Sunday, 21 September 2014

Living the Creed


"We, the Players and Management of the Port Adelaide Football Club, accept the heritage which players and administrators have passed down to us; in so doing we do not intend to rest in idleness but shall strive with all our power to further this Club's unexcelled achievements.

To do this we believe there is great merit and noble achievements in winning a premiership.

To be successful, each of us must be active, aggressive and devoted to this cause. We agree that success is well within our reach and have confidence that each member of both the team and management will suffer personal sacrifices for the common end.

Also we know that, should we after striving to our utmost and giving our everything, still not be successful, our efforts will become a further part of this Club's enviable tradition.

Finally, we concede that there can be honour in defeat, but to each of us, honourable defeat of our Club and guernsey can come only after human endeavour on the playing field is completely exhausted."

Fos Williams, 1962

It is no secret that the things I love most in life are two of the most divided past times: politics and sport.  I love Port Adelaide Football Club, and while most readers may not know or care about its fortunes: its wins and losses, its players, its coaches, its fans, or the fact that our season ended last night, this is not just a story about sport. Nor is this your typical sports story. We did not triumph in the big game, against a fierce rival, in the last minute.

No, this story is about me, and my community.

One day when I die, there will be a Port Adelaide Football Club scarf draped over my coffin.

I first thought about this morbid motif at the beginning of 2011. This was the height of my depressive illness. I would picture my death and plan my funeral to the last detail. That scarf would go with me I thought, because it was one of the only things I cared about anymore. Yes, it seems strange to care about a football team when you have nothing left, but sometimes you have to hold on to small things.

Not coincidentally it was at this time too that the media were quick to deem my club '...irrelevant...' after several heavy defeats, poor financial management, and the loss of its core supporter base. This was not without justification. Port Adelaide were rotten to the core in the final years of Mark Williams, and it only got worse under Matthew Primus. The club was selfish, aimless, inexperienced, battered, bruised and psychologically damaged after living through the worst kind of infamy. Much like this supporter.

In September 2012 after another horrible season where Primus was sacked, the worst kind of tragedy occurred. Respected player and much loved club man, John McCarthy fell to his death during the end of season trip. I wondered aloud if things could get much worse. I'll be honest and say that McCarthy wasn't my favourite player at the club, and he only played a year with us, but I really thought it would be the end of our club. From 2007 to that ugly point, the club had shown no resilence whatsoever. We were done. Our mental demons would scar us for life.

Just as my fortunes began to turn, so did Port Adelaide's. Just four weeks after the death of McCarthy, financial commentator and breakfast TV host, David Koch, became President of our club. I continue to loathe and show visible disdain for Koch the personality, but the change he and the then new Chief Executive Officer, Keith Thomas, helped foster has transformed our club. The best move those two men ever made was to appoint a new coach of the team.

Just two months before I moved out of home, Ken Hinkley arrived at our football club. He promised that there would be no more excuses for poor performance, that the club would fight to win back the respect of the club's supporters and the whole competition. I was dubious, I must admit. Throughout our five years in the wilderness, the club talked about living The Creed, but the ideals it encouraged blew away like it was caught in a windstorm.

Hinkley started to raise the bar without a ball being kicked.

We will never give up because we are Port Adelaide

This catch cry struck me because of its simplicity and boldness.

It is pretty easy to say a football team 'will never give up' but how do you measure tenacity on a football field? Everybody (supposedly) tries hard. Every man aims to get the best out of himself. This claim essentially aimed to follow The Creed, but if that did not resonate with the club for five years what else do you do? You appoint a captain who embodies leadership, perseverance and skill. A kid who lost his father at 16, did it tough in Victoria growing up, but who still loved the club enough to re-sign a contract in its darkest hour, despite the temptation to be closer to his family. You play a risky, fast paced, highly skillful game. Then you really mean it when you say 'We will never give up because we are Port Adelaide.'

That's exactly what happened last year, as we played a highly entertaining game of football and came back from impossible positions in games again and again. Then we surprised everyone by making the semi finals before we lost to an experienced Geelong, who had dominated the competition for longer than our 5 year mental sabbatical.

The questions that needed to be answered this year were whether Port Adelaide was more than a flash in the pan? Was there more than fast running and flashy play? Was there substance behind this polished exterior? Could we back it up? I was optimistic, but I was not certain.

I should not have worried. We were top of the ladder before a mid season slump, eventually finishing fifth. Ever the pragmatist, I worried still. You see if you finish in the first four at the end of year, your team gets a second chance if you lose the first game. We lost our last game of our season to finish fifth, meaning we did not get that chance. To win the competition the team had to win all four finals. No team has done that before.

Yet again I thought we were gone. As I wrote on my Facebook page at the time:
AFL is fair and cruel all at once. We might survive a few more weeks, but I think that's the year gone... I feel like I played the game today, and this kick in the guts will likely last another 12 months until I try to will my team towards a redemptive quest in 2015...I hope I am proven wrong and we do defeat four highly skilled opponents in four weeks. I will continue to wish that we do. Until then we will all continue to fight on, because we don't have any other option, for #weareportadelaide.
Then once again, we reached the semi final last week, playing away from home against a tough opponent. We were in an impossible position, 5 goals down just before half time, going on to win by 4 goals at the end. This was truly living Hinkley's ethos: We Never, Ever, Gave Up. We Were Port Adelaide.

Then last night we played the reigning premier, and the favourites to win this year's competition too. The whole game we were outclassed by an opponent who knew how to take its chances and had more experience. Then with 10 minutes to go in the game, I literally ignored Hinkley:

I. Gave. Up.

The players didn't. We kicked 4 goals in 8 minutes, but we failed to kick the last one we needed. We lost by 3 points. I cried for a good ten minutes and it made me think of that Facebook post I wrote before the finals:
People may wonder why I continue to post here so regularly about football, and not understand how I, a fairly rigid intellectual type, can take sport so seriously.

A lifetime of unfulfilled hopes and dreams are invested in a group of 40 men, all of whom I have absolutely no control over...

Port Adelaide Football Club is my team for so may reasons, but like them 'I will never ever give up', even if I see our appointed representative on that dais at the MCG in September/October because I will always desire more. AFL dominates my life because it is the only 'active' outlet I have where there are variables. When I cry with MY players, I really am crying. When I cheer, I am pleading for more, even though I, myself, cannot actually give more. I need the shared bond of the 'Port Adelaide Creed'. It is part of the fabric of my life in a way that no one else will be able to comprehend.

The players, coaches, management, and its other supporters have followed The Hinkley Mantra. Like my beloved team who has performed so bravely over the past two years I have learnt that I must Never, Ever, Give Up. This is what the Port Adelaide community is all about. They are my people. This is my tribe. The club will be better next year.

How do I know this?

We all live the Port Adelaide Creed. That I can now say with unwavering certainty. 

Saturday, 6 September 2014

My Horrible Hypocrisy

About two weeks ago I finally got the courage to pursue a young lady who I thought could be Amazing Date Material (ADM). Based on brief snippets of her and random interactions totaltling about 10 minutes of my entire life, I deemed based on superficial investigation that she ticked all my boxes. ADM appeared to be smart, funny, savvy, intriguing, a little dangerous, and oh so goddamn beautiful. This 10 minutes period had occurred across a timeline of roughly a year. When I last saw ADM briefly I thought I would try to test the waters, and see if she was interested in more than brief snippets of conversation. Unfortunately, and somewhat predictably, things were pleasant but ADM made things abundantly clear she wasn't interested in detailed conversation, let alone a date, even though she was indeed single. Chalk another rejection up on my wall.

I am incredibly insecure about my disability, so of course when I get rejected in the manner above I always go to the default excuse, 'I have everything going for me except my disability. She would date me if I wasn't in a wheelchair.'

That same week I was watching an episode of The Dreamhouse, a show about three intellectually disabled people living independently in a share house. This episode revolved around planning a housewarming party. During this process Kirk, (who has autism) told his roommate Justin (who has Down Syndrome) that he didn't want any girls with Down Syndrome at the party. Kirk was going to use the party as a platform to 'find a girlfriend'. His girlfriend must be 'normal' and not have a disability. This is a desire I fully understand and a value which I hold. It is something which I hate about myself, but it is a value, which to me is a necessary evil.

It was not always this way. The very first girl I fell madly in love with was also physically disabled. At the time that we met My First Love (MFL) was not as physically capable as I was. I fell in love with her from the moment that we met, and though we were close friends I relentlessly pursued MFL for the best part of two and half years. Every chance I had, I would declare my love for MFL begging and pleading for her to date me. MFL would politely say no every single time ostensibly because I was disabled, and that having a partnership in which both members were disabled would not work for her because of a multitude of reasons.

Throughout those two and half years I was incensed. MFL was 'rejecting' me over something I could not control, and unlike previous women who had scorned me based on my disability, she was disabled also. I loved her so much that I thought my heart would explode, but there was a part of me that also hated her just as much. MFL was a fucking hypocrite! MFL would hate it if a cute boy rejected her based on her disability alone. I was emotional. I could not see the logic behind MFL's choice. And now I'm just like her.

About 6 months after I could no longer take anymore rejection MFL explained her logic to me. She asked me to imagine several milestones that comprise a 'typical' relationship.

How would we ever spontaneously kiss If we wanted to? Or for that matter how would we be able to show any form of physical affection to one another without an outsider? Todd, I know that you've told me that you need lots of physical affection if you were to be in a relationship (she was right). How would that work between us?

How would we have sex without an outsider present in the room to position us correctly? Even if we could do that by ourselves, how could we have sex that would be fulfilling for both of us?

How could we spend a quiet day of solitude, just the two of us without something going wrong with either person? Even if it is just to go to the toliet? Between us, we have difficulty preparing food, for example, so how could we have a private meal?

Todd, these are some of the things that you say you want to have in a relationship (right again), and I want some of those things too. You want a private world where it is just you and your girlfriend a lot of time (Yes I do). We just could not do that. 

Truth be told, I thought about that conversation for weeks and months after and I could only come up with one legitimate response to answer all of those questions.

'I have absolutely no fucking idea.'

And that hurts. It hurts my sense of justice and fairness. It goes against everything I try to teach the community about disability. But it is a pragmatic decision for my emotional and sexual wellbeing.

Because I have a disability I know how hard it is to have a 'conventional' romantic relationship. By any measure I have not had one yet. Times those difficulties I have by two and I just don't see how a relationship with another person with a disability could work for me.

People will disagree with me. Some are probably offended by my assertions. Many will point to what they deem to be 'successful' relationships between two people with disabilities. In my case though, I like MFL before me, know now exactly what I want in a potential partner. So, in my quest to achieve my ultimate goal, I have chosen to make this decision, even if I hate myself for it.

I am the ultimate crippled hypocrite.

Monday, 1 September 2014

My 100 Favourite Films of All Time (Updated)

I first made the list of My 100 Favourite Films in 2012. More than two and half years later I decided it was time to revise the entries. Both this and future revisions are dedicated to my late friend who inspired me to write the list in the first place. Each time I'm in the middle of a debate about cinema I think of her. I hope she and Roger are having knock down, drag them out fights in the afterlife.

This list heavily favours musicals, documentaries and dramas because this list fits my personal taste. If you think a worthy film is missing from the list, you would be wrong.

I'm not going to link to every film because it requires too much effort. I suggest you use IMDb search instead.

In no particular order:

25th Hour (2002)
Crooklyn (1994)
Bamboozled (2000)
A Dangerous Method (2011)
Bandslam (2009)
A Streetcar Named Desire (1952)
Life Itself (2014)
All About Eve (1949)
Amadeus (1984)
On the Town (1949)
The Goodbye Girl (1977)
Apocalypse Now (1979)
Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Journey Into the Apocalypse (1991)
The Godfather (1972) and Part II (1974)
Her (2013)
Bob Roberts (1992)
Broadcast News (1987)
Defending Your Life (1991)
Shattered Glass (2003)
Babes in Arms (1939)

The Master (2012)
Short Term 12 (2013)

Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Elliot Spitzer (2010)
Enron: The Smartest Guys In the Room (2005)
Stuck in Love (2012)
My Fair Lady (1964)
Splendor in the Grass (1961)
East of Eden (1955)
The Fault in Our Stars (2014)
Coming Home (1978)
The Spectacular Now (2012)

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
Almost Famous (2000)
Meet Me In St Louis (1945)
Resterpo (2009)
Election (1999)
Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982)
Like Crazy (2011)
Balibo (2009)
That's Entertainment (1978)
Why We Fight (2005)
Goodbye, First Love (2011)
Reagan (2011)
JFK (1991)
Nixon (1995)
W. (2008)
Platoon (1986)
Begin Again (2013)
Love, and Other Impossible Pursuits (2009)
The Known Unknown (2013)
The Fog of War (2003)
Malcolm X (1992)
A Separation (2011)
The Verdict (1982)
Network (1976)
All The President’s Men (1976)
Lost and Delirious (2001)
Ordinary People (1980)
Primary Colors (1998)
The Candidate (1972)
Foxfire (2012)
Quiz Show (1994)
Raging Bull (1980)
GoodFellas (1990)
Casino (1995)
Dreamgirls (2006)

Capturing the Friedmans (2003)
Armour (2012)
12 Angry Men (1957)
Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God (2012)
Blue is the Warmest Colour (2013)
The War Room (1993)
Sleeping Beauty (2011)
Singin' in the Rain (1952)
The Naked Gun (1988) 2.5 (1991) 33.3 (1994)
The Paper Chase (1973)
A Star is Born (1954)
The Ides of March (2011)
Summer Stock (1955)
The Queen (2006)
The Deal (2003)
The Squid and the Whale (2005)
Easy A (2010)
United 93 (2006)
Wit (2001)
Wonder Boys (2000)

Hoop Dreams (1994)
Play it Again Sam (1972)
Annie Hall (1979)
Bullets Over Broadway (1994)
Crimes and Misdemeanours (1989)
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
Deconstructing Harry (1997)
Manhattan (1979)
Match Point (2005)

You can find reviews to some of these movies here.