system and forces me to heed its every command. Not a life-threatening virus built in the mold of Ebola or a particularly potent influenza but rather something of a symbiotic relationship where we rely on each other for our September survival. I’m the vector, footy is the host. Sometimes we get mad at each other, despise each other, even attempt to remove the other from our own individual existences but we know it is simply not possible. Without footy in September, I would just be some schmo at the box factory. Without me, footy in September would likely die a slow death. A particularly slow death if it were just I. A quicker death if fans like myself started to lose the pride and the passion of following our most beloved game so closely throughout the months leading up to and including September. So, the relationship isn’t quite symbiotic but there are elements of a relationship on the scale of Harry Potter and Voldemort, Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, Mario and Bowser and Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin.

When I think September, I remember back to my first Grand Final in 2000 when Essendon absolutely destroyed the Demons in a classic lesson about hard, uncompromising finals footy. For some reason fighter jets flew over the MCG before the game, Troy Simmonds was smashed into next week by a boulder by the name of Michael Long and Tania Doko, of ‘I got hit by a bus, run down by a train’ fame splashed out the old ‘girt by sea’ before the first bounce. Hitherto to this, the last weekend in September was most important for being the day my birthday usually fell. I’d enjoyed days in front of the big screen watching Tony Lockett and the Swans surprise the whole of Melbourne by bobbing up, seeing Fraser Brown run down some lunatic in the 1999 preliminary final. I had marveled at Darren Jarman carving up the St Kilda defence in the last quarter of the Crows maiden AFL premiership win (causing an eruption of anti-South Australia sentiment in the South East) and I’d developed a healthy appreciation of Collingwood having a rough trot and missing finals for several consecutive seasons. Yet, it wasn’t until attending my first AFL grand final that I truly started to appreciate how unbelievably sacred the MCG was. Non-football fans are disgusted by the over-inflated importance we place on Australia’s toughest sport (I’m just fucking with you soccer…). I agree that over-exposure is a bit of an issue in these days of 24/7 news coverage via the countless mediums of journalism in society, but I would vehemently argue that September is a sacred time for our religion. And that religion is football.

Including my maiden voyage in 2000, I have attended seven AFL grand finals and countless finals fixtures and I can honestly say that I’ve never been disappointed by the atmosphere. Moving from the train rides and café visits on Bridge Road as a kid to the pubs and bars in between the footy as a twenty-something, the anticipation never wears thin. The cauldron of 90,000 plus people at the MCG, the hostile crowds of Adelaide and Perth to the indifferent attention spans of our North-eastern brethren, there’s nothing quite like it in Australian sport. It would be remiss of me to say, in the world when I’ve visited Yankee stadium and White Hart Lane for huge fixtures in the USA and the UK respectively but I’d say we are on a pretty even playing field.

I’ve witnessed the heartbreak of Collingwood losing in 2002 and 2003 when my old man was working at the club and experienced the exhilaration of 2007, 2009 and 2011 when Geelong claimed the ultimate glory. I’ve witnessed cult heroes become legends – Martin Pike, Stuart Dew and Max Rooke. I’ve agonised with those who have misstepped on the biggest stage – Rhyce Shaw, Richard Cole and Leon Davis and I’ve seen legends farewelled after the ultimate glory – Cameron Ling and Tom Harley and I’ll never get sick of the energy that is generated from the tales that surround our most magnificent game.

Yet, it isn’t just the professionals who ride the emotional rollercoaster of playing finals footy. Last year, I won my first senior premiership and felt the rain of the gods trickle onto my cheeks to cleanse me of every wrong I had committed in my relatively short existence. Okay, the drama is getting to me. The drama always gets to us in these situations! But there is just something really special about September in Melbourne, whereupon an energy is released into open space that causes those who don’t have their guard up to be infected with something unexplainable to the non-believers.

Tonight, Geelong takes on Hawthorn in another chapter of one of the finest rivalries of all time. Once more I feel privileged to experience the grandiose spectacle in person and soak up the atmosphere of one of the world’s great cities in its finest hour. I’m licking my lips as we speak. To the non-believers I bid thee farewell until October. To the fanatics I nod my hat and say ‘game on’.

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