I know – the title evokes a late Saturday night horror movie.
I did ponder whether there was actually anything more for me to say in 2014, or whether I’d exhausted the pool of family tales, western suburbs’ memories, and nostalgic dips into our not-so-glorious past. But it became impossible to ignore the groundswell of requests from my fans (okay, it was one text message from my sister).
I admit it's been a bit hard to get motivated when all has been quiet on the Western (Bulldogs) Front. I haven't really tuned into the occasional missive, obviously cut and pasted from the past 25 seasons and every other clubs’ communication manual, assuring us that the new recruits have settled in brilliantly and the boys are training the house down. I guess no footy club will ever send out a message: ‘We’re probably still going to be crap. Stick with us. We’ll be better. One day.’
(Or the suggestion that I heard for a Bulldogs’ bumper sticker after the epic fail of the consecutive preliminary finals defeats of 97 and 98: ‘Please don’t hate us.’)
I’m actually quite optimistic about our prospects for 2014, but mainly I've been concentrating (in line with the steps recommended in my article - being avidly discussed by psychologists everywhere - on 'Post-seasonal affective disorder') on moving on from the darkest phase of mourning Daniel Cross's departure. This has involved hastily skipping past mentions of him heroically assisting Jack Watts to his feet when he was vomiting in the Demons' Tan time-trial, and turning the page on glowing reports of him setting personal standards to Melbourne’s young Turks.
With my interest level still lukewarm at present, I haven’t memorised the names and numbers of the new recruits - apart from Marcus Bontempelli, the new number four, who will attempt to fill the shoes of our dedicated, heroic, courageous, selfless, best-and-fairest winning, 200 game champion (maybe my recovery isn’t as far along as I thought). But I can report I saw Bontempelli (we need a good nickname apart from the prosaic 'Bonty' for him) at a local coffee shop recently, sitting among a group of our young players, and looking improbably skinny. He actually made Ayce Cordy of all people look like a hulking monster. (A few years ago I sighted Gia, Murph, Mitch Hahn and Johno at the same coffee shop. Time passes...)
I did emerge, though, from my restful state of footy apathy when I read a club announcement before Christmas: our cheer squad is to be ‘reinvigorated.’ Of course, there could be sound reasons for this, but I was just a little perturbed. What does it mean if a cheer squad these days can fail to meet key performance indicators? More worryingly, could this be the start of new scrutiny and monitoring of our performances as fans?
Perhaps this process has already begun. Maybe last year, efficiency experts were quietly infiltrating Etihad stadium crowds, talking into microphones implanted in their sleeves, and preparing detailed reports for club officials to pore over.
‘Aisle 22 has again failed to meet targets in face-painted youngsters, and jester-hat numbers are significantly down.’
‘The UV (Umpire-directed Vitriol) Index has been bench-marked against competition leaders, Collingwood, and is sadly lagging.’
‘One supporter was sighted still wearing a Daniel Cross badge, and behaving in an irrational and disturbed fashion.’
Whole aisles of fans could quietly disappear, taken away for re-invigoration (in fact given some of our crowd numbers last year, maybe it’s already happened?)
I tried to convince myself that, yet again, my imagination had run away with me. Then I came across a recent AFL annual report:
The AFL, via consumer research staff, continued to support AFL clubs by various projects including:
And here's the Tragician, unaware that I am a consumer, romantically imagining that I am a fan - that the collective insanity of myself and other fans, which has seen us sit to the end of 100+ point thrashings, seasons where we only won a game, and precisely no premiership action for the past 60 years, was all about something deep, mysterious, inexplicable and tribal.
It hit me, then, like a 1980s Steve Wallis shirtfront on Brett Heady: the Tragician blog, too, must modernise. Pull its socks up. Define, and then meet, clear corporate objectives. Enter the 21st century and stop wallowing in nostalgia. Become professional. Smarten up, as my mother (who at 77 is now learning to use an Ipad, with admittedly uncertain results) would say.
Yes, the Tragician blog has been languishing behind the times, stuck in a schmaltzy time warp, and failing dismally to establish, or even understand, optimum membership product mixes.
In preparation for sweeping changes, I’ve prepared a handy glossary so that any of the uninitiated can keep up with my newly professionalised approach:
Stakeholder: a person who keeps buying a Western Bulldogs’ membership (aka a ‘Bulldog for life’)
Key stakeholder: a person who gets sent a Western Bulldogs key-ring (after becoming a Bulldog For Life).
Stakeholder engagement opportunities: we clap goals. We boo the umpires (in line with performance measures laid out in the Umpire-directed Vitriol Index).
Key strategic objective: we try to win games.
Key accountabilities: our team will try not to let the opposition score more goals than us.
Mission statement: our sponsor places their logo on the top corner of our jumper.
Programmatic specificity: training techniques designed to keep Tom Williams and Shaun Higgins out on the field.
Deliverables: our midfielders try to kick to a person who can take a mark in the forward line.
Sustainable synergy: someone shepherds for Griff when he’s streaming down the ground
Strategic alignment: Will Minson and Tom Campbell run to different areas of the forward line to capitalise on successful deliverables (see above)
Core competencies: our players do a lot of sit-ups so they can deliver our key strategic objectives
Protecting our brand: we don’t hire Steven Danks.
Growing the AFL-brand in non-core states: GWS and Gold Coast get unlimited opportunities to plunder our list
Equalization: Pass. I don’t know what that one means.
Roll on 2014!!
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.