A Very Sportress Christmas IV

BY DAN

This year was shit.

This time last year we were celebrating the fact that we’d all made it to the finish line. A little bruised, a little broken, and covered in all kinds of effluent. But we’d made it. There was hope ahead, the idea that the world would right itself, the Raiders would continue their inevitable climb back to the mountain top. And here’d we’d all be, a little chastened, a little wiser, but holding it all together because we had to.

Then 2021 happened. After a 2020 which tested the limits of our ability to suffer the slings and arrows, we had to do it all again in 2021. The virus doesn’t care what you’ve been through. It’s almost like it’s attracted to pain. In my little corner of the world after 2020 was shit I was hoping for some respite. Instead 2021 for me was the worst sequel in human history – even worse than Ghostbusters II (Viggy Viggy Viggy…you’ve been a bad monkey!).

The Raiders didn’t hold up their end of the bargain either, collapsing into a heap like the rest of us did. Just like me they failed to predict 2021 would be harder than 2020 and didn’t prepare for what was coming. If one was seeking refuge in football in 2021 they would not find it. Instead the Green Machine were less resilient on the footy pitch than most of the world was off it.

So I responded as you would think. It was a busy year here, mostly because I decided to weigh in on everything. I’d already played all the PS4 games of interest in 2020, so I couldn’t even really distract myself with that. Exercise disappeared with my own health challenges and goddamn gym closures and touch competition cancellations. So I plugged away at the old typewriter – the lunatics coping method. 208 posts, 209 thousand words. Last year we called it a Doctorate of Milkosophy. I guess now we’re a Professor. The pay isn’t better but at least we wear fancy glasses.

We had people to suffer this season with. The good people over at The Green Machine Podcast wore the pain with us (though, notably without an appearance by me this year – I’ve no idea how they managed). Special shouts to JB who not only re-jigged the website (because I’m a generation traitor when it comes to tech), but also chipped in some articles to give me a second to catch my breath. Raiders Review with Blake and the Pork were another companion in the muck that stuck it out through the pain. Bourkey’s Top 10 brain is still the sharpest mind in the game. And thank Christ for the O.G’s of all this over at the Greenhouse. The Raiders online community doesn’t exist without them.

And of course, you helped us get through this. One day a shrink is going to scour through these words and say it wasn’t healthy to distract ourselves from the muck with this mess. But it’s only the scrawling of a lunatic if no one reads it right? And you good folk read it, through every tortured metaphor, and despite us chronicling a sinking ship instead of a celebration. We had our best year in clicks, and we had our best year in people reaching out to us to thank us for the work. It’s always humbling, not just because we’re just some numpties with access to the internet. It’s wonderful to think that there’s a niche out there for people who want to talk about footy in a bit more detail, and with a bit of love for the game a their heart. It’s also nice because when you’re stuck inside it warms the heart to know you have all these friends you just haven’t met yet.

And of course, the most important member of all this, Rob. Rob said goodbye to the Rumble for the last time this year – a seven year run guessing what might happen week-to-week. Writing previews is harder than review. Saying what happened is easy – saying what might requires a bit more critical thought. Rob gets more time with his family, which is definitely a good thing. He’ll still be editing my drivel, and he’ll still be cranking out those Simpson’s memes, and I bet he’ll be back with an article or two over the coming year. But more than that Rob is always looking after your boy, because that’s just what he does. And I appreciate every second of it.

Despite everything, if there’s one thing we’ve all learnt this year is that though the blows keep coming, there are ways to withstand them. For the second year in a row I ate too much ice cream, watched too much sport, and hoped it will all go away. It hasn’t, and so we enter another Christmas wondering whether we’ll get a break from this mess. I hope we do, but I’m not longer so naïve to suggest it can only get better.

If you’re with your family this year at Christmas please embrace it. We’ve missed too many opportunities and shed too many tears over the last few years. These times together aren’t a given, and sometimes we only realise that until they’re taken away. So forgive the small trespasses and instead hug the people that make you feel safe like it’s the last time you will, because sometimes it is.

And so my Christmas message, as always, is to look after the people around you when you can. It’s the only way we’ll get through the next year. We can only manage the coming year if we do it together, and if we as a community and society pick up the slack that one person alone can’t manage. Maybe it’s a message, maybe it’s a beer. Maybe it’s like when a mate took the kids of our hands for a day so my wife and I could just decompress. Maybe it’s the unending supply of greens that comes over our fence from the neighbours. These small things matter, and they’re things we can all do. Again, I’ll try to take my own advice for change. It’s easier to say than do.

Enjoy your day, or your break, or whatever moment of happiness you can muster. You deserve it. We all do after this year – both on and off the field. Let’s hope this time next year I’m writing about how great it was to find a spot in Bay 72, some waning winter sun and a too warm beer. Me and you. The Raiders. What more could you want?

Up the Milk. And Merry Christmas.

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