From a young age we have been encouraged to spread our wings, but never too far as to be considered a radical. As a young boy I sought approval in everything I did and reacted with bitter confusion when what I attempted was met with reproach from those in power and my peers. I felt rejected, belittled, aghast at the lack of adulation coming my way. Who did these kids think they were? Rejecting moi? Of course, we grow older and wiser and come to accept that not every individual is going to be smitten with my Priscilla, Queen of the Desert impression. But it still kind of hurts when we are not accepted. I recall a couple of years ago when a 21st video I made for a mate of mine, bombed heavily and received less than a collective minor snigger from the 100+ people at the party. I blamed the acoustics, I blamed the poor talent who supported me in the video and I blamed society for not ‘getting me’. Inevitably, I had to come to the conclusion that sometimes you get it wrong and you’ll feel ostracised for a short amount of time before you jump back on the horse and prove that you are not simply a one-trick pony.
It is this difficult balance that we attempt to find. Stepping out of the shadow enough to get recognised, but not far enough to become a radical figure who people just don’t ‘get’ it. I’ve grown up in Melbourne feeling like a bit of a radical for much of my life. It hadn’t really occur to me until I was 11 years old at football training when I had worn a Collingwood guernsey for the first time. For those of you reading from the United States, Japan, Chad etc, (hey, how ya doing? Sorry ya can’t get through…) a Collingwood guernsey is associated with the Collingwood Australian Rules Football team, as seen below.
Anyway, having previously barracked for Melbourne (red and blue, of recent times a consistent cellar-dweller) throughout my early years, wearing black and white on my skin was complete and utter blasphemy. How could a young kid so easily toss aside his true colours and move to the dark side? Had they experienced the anguish that was rushing through my veins backstage, they would have realised that this wasn’t a spur of the moment decision. Okay, we are talking first world problems here, but for a young boy, this was the equivalent of a lone wolf stepping in front of a fully fledged protest in order to issue criticism of the entire facade, or at least the equivalent of telling my dad that his BBQ skills weren’t up to the standard of Jimmy’s dad down the road.
Self-identity is something that the majority of young boys/men, and girls/women, go through in their formative years. How much do we control? How do we control it? Why don’t people accept me? Do I have to compromise my ideals and enjoyment for the sake of being accepted? In our underdeveloped minds, it isn’t quite as sophisticated as how I am outlining it, however it is a perplexing period of our lives. There was confusion about my self development. How come I am short and stubby whilst my friends are streamlined athletes with girls hanging off every one of their high-pitched words? So when I changed teams I ran head on into a barricade of disapproval and self-defeatism. Once again, it seemed that once more I had quit something to take the easier road. And for what? I still don’t know how any of us survived childhood with all these choices of seemingly paramount importance. All of these decisions presented themselves as crossroads for our future. Stay loyal or lose your soul? Hang with the crowd or become an outcast, with the unforeseeable hope of finding a new home?
In hindsight I simply followed where my old man went. It was his job, and he had been sacked by Melbourne and hired by Collingwood a year later. I tried to justify my decision as something that would occur to every young boy or girl. Their father or mother gets pushed out of a company such as Shell and gets a job at BP. Do you stay loyal to Shell despite all the kerfuffle or do you shun the company that created a potentially ruinous situation for your family? Yet again, the situation did not appear dire for an 11 year old who had no concept of where money came from and how the inner-workings of a company or football club actually worked. I just presumed, football = fun and nothing that is fun could possibly hurt a person and his or her financial future and the family’s security. We were talking about a game that I saw as the most important reason to live! And this was the scenario for most of the young boys around me. Football was life, the be-all and end-all and to leave the bosom that we were born into was a akin to converting from Christianity to Islam in a society bombarded with anti-Islamist propaganda. Oh wait… We can talk about that later. More relevantly, not being a religious kid, the only way I saw my metaphoric soul being compromised was moving from one team to the other, and I’m not talking dabbling in double dipping my meat on a stick into two very different condiments, I’m talking the most masculine of past times, FOODI.
For a kid, this identity crisis was more than just simply changing colours. Potential peer rejection was on the cards here! For a sensitive kid this pushed me into a spiral of unprecedented pre-pubscent angst. The thoughts of those around me pierced my skin and penetrated my heart, dragging me into the tar-filled gutter. Here I was, a simple young lad pushed into a life of radicalism, fighting for my cause. Or so I thought. I was no Mandela. I was just a scared kid. Scared of rejection, scared of being treated as little more than a dirty, smug turncoat. But how do you rise above the notion of being a turncoat? Particularly when you wait, and you wait and you wait on fucking puberty to set in. You just become an underdeveloped turncoat who has a dirty little moustache and doesn’t have the confidence to talk to anyone of the opposite sex. Maybe that should be the lesson for any kid who wants to change football teams. If you change teams, you’ll lurch through high school with questionable body shape, unfavourable facial hair with no ability to rise above their own shyness.
BUT IT GETS BETTER.
To be fair, this is basically a piss-take. However, there are many variables that occur in rising up the ranks from puberty to a fully-grown ‘STFU haterzzzz’ adult. It is hard to get over rejection as a young person. Even when I was 17 and my old man moved to Geelong Football Club, I had difficulty justifying to the friends I had found and kept (for many years now) that I was once again moving on from my former colours. Slowly but surely I promised myself that this was the last time. Three premierships later and my decision was vindicated and the questions of my lack of loyalty were met with ferociously defiant answers. I would no longer be treated as a mere ostracised turncoat. I could add more to society than simply being known as a lost and broken soul who would never find true meaning without a true football team. I will drink beer with the enemy, converse openly with those who wear different colours, accept the losses and celebrate with honour in victory. I have become the Mandela of AFL supporters! Am I getting carried away?
My solace would never come in the colours of a profession team who I had simply followed due to my father’s occupation. My solace would come in my own tenure at a local football club where I have contributed bad jokes, a questionable body shape, unfavourable facial hair and steady self-confidence. At least, the last one is a (sort of) positive trait that I have developed since I was a slow, stubby 12 year old. I had become Keira Knightley’s character in the face of an approach from my husband’s best mate in Love Actually where he tells me that to him, I am perfect. It makes my heart froth up and bubble over the brim. ‘I’m… I’m perfect to you? Stop it, I’m blushin’!’
Yet, I’m still a turncoat. A dirty, manipulative turncoat who has lost his soul in order to follow his current side to three premierships and personal satisfaction. Hey man, I’ve got serious sympathy for the devil if that is what results in dismantling my soul and separating it into 7 horcruxes. I’ve been unfettered from my fear of peer rejection and now simply just shrug my shoulders and take pride in the fact that I can acknowledge I am a dirty, smug turncoat with a wry grin.
(As a side note, my old man has returned to Collingwood… I will remain stoic in my support of Geelong for many, many years… ‘Are your fingers crossed?’ ‘… No…?’ (Simpsons’ reference from ‘Lisa on Ice’ in Season 6 for those playing at home)