Friday, 7 September 2012

"See the Bombers drive up, up..."

Ah, September.  It's a wonderful time of year.

It's a time when we begin to shed our coats, shake off the gloom that descends upon us every winter, and the thoughts of a young Melbournian man such as myself turn to spring.  A time of rebirth and renewal, when the days get a little longer, the sky becomes a little bluer and women in sundresses begin to reappear, one by one, brightening the spirits of anyone lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one of these visions of loveliness, seemingly floating along on a gentle breeze.  Their brightly coloured dresses swirling around bodies liberated and unshackled by the oppressive demands winter places upon us all.  Instilling in a man a sensation that the world can be a beautiful place, filling him with hopes and dreams and desires and...


But I digress.  Again.

But September doesn't just mark the beginning of spring.  It also holds another special significance that, for one writing about Melbourne, is the elephant in the room.  It's a topic that has to be dealt with sooner or later, and now that this time has rolled around, there's no better time to deal with it.

Football has had over a hundred years to infiltrate the city, and in that time, like a virus, it has succeeded beyond its wildest dreams.  Spreading well beyond the borders set out for it, it seems to have permeated every aspect of Melbourne life to the point where it is no longer just a game to be played on weekends and forgotten about until next weekend.  It's in the population, where the question, 'Who do you follow?' becomes less of an ice-breaker and more of an adjunct to a standard introduction.  It's bumper stickers on cars, displaying a driver's allegiance.  It's coloured scarves as part of a Friday night's winter wardrobe.  It's ubiquitous in the news, whether it's TV, print, radio or online.  It turns ordinarily rational people into fanatics, and at times seems to be the lifeblood that binds a city together.

It even infiltrates the thoughts and deeds of local council planners, such as the person responsible for naming all these streets in this area of Berwick, who may or may not wear his heart on his sleeve, but certainly displays his football club allegiance for all to see.

And for those of you who haven't picked the visual theme I'm presenting here yet, those who don't have football running through their veins, I think I'd better dump some information.  These streets, all within walking distance of one another, are all named after members of Essendon's 1984 Premiership winning team*

Like so many of the little aspects of Melbourne that make you take a second glance and think twice about them, it's incongruity is matched by it's subtlety, it's desire to blend in with its surroundings and convince you that nothing's wrong and you should just go about your business.  For one thing, this collection of streets are not in the suburb you would immediately expect to find them in.  The signs are the standard green, rather than the red and black you would expect them to be if this was an official attempt to celebrate the deeds of these men.  And, indeed the most telling aspect, is the fact that most people don't even know these streets exist.

The Melbourne metropolitan area is spread over a large expanse, and unless you had business in Berwick, you wouldn't be aware of this collection of street names.  I only stumbled upon them one day while I was flicking through the Melway, trying to work out the best way to get to the house of a girl I used to know.  My Dad is a massive Essendon supporter and, while he recognised the names straight away, their collective appearance on street signs was news to him.

But, are you really surprised this is a thing?  Here, in footy-mad Melbourne?

For supporters of those clubs not participating in finals footy, the joke is that our favourite song at this time of year is Green Day's "Wake Me Up When September Ends."  If only we could shut ourselves off from the disappointment of our team not making the finals, bury our heads and forget that football exists until next season.

Yeah, right.  As if this city would ever let us forget.

And despite the roller-coaster ride and the pain my Saints have put me through over the years, as if I'd really want to.

*FOOTNOTE:  I've shown eleven photographs here, but there are two more streets that aren't represented by me, Clark Court and Walsh Retreat.  Interestingly, (well, interesting to me, anyway) Clark Ct is misspelled, the Essendon footballer spelling his name "Clarke".

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