A SEASON IN THE ABYSS (Pt DEUX)

Season 2014 is underway.

Already, according to many sage and august talkback callers, round two presents a number of ‘season defining games’, and supporters from a few clubs have begun to sharpen their pitchforks, prepare torches in haste and round up a posse to meet at the town square after evensong to run either a coach, a club administration – or both – out of town.

All things change, I know, but the lack of a genuine opening round blockbuster or the sight of 80,000 fans crammed into the MCG for the season opener has started the 2014 season with all the excitement of receiving a group certificate.

Desperate to steal some of the NRL’s oxygen, but with key venues contractually tied to Cricket Australia, the PTB* has served up an opening weekend snore fest delivering vacant seats across the opening four games (In any other job, someone would have had a please explain handed down on Monday morning, but as one fails upward at the AFL, you’d take the short odds-on that old mate Gillon will be employee of the month. Once again).  Pass me the valium post-haste, for I fear the excitement levels may do my delicate constitution much harm.

On the plus side, with Sydney stunned by GWS and Collingwood shellacked by Freo there’s an overdose of schadenfreude on offer and the round is only half way done.

Still brimming with the Eartha Kitt’s at Essendon FC, I put it to the Almanac community to help me choose alternate membership options for 2014.

The people spoke. I listened…

… And then went ahead and did my own thing anyway.

The winners were;

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The Western Bulldogs, Geelong, Melbourne Storm and the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Western Bulldogs – Sideline/International Membership $50 and a $50 ‘Bulldogs Backyard’ donation. (24,700 members as at 19/3/14)

The punters came for the ‘Scray like it was the Sermon on the Mount. There’s been talk that North Melbourne is everyone’s ‘second team’ but the overwhelming support for the Doggies from Almanackers suggests there’s much naches for Brendan Mac’s pups.

Of the non-match day membership options I had a look at, the Dogs have got it licked *audible groans*. Only $50 and you get the same goodies as a reserved seat or general admission member and I got to nominate Ryan Griffen as my favourite Bulldog member. Natch, when my membership letter arrived with a note from the Rhino, I got all warm and fuzzy. Get down with your bad self, I say!

On a serious note, the affordability of a Kennel membership left room in the budget for some extras. While most clubs (AFL and NRL combined) wanted to on-sell me coterie memberships, and reserve seat upgrades, the Bulldogs membership site was the only one I looked at which invited you to get involved in a charity program. In this case, the ‘Bulldogs Backyard’ program:

“Every year, over 3,000 children who wouldn’t normally be able to go to the football, are given the opportunity to do so through the Bulldogs Backyard Community Bay at Etihad Stadium.

Invitations to Bulldogs Backyard are extended to schools, community groups and not-for-profit organisations throughout the West.

Your donation of just $50 provides a seat in the Bulldogs Backyard for nine children throughout the season. Each donor receives a special certificate of appreciation and this makes it an excellent gift idea for a friend or loved one, or as an add-on to an existing membership.”

So while the Bombers are stinging Hi-Mark Members with sneaky opt-out clauses and passing the hat around the rank-and-file to pay their multi-million dollar drug cheating fines, the Bulldogs – by contrast – are asking their members to help them take kids from families doing it tough to the footy. A no-brainer. Sign me up. And shame on you Essendon. For. Fucking. Shame.

Geelong – General Admission 3 Games. $85  (37,400 members appx as at19/3/14)

Speaking of doing things tough, the good folk of the greater 3220 aren’t exactly chock-full of financial confidence these days. It’s not so dire that young Alastair and Stephanie have to be driven to the College in the Landcruiser instead of the Range Rover, but there’s certainly a few people having sleepless nights.

I detailed my (tenuous) links to the hoop d’affaire in part one. Add to that though, some lingering resentment at Mark Thompson for metaphorically shitting on ‘lil Gaz at the end of 2010 and vowing never to coach again, he’s um… how does one say it? He’s um… he’s coaching again. As much as I love ‘Bomber’ and his roles in 84/85 and 93, there’s a tiny ‘screw you’ factor here, but it’s not going to ping any resentment radars at Melrose Drive.

As the three games can be selected from the Dome, the ‘G or Kardinia Park, I have the thermos of hot chocolate laced with half a bottle of Kahlua ready to go for the train ride to South Geelong station and my standing room spot reserved on the city end terrace. Who said tradition was dead at AFL games?

Then again, the people of Geelong elected this pickle as mayor And he’s already usurped Kosmo Kramer’s immortal ‘giddy up’. Shaky ground Geelong. Very shaky ground.

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Melbourne Storm – Flexi-Game 12. $195

A significant screw you to not just Essendon’s membership department, but the AFL in general.  You’ll suffer from a raging case of tinnitus and the strains of ‘Thunderstruck’ echoing in your head long after the full-time whistle, but experiencing a Storm game at AAMI Park is like going to a Hangi with a game of League thrown in for free. I’m a big fan. There’s nothing like the MCG as far as Melbourne stadia go, but Insurance Park’s got panels on the Dome. I love the joint.

As far as membership is concerned, the Storm have got it all over the AFL. For your money you get access to 12 general admission tickets and you can, effectively, use those tickets however you want. Go on your Pat Malone to12 games yourself, or take 11 guests and your good self to one game, you use the tickets however you want. Brilliant. With the Storm a genuine chance to make this year’s NRL Grand Final you don’t need to be a math genius to work out that with close to 13,000 members and Bank Stadium at Homebush with 55-60,000 odd seats available for punters after the corporates have left the trough, you’re a good chance of getting yourself some NRL Grand Final action as a competing club member. That’ll do me, thangyaverymuch.

South Sydney -2014 Three Game Membership. $100

Prior to Melbourne Storm joining the NRL, I always had a soft sport for Balmain and the Rabbitohs. With the Tigers merging with Western Suburbs back in 2000 that left the Bunnies and the Storm in the frame. I think any NRL membership has a significant ‘screw you’ factor to the Bombres Hombres, and with Souths also a genuine chance to make the Grand Final, I’m taking a leaf out of Melbourne-based Freo and Brisbane supporters and avoiding the queues for GF tickets.

Plus – there was this corker of a membership ad a few years ago. Because when big Roy Asotasi tells you to do something, you fucking do it, aright? (apologies, Rabbitoh fans, but I couldn’t edit out Chris Sandow).

** Late Scratching by Order of Stewards and the Raceday Integrity Unit **

Carlton – At Home Membership. $95 (44,000 members as at 19/3/14)

The aftermath of round one has delivered a consistent narrative from the Royal Parade faithful; “We’re ferkakta off field, Gibbs is a pea-heart and Matthew who?” etc. After considering membership options at Carlton, I’m inclined to agree they’ve lost the plot at the house that Pratt built.

Using the same ballsy *cough* logic employed by Ticketmaster that came up with a $9 ‘handling fee’ to print your own ticket and thus, not actually handling anything, apparently a Mick Malthouse approved video package, exclusive breaking news emails and a weekly team selection email runs at around $50.

Hmmm. Ok. Where does one start? 10s-on says the ‘exclusive breaking news’ won’t exactly be the stuff of Woodward and Bernstein in its newsy-ness, nor its exclusivity. Given the number of late changes occurring these days as well as structures and set-ups *vomit* making formal positions non-exisitent, team selection emails rival only Fango for irrelevance and redundancy. As for exclusive 24 hour video access to Mick’s highlights and plays of the day? Frankly, unless it’s Bec Judd, Megan Gale and Jackie Waite-Spong in a La Perla lingerie sponsored pillow fight and sleepover video, we’re taking an awful liberty meshing the words ‘Carlton’ and ‘highights’ into the same sentence.

But hey, you get a fleece blanket! A fleece blanket? To paraphrase 30 Rock’s Jack Donaghey “what am I, a Dees fan?” At least with Geelong, you get to go to three games of your choice.

$95 for all that? Give me a spell, please…

Plus: this guy is a Carlton fan.

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So, there we have it. I know that the Essendon Football Club won’t give a shit. They’ve got over  50,000 people paid up and ready to go for season 2014. But when I return to the Mark Twain quote from part one of ‘Season in the Abyss’ – “each must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong… to decide against your convictions is to be an unqualified and inexcusable traitor,” I see it as $395 spent on club memberships (not including my MCC membership subscription) and the Essendon Football Club’s not seeing a fucking penny of it.

And I’m sleeping just fine at night.

*Powers That Be

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