Some losses just break your heart, others show you where your side is at. Saturday was one of those losses, a realistic picture of a team in transition but with an upside. A lot to like, a lot to still work on.
But when your side has been waiting 58 years to win a flag, this conciliatory attitude towards losses raises great passions. Many long suffering fans of the red white and blue see any sign of acceptance of losses as part of a culture of mediocrity and failure - intrinsic to the problems of our club.
Terry Wallace famously encapsulated that view in his memorable 'I'm gonna spew up!' speech after one of those 'honourable', 'good effort', 'gee the boys tried hard', 'hey we weren't disgraced' kind of losses.
It could be said, in fact, that his compelling speech in 1996 was a turning point for our club, bringing about an era of comparative success ... we made the finals in the following three consecutive years, and in eight of the intervening 17 years. Here again many indignant fans would be saying, and not without justification, that this only proves the point: we have NOT had success, we have been failures who were unable to convert one of the five preliminary final appearances in that time into a grand final appearance.
This was the view of a couple of frustrated fans who rang into the radio to take issue with Leigh Matthews' measured assessment that the Dogs had done well in Saturday's five goal loss to Freo. The callers pointed out that with our less than glorious history, any complacency about our performance is unjustified. Leigh responded, with all the reasonableness of one who's played and coached in an amount of premiership teams that seems, well, greedy to the rest of us, that not every club is in premiership contention every year, all the time. Within the context of 'where we're at', he maintained that we'd done ok.
I'm with Leigh on this one, yet I know how easily satisfied our fans, including me, can be with 'good efforts'. But I liked what I saw, and I still think you can recognise the good in a performance while acknowledging how far there is to go.
If I needed any reinforcement of that view, it came through the ghastly one sided slaughter that posed as a 'match' between Essendon and Melbourne.
In some ways the Dees' atrocious start to the season is the parallel universe every pessimistic Bulldog fan (at least those closely related to the Bulldog Tragician) feared when scanning the early weeks of the fixture. Whereas we have emerged with one exciting and unexpected win, and a respectable loss with signs of improvement, the Dees have been humiliated in both their matches.
The ashen face of a coach on the edge...the nightmarish way a hiding plays out, where every conceivable bounce of the ball goes wrong..seeing a lack of confidence and belief run through a team like a cancer...the tears of the despairing and loyal fans who stayed to the end, yet maybe only two weeks ago entertained hopes that their side was at least heading in the right direction...having seen all of these in my Bulldog-supporting career too many times, yep, I think I'll side with Leigh and say that on Saturday, we lost with some degree of honour.
As for the Essendon fans who could not just be content to revel in a 140 point + victory, and instead thought it might be fun to rush over to the race to further berate and jeer a shellschocked bunch of kids..there are many things I love about football is not one of them.
About the Bulldog Tragician
The Tragician blog began in 2013 as a way of recording what it is like to barrack for a perennially unsuccessful team - the AFL team, the Western Bulldogs.