“You’re a bum, you’re a punk, you’re an old slut on junk”
-Fairytale of New York, The Pogues
The Pogues and Donleavy and Joyce and Yeats and all the other fine Irish wordsmiths of today and yesterday have made a habit of accurate conveyance and though none would be aware of Willie Mason and his infantile attitude towards life, the Great Fellowship of the Irish Poet managed to find the right words to sum it all up. Mason is a bum and a punk and an old publicity slut whose junk is seeing his strange head and uncouth diatribes in the newspapers and on television screens. With the mental capabilities of a Big Brother contestant, the desperation of a low-rent ice addict and the loyalty of the common weasel, Mason pounds through life with complete disregard for all and sundry. Willie cares about nobody but Willie. Well, he has backed himself into a nasty corner now. And he would want to have lawyers, guns and money at the ready because that is what he is going to need.
The sun shines bright today as it does most of this time of year. Spring is in the air and the endless hope of summer nights sits alluringly on the horizon. Birds chirp, bees bang and the drums of love beat ever so loud. Those who hibernate for the winter poke their heads out. It is October. And I couldn’t be more depressed.
“Oh Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling From glen to glen and down the mountain side The summer’s gone, and all the flowers are dying ‘Tis you, ‘tis you must go and I must bide”
This week the pipes called for Frank Hyde, one of rugby league’s most iconic figures and truest gentlemen. God has always had a queer sense of humour and thought nothing of taking The rugby league legend in the game’s most important week. The Almighty decided ninety was enough Grand Finals of the Greatest Game of All for Frank and it was time for him to take the next train to Clarksville. First and only stop, The Pearly Gates. He was, of course, a Catholic and it is straight to the top for such a fine and upstanding Catholic with a heart for rugby league and a voice for the common man.
I had high hopes for this season. I always do. Call it blind optimism or call it The Faith, it doesn’t bother me. If you don’t believe you are a winner you never will be. Just ask the losers in Cronulla and Parramatta and Buffalo and Boston. Not that they would admit it. But deep down I can only assume they are aware of their individual contributions to the failures of their local boys in the big time.
It will be a tough day to forget, April 10 in this Year of Our Lord 2007. It was the day we all got the Dear John letter that we knew was inevitable but we felt was a lifetime away. Word was sent down the line that Andrew Johns had played his last game of rugby league, its greatest exponent forced into a premature retirement by a dicky neck that could leave him in a wheelchair. The kid with all the skills and the heart of a jaded lioness, forever enthusiastic and forever brilliant, has strapped on a pair of boots for the last time and sooner or later, we are all going to have to deal with it in some manner, no matter how perverted.
Craig Fitzgibbon is a bum and if I had my way he would be whipped like a mangy dog until he bled from both ears and had contrition flowing from his swollen mouth like a river of sorrow.
I have seen a lot as a professional gambler. There is not much that shocks me. Being in the pit day in and day out is a tough life but it hardens you and it is a path well worth traveling for those with natural gambling instincts and an eager sense of perspective. The whims of the Gambling Gods and the swings of the game rarely rattle the roost these days. It is a tough game and you can’t expect to win them all. You can’t even expect to win the bets you should. Hell, those in charge have a wicked and vile sense of humour and they get their kicks from brutal defeats and weird beatings.
“The torch we’ll always carry
For our nations’s golden child
And even though we try
The truth brings us to tears
All the words cannot express
The joy you brought us through the years”
- Elton John, Candle In The Wind (Princess Diana Tribute)
The sad and lonely mushiness of winter tends to magnify the desolation and the destitution, news that in spring or summer or winter would illicit but a few moments of reflection, hurls you into the deep funk of depression. It really should come as no surprise that suicide is a particularly popular finale in Scandinavia. When the wire lights up and delivers news both unexpected and sad and definitively final, the murky grey skyline acts as a mirror, reflecting and magnifying the torrents of melancholy that flow within. The road seems long and straight and endless and paved with the bones of heroes come and gone…
Deep in the throes of a wild night of drink and good times and attractive women, I felt the need for relief. So off to the bathroom of the crowded Hilton bar it was, as one does. The bathroom was surprisingly deserted but as is etiquette in these situations, I moved along to the far side of the urinal- the far right- to get the business done. A rumble at the door and who is it but none other than an old political adversary, a man I have tangled with on many a time back in the day. He dually took his spot on far left. Entirely appropriate. There was plenty of history there, plenty of student politics stoushes that were nothing more than sport in all reality. Your troublemaking author ran a ticket called The Right Way, a vain yet amusing attempt to stomp the lefty in the head and get their hand off the till. We played it hard and tough in a none-too-welcoming environment, highlighting the failures of others and hammering some tough-to-sell policies. He would get his boys in power to threaten action and would yell at high volume of the plight of refugees and the criminality of voluntary student unionism and the dark evil that resided in the soul of those on the right, yours truly included. He’d put up posters and Old Punt would rip them down. We’d debate, we’d argue, we’d stand toe-to-toe. Hell, we even threw hands. And there we stood, many years later, two aging men with heavy testicles, him on the left and me on the right, politics and six metres of stainless steel urinal between us.
And so we continue. The path has been mapped, decisions have been made and all that is left to do is get the right words in the right order. For purposes of proper conveyance and The Edge, of course. It is important to exist in complete solitude at this time of year. Something like a week long hibernation to clear the mind for the wild ride ahead; the run home. It is time to find an abandoned fishing shack somewhere in the hills off a beaten dirt track and bring only red wine, an esky full of ham and onion sandwiches and all the rugby league information you need. Folders full of statistics, an armory of tapes, browned copies of Big League, the words and wisdom of your favourite analysts…
There are some folk who always come through with the goods when you need them. Even when they don’t realise they are being so magnanimous. Mulling over some words for this weeks piece, fighting the fear of the blank page in unfamiliar surroundings, old Pops Tedeschi- a man of reserved wit and unparalleled generosity- came out with “you can’t make a sponge cake with sour cream”. Ah, very true O wise one. And it hit the nut of the problem right in the heart. They were the words I was after. I was off. He had summed up the divide between the contenders and the pretenders and all that was left was to plow through the teams and lay the Tedeschi Assessment on them.