November 29, 2009, Clyde Hotel, Carlton, Melbourne, Australia
Anson Cameron is a novellist, speaker and Cats fan who was experiencing the giddy bliss of a Geelong's premiership when he launched The Footy Almanac.
Ladies and gentlemen
When John Harms rang me and asked me to launch the Footy Almanac I said, “I’m a congenial sort of guy, I’d love to, John. But I’m also a cultured kind of guy; a devotee of Tolstoy and Cervantes and Shakespeare. So tell me something about this Footy Almanac. I’m unfamiliar with it.’
He said, ‘Anson, It’s a chronicle of every game played through the AFL season.’
I said, ‘Who’s it written for?’
He said, ‘It’s the very lowest form of literature. It’s written for losers, dweebs, fools, halfwits and toolshiners.’
I said, ‘John... it’ll sell its arse off, a book like that. You’ve just mentioned everyone I know. Not only are you writing for fools, in the time-honoured tradition of Bryce Courtney and Dan Brown... but you’re writing for an audience already addicted to the product you’re pushing.’ I said, ‘John, it seems to me you and Paul have the modus operandi and the morals of a street-corner crack dealer.’
He said, ‘Shit, Anson, they told me you were good. But I didn’t know you were this good. You’ve seen through us at a glance.’
And I saw through him at a glance, ladies and gentlemen, because when my father was on his deathbed he said to me, “Don’t waste your time writing about love, Anson. Don’t waste your time pissing around trying to crack the case on the human condition. Write about football. Football is the new Love. Football explains the human condition. If the Elizabethan poets were alive now they’d be wracking their brains and banging their bewigged scones on a wall trying to come up with a word to rhyme with Selwood. If you want to be Shakespeare in the age of Rudd, then football is your form, Anson. Tell stories that reek of liniment.”
I was, as usual, too stupid to take that advice.
But he was right. It’s true. As there’s less drama and struggle in everyday life football rises up with all of its colour and movement and tragedy and comedy to fill the void.
There was a time when other things were more important than footy... but that time was long ago in an ignorant age when we lived hand to mouth and grovelled at the feet of Kings and tyrants. We are free now. We are educated. We have money. We have time. We have all the beer we can drink. We have designated drivers. Nothing is more important than footy now... especially with the Cats winning flags at last. Forget the love of a good woman. Forget the Miles fucking Franklin Award. It’s when we see Ablett appear spinning out of a pack with the Sherrin in his mitts heading goalward we know life is worthwhile.
They say that Long John Holmes (that was Long John Holmes, not Harms, I haven’t done the stats on the co-editors) they say Long John Holmes might have launched as many as ten thousand orgasms with his prodigious and highly obedient member. And on first telling that might seem an impressive contribution to the sum of human happiness. But it seems a paltry achievement to me, when I remember that this September I saw Matthew Scarlett launch immeasurably more ecstasy than that with his big toe. Imagine that... his big toe. He made a whole city rise to its feet, palpitating at every orifice and screaming in ecstasy... with his big toe.
I talk of the toe-poke, ladies and gentlemen, I’ve watched it many times since. Call me sick. But for me, the beauty of that toe-poke will never fade.
And I’ve begun to wonder, since that glorious September day, how Johnny Turk would have reacted if our lads had arrived at Gallipoli in 1915 schooled at and skilled in the toe-poke. He would have retreated from the heights bewildered and befuddled in the face of this new dark art is my guess. Much as the St Kilda boys did. I doubt we’d be celebrating glorious defeat at Gallipoli, if we’d arrived as adepts of the toe-poke. I doubt it’s something the Ottoman could have countered.
Of all the five-hundred-page books I’ve ever read I think I’m safe in saying this is the only one that has ever climaxed in a toe-poke. And I’m glad it does. Because, though it might sound like pornography, the toe-poke, something that should be committed in a back room rather than at the MCG, we now know it as one of humanity’s grandest and noblest and most self-sacrificial achievements. And I move on from it reluctantly, for I could talk on the toe-poke all night.
And I move on to talk on my wannabe-slut sister, an otherwise intelligent and moral girl, who declares she would lie down in the sand and rut furiously with Cameron Ling on the main beach at Lorne while the Pier to Pub was being swum and feel no shame whatsoever. Isn’t that disgusting? It’s not the sort of tale I’d normally tell in public. And I apologise for it.
But I tell it just to show the depth of her delusion. She finds Lingy beautiful. She’s smitten. And the people who have written this book are similarly smitten, each in their own way, similarly deluded, similarly committed, similarly passionate, about some player or some team. And that’s the thing. That’s the thing, ladies and gentlemen.
All the Holy books were written by propagandists. By partisans. By zealots. They are histories of tribes and they tell joyfully of the destruction and scattering of their enemies. Count The Footy Almanac among their number. For if you read this book you will know that in the year of Our Lord 2009 the righteous hooped demigods from across the bay have scattered their foes as chaff before the storm.
Yes the deadening hand of objectivity might be sufficient to write about unimportant things like politics or love or war ladies and gentlemen... but it just doesn’t cut it when it comes to telling of football. If you want pallid objectivity, try the media. They write about footy as if it were a science, or a business... they pretend it isn’t romance.
What you’ve got here is the tribal scream of a hundred zealots wearing their hearts on their sleeves and putting their balls or equivalent anatomy on the line.
The great rule in writing is to Care about what you write about. In effect... to barrack for something. And the people who wrote this book do. Which is what enables them to write with such boundless passion.
And in launching the Footy Almanac I feel like I’m throwing the gates of an asylum open and releasing a throng of beautiful, horny, lunatic preachers all ready to bark their own species of madness and love from the street corners of our town.
And it makes me feel good to do so. Because football is a beautiful madness and it needs its preachers.
So Congratulations to John and Paul on the cacophony of fevered voices they have collected here. They tell of Australian Rules Football like nobody else does.
Anson Cameron is a brilliant speaker who is featured more than once on Speakola. You can book him here.