On the weekend just gone, I ran Workology Co’s weekly Facebook Live session.

Following on from the first blog of the month, Hey there Leader, are you managing your own well-being?, during the Live presentation I ran through an exercise to help combat negative stress.

You can check the video out here.

For the exercise, I identified four current stresses I was facing. #4 was the upcoming AFL game between my team, the Carlton Blues vs everyone’s favourite underdog Premiers, the Western Bulldogs.

I mentioned I was stressed, yes, but that I didn’t expect the Bluebaggers to win. I also noted that because the outcome was outside of my control, I should simply choose to respond to the stress by working my way through the stress. Remembering my favourite Yogic teaching, ‘this too shall pass’.

Great advice Ali.

But guess what? We won! Unexpectedly and in decisive fashion, we actually won each of the  four quarters of footy for the first time in eons; we didn’t rely solely on our Captain Marvel Paddy Cripps; and we played like a team as opposed to a group of individuals wearing the same jumper.

The fact I got to scream EDDDIIEEE a few times to herald the remarkable skills and four goals of my favourite player (returned home after too long spent at a rival club), was the icing on the cake.

BONUS: Carlton are in the Top 8 for the first time in so long, there aren’t available records showing when the last time occurred. Ok, there probably are, but I couldn’t find them. I just know it was circa PGH (pre grey hairs).

Today I am still smiling and mentioning the victory as often as I can.  Which, if I am honest, is probably a tad over the top, given we are only talking about a Round 6 win.

Realising this, I started to wonder: Why do I feel so bloomin happy that a group of men, some young enough to be my sons, won a footy game?

With two of the people I love most in the world, wearing our colours. At one of the best stadiums in the world, on one of the best game days ever. Elimination Final 2013 Blues (116) defeat Richmond Tigers (95).

Turns out, there are many reasons why I feel this way. Scientifically proven ones to boot. (See what I did there?)

Reasons why I can’t stop grinning like a loon

1.      Connection.

It is the buzz word of the moment, especially for us Melbournians in ISO 2.0.  

And supporting a sporting team is a proven form of connection.

Melbourne University Professor Joy Damousi, and Honorary Fellow John Cash, wrote a book on this very subject, Footy Passions, and found…

‘… following footy provided connections often unavailable elsewhere, such as bonding to a community, a wider sense of the collective and connecting with family and friends. This engendered a fundamental sense of belonging.’

I have been a Carlton supporter for 40 years, from when I was a kid growing up in Tassie who could only listen to the games over the radio, with occasional trips to Melbourne to see the real thing.

I spent the Saturday afternoons of my teenage years, baking whilst I listened to the games; on the days we lost, my Saturday nights were spent locked up in my room wallowing.

Listening to the games and celebrating the wins (there were a lot back then -it was the 80s. #threepremierships) made me feel I was part of something much bigger than my little corner of the world.

As an adult living in Melbourne, the feeling from being at a game and screaming “BALL” as loud as you can with 40 000+ other Bluebaggers, is incomparable. I feel like a member of a (navy blue and white) tribe and screaming out “DA DA DA DA DAAA” when we win brings me pure, unadulterated joy.

Side note: I once met the son of a former certain Club President, who upon hearing me talk about ‘us’, disdainfully turned in my general direction and spat out “I really hate it when people talk about the club as ‘we’”.

Newsflash: clubs cannot exist without supporters. Otherwise it’s just a bunch of young men running around a field with an oval shaped ball. I think the fact Channel Seven has introduced ‘crowd noise’ to games after that first COVID round of empty stadiums, confirms how important supporters are to the game.

Connection is uber-important during lockdown times like these.

So, if watching a game of footy whilst sitting alone* in my ISO loungeroom can help me feel connected to the other 65000 plus Carlton Club members, then surely that is a win: win?

2.      Dopamine – the feel-good chemical

According to my extensive research (Ok, quick google search), when we watch ‘our’ team play, much of the enjoyment we derive can be traced back to that feel-good chemical, dopamine.

Dopamine is responsible for that thrill you get when you ride rollercoasters (unless you are my husband or sister-in-law), and this special neurotransmitter is directly responsible for regulating the brain’s reward and pleasure centres.

‘Conversely, when your team performs poorly or loses, your brain produces cortisol, a hormone made in your adrenal glands that your body releases when you’re under stress.’ according to this article.

In my experience, just watching the game can produce cortisol. Especially in those one-point decider games such as Carlton’s recent victory over the Bombers.

Final siren sounds

“Sometimes it can be easy to get caught up in the moment on game day. Emotions can get escalated pretty quickly with a win or loss. In the end, we need to remember that sports are meant to be for entertainment purposes, as an outlet to take our minds off the stressors and struggles we have in the real world, not add to them.” (NBC article)

Sound advice for these crazy times.

Although did I mention we are in the top 8?

*To my eternal shame, my daughter chose to support her father’s footy team rather than mine. Thus, whilst I am not entirely alone in the house during ISO 2.0, they aren’t watching the game with me. Unless it is against the Roos.