Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Beer for drowning disappointment

As you probably remember I spent the weekend in Sydney for the NRL Grand Final to see my Melbourne Storm take on the Manly Sea Eagles for the 2008 premiership.

It’s fair to say that, while we went in as underdogs with most of the critics (particularly the Sydney media) and the bookies, it was still hoped that this GF would be the closest and toughest for some time.

It’s fair to say that despite the loss to suspension of our captain and key playmaker, Cam Smith, and injury to representative back rower, Ryan Hoffman, the Storm were still confident of bettering the team that they had smashed 34 – 8 in last year’s decider and had beaten twice in the regular season since then.

It is fair to say that the Rugby League folk in New South Wales have had fun putting the Storm down all week as a result of the club’s criticism of the League’s weak and backward thinking administration and that their were plenty of people north of the Murray hoping to see the Storm fall.

It’s fair to say that Sunday’s effort what not our best work.

In fact saying that it was not our best work is an understatement akin to saying that beer is an ‘OK drink’ or that Paris Hilton is a talentless slapper or that a dozen beautiful girls wanting to show me their boobies ‘would be kinda nice, I guess’. We did not play well.

40 – 0. That’s forty points to blot. Duck egg. Donut. Failed to fire a shot. Eight tries to ‘Didn’t Even Get Close’. Saved our worst for last. All credit to Manly for plotting and executing a plan that ran us off our feet, sapped our energy and kept us scoreless all at the same time. We stayed with them for the first half and even at 18 – 0 after an hour were a chance but their last twenty minutes was all party tricks and flick passes and blew the scoreline and the Storm off the park.

So, if last year’s beers tasted all the sweeter for being shared with the victors, what does a losing beer taste like? Well, the first thing that I have to point out is that we had a lot of beer. Sadly it was thrown at us and not sipped quietly as planned so we had to leave the stadium after the final siren. If we thought that Manly supporters were poor losers after last year’s efforts, we were unpleasantly surprised to find that they were even worse as winners. I can promise you all that last year as winners, the crowd as one applauded our team and clapped as the vanquished were presented with their runners-up medals and commiserated with the very few Manly folk who bothered to stay past the ten minute mark of the second half. This year they all stayed and showed a feral grasp of the concept of supporting your team and being gracious in triumph.

But enough of the negatives.

What this blog has tried to convey over the years is that beer is not just a drink for which to get drunk with. I love my beer, but what I really like is that it can be a different brew in different circumstances. For many at events like the Grand Final it is all about volume and bravado. For others it is the social lubricant that makes cheering on your team a more communal and shared experience. Last year I was drinking Heineken that was not as cold as it could have been but the buzz in the winners rooms after the game made it all the more sweeter. A sense of oneness and that we were all their holding up the trophy and a real part of its winning as the players body surfed the crowd and members young and old high-fived and back slapped.

This year we felt it wise to leave the ground and the precinct fairly quickly and the train ride home was slower, longer and quieter. Dinner was pizzas on the bed at the hotel and the beer just didn’t taste the same. I thought to myself that it might be interesting to see if the same bad beer which tasted so sweet this time a year ago could taste the same this year. Or would it be better by some twist of the cosmic beer world? After all, it was still shared with friends gathered for a common cause? It didn’t. It was much worse. And I am a good loser!

After the flight back to Melbourne I had time to reflect on the year my team had and realised that, while losing the big one, we had still finished ahead of 14 other teams. We had claimed our third straight minor premiership and the cheque for $100,000 that comes with it. We had provided ten players for representative games during the year as well as a dozen or so for international teams and had travelled to a rainy and gloomy England in February to compete for the World Club Challenge. Not bad for a team many tipped to sink after losing a few big names in 2005.

So when I got back home and armed with these thoughts, I capped a Weihenstephaner Pilsner and took a long deep sniff ... could this beer make everything seem normal again? Yep! After a few sips the world was as it was. I was still upright and breathing and my team was still going to turn up next season to do it all again. Plus one. A soft drink or a spirit just wouldn’t do that. Isn’t beer a wonderful drink?

Prof. Pilsner


Tim said...

I support Cronulla and whoever is playing Manly!

As you rightly point out, footy is just a game - beer is the soul of life

Beer Blokes said...

Thanks CB,
Those were exactly the words I was looking for! It would be nice if I could get for my soul a nice beer at the game rather than a lukewarm Toohey's New but I guess, as the Grand Final showed, you don't always get what you want!

I hope that the Sydney media can go back to normal now and remind everyone up there that they can stop pretending to hate the Storm and go back to hating Manly - the best team ... (Max Delmege's money can buy!!)

Cheers and here's to the Sharkies and the Storm for 09!!