A mythological analysis of Jobe Watson’s off-season

Ken Sakata Columnist

By Ken Sakata, Ken Sakata is a Roar Expert

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    Last winter, I went to New York on holiday. I researched a bunch of bars and restaurants on Instagram. I went to them. I had a good time. I came home to Melbourne. The end.

    My time in New York is not really a story. I returned to my artisanal ramen, craft-beer wanker life. I wrote articles in the same way. It’s almost like I never left in the first place.

    In life we want our stories to be challenging, transformative. We want something mythic.

    The mythologist Joseph Campbell is most famous for The Hero’s Journey, a work that compares various myths and legends across the world. Campbell noticed every great myth through time follows the same general shape: a hero enters into an extraordinary world, faces challenges and returns to the ordinary world, forever changed.

    It’s repeated in the stories of Moses, Jesus, Buddha. It’s been appropriated in Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, The Matrix.

    I write football. The language of football is facts. You win, you lose. By how much? This is all just information. It makes the off-season particularly hard, because there are fewer facts. This is usually when writers start writing about the MCG getting a roof.

    But this AFL off-season was special. We didn’t just get facts – we got a myth. A hero has entered into an extraordinary world, faced challenges and returned to the ordinary world, forever changed.

    Our hero is Jobe Watson.

    Act I: Departure
    We all know the images of Jobe Watson’s career. Watson breaking the tackle. Watson with the handball out of congestion. Being named captain of the club his father, Tim Watson, had captained. Kissing his Brownlow medal.

    Then, the thousands of images after the scandal broke. The sombre press conferences at Windy Hill, the media ambushes in carparks by night. The voice of his heartbroken father describing his slow descent into despair.

    Watson had a narrative that had presumably already been written. The aspirational tale of an unfit, complacent player turned Brownlow medallist. A transformation by sheer effort. Now it acquires a cruel addendum. The name Jobe Watson recalls ‘drug cheat’ and the morose public face of a systematic doping program.

    Images don’t capture the betrayal felt for paying the price for a program that he didn’t anticipate, engineer or design.

    Pain, judgment and betrayal can be a sobering call to arms. Jobe Watson didn’t go on a journey to save his club or his career, Jobe Watson needed to go on a quest to save himself.

    It is at this juncture that Watson decides to step out of the world of football, drugs and scandals to an inexplicable second act: to pour coffees halfway round the world.

    Essendon Bombers coach James Hird celebrates with Jobe Watson. Photo: Will Russell
    Act II: Initiation
    “Almond milk is a nightmare to work with,” he would later say in an interview with the Herald Sun. Jobe Watson the barista is stupefying back home.

    But he is leading a life without impossible questions. He is not the face of anyone or anything. Making coffee is about knowledge, precision and skill. Eventually you learn to make the perfect cup. The challenge is to keep making the perfect cup, one after another, for eternity.

    For Watson, working at a job defined by artistry and repetition would have been nostalgic.

    One day he is having breakfast at a café. He looks up and sees her. She’s a Dutch model. Everything in his life has been defined by effort and desire. He runs after her, holding a napkin with his phone number on it.

    It is in New York that Watson experiences the highest of human experiences – love and happiness.

    But halfway around the world, a faint siren sounds. The new season is approaching. Jobe Watson the affable barista will soon be no more. Jobe Watson the footballer must return home, having found the essence of who he is.

    Act III: Return
    So who is he, if he isn’t ‘embattled Essendon captain Jobe Watson’? He needs to breach the chasm between his old and new lives.

    He returns the Brownlow medal he worked harder than anyone else to get. He relinquishes the captaincy that was as much his honour as his cross to bear.

    This season, maybe his last, Jobe Watson is finally just a footballer. He hasn’t been one for six years. It is left to be seen whether he can be one again.

    He will no longer be Essendon’s best player, or a totem for an inflammatory story.

    We, the footballing public, want him to be at his best. All indications point to things finally getting better.

    Ken Sakata
    Ken Sakata

    Ken Sakata is a sportswriter based in Melbourne, covering where sport and pop-culture collide with a keen interest in AFL. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram @sakatarama

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    The Crowd Says (20)

    • Roar Pro

      March 7th 2017 @ 8:23am
      Marty Gleason said | March 7th 2017 @ 8:23am | ! Report

      You might be selling your own journey short. It gave you the insight to come home and see with fresh eyes a world where Jobe was wasting his God-given latte potential.

    • March 7th 2017 @ 8:47am
      Birdman said | March 7th 2017 @ 8:47am | ! Report

      footballer? yes

      drug cheat? yes

      hero? no

      • March 7th 2017 @ 1:09pm
        Aransan said | March 7th 2017 @ 1:09pm | ! Report

        Jobe Watson is a hero in the eyes of every Essendon supporter. He made a mistake in trusting the club at the time to provide him with an environment in which there could be no question over the treatment that he received. Who knows whether he received an advantage in his Brownlow year, but it suits some others to believe that he did receive an unfair advantage and that Sam Mitchell and Trent Cotchin were unquestionably the fairest and best footballers in that year. Jobe Watson did return his medal without being asked and showed great class unlike Birdman with his post.

        • March 7th 2017 @ 2:18pm
          BackYard Centurion said | March 7th 2017 @ 2:18pm | ! Report

          Was thinking of a rant – Birdman has saved me the trouble.

          Would appreciate it if there could be a private portal for posting of all articles painting Essendon/Hird/Watson as ‘hero/s’ or ‘not their fault’ or ‘someone let them down’.

          Tired of reading about drug-cheats being placed on a pedestal by the Kool-Aid drinkers.

          • March 7th 2017 @ 3:11pm
            Pete from Sydney said | March 7th 2017 @ 3:11pm | ! Report

            and we’re tired of keyboard warriors bagging the bloke…would appreciate if you’re so tired of this…save your energy by not commenting …how’s that grab you Keyboard Centurion?

            • Roar Guru

              March 7th 2017 @ 8:24pm
              Peppsy said | March 7th 2017 @ 8:24pm | ! Report

              If people like him didn’t comment, articles like these would become echo chambers of Essendon faithful, never having their ideas questioned.

              Basically it would become what the mainstream media already is in regards to the Essendon saga.

              • March 7th 2017 @ 9:23pm
                Aransan said | March 7th 2017 @ 9:23pm | ! Report

                A rant is hardly a comment, it is just baiting waiting for the bite. Watson has moved on, Essendon has moved on but we still have these snipers out there who then complain about the continuing media coverage.

              • Roar Guru

                March 7th 2017 @ 10:06pm
                Peppsy said | March 7th 2017 @ 10:06pm | ! Report

                As long as there is media coverage there will be differing opinions. If you write off someone else’s opinion as simply a rant, you are simply refusing to acknowledge their point of view, and in my opinion that makes you worse than anyone who actively seeks to incite anger.

              • March 7th 2017 @ 11:50pm
                Aransan said | March 7th 2017 @ 11:50pm | ! Report

                Have you read the earlier post:
                “Was thinking of a rant – Birdman has saved me the trouble.”

            • March 8th 2017 @ 10:40am
              BackYard Centurion said | March 8th 2017 @ 10:40am | ! Report

              Was ‘thinking’ of a rant – wonder what response an actual rant would have obtained.

              Get used to the ‘bagging’ as the drug cheat conviction is forever – and will be called out whenever anyone tries to label the 34 as heroes or victims.

              Have had enough, happy to move on, without drug cheats being lauded as heroes.

        • March 7th 2017 @ 8:37pm
          George said | March 7th 2017 @ 8:37pm | ! Report

          Why Essendon supporters see him as a hero? Definitely, club should be blamed for the environment. But to conveniently forget mentioning 100+ injections outside the club?

        • March 7th 2017 @ 8:40pm
          Birdman said | March 7th 2017 @ 8:40pm | ! Report

          nothing to do with class.

          Jobe had (still has) personal responsibility as a professional athlete and he failed to meet those standards but rather deferred to certain people in the club.

          Doesn’t make him a hero or even a victim in my book.

          I don’t take any pleasure in calling him a drug cheat but that’s the fact of the matter – anything else is revisionism by club and industry stooges that believe the ‘good bloke’ defence is more compelling than the WADA code..

          • March 8th 2017 @ 12:02am
            Aransan said | March 8th 2017 @ 12:02am | ! Report

            I have noticed a number of Hawthorn supporters calling Watson a drug cheat. Is that just because they want to insist that Watson had an unfair advantage in his Brownlow year and that otherwise Mitchell and Cotchin would have shared the Brownlow in the first instance? Nobody knows whether he had an advantage or not but after being banned from playing among the 34 players in 2016 for events that happened in 2012 it was right that he returned his medal, and he did this of his own accord.

            The Brownlow medal is given to the fairest and best player in the competition. I don’t know if supporters are aware that deliberately kneeing an opponent to give them a “corkie” is a reportable offence, I can remember an umpire some years ago warning a Port Adelaide ruckman that if he persisted with this tactic then he would be reported. Kneeing an opponent is also a dangerous practice. Unfortunately umpires are reluctant to report players for this tactic because it is hard to prove.

            Are they still a “happy” team at Hawthorn?

            • March 8th 2017 @ 9:36am
              Birdman said | March 8th 2017 @ 9:36am | ! Report

              My views as a Hawthorn member have nothing to do with Watson specifically and definitely nothing to do with the 2012 Brownlow.

              Jobe is just one of 34 drug cheats who played for the Essendon football club in 2012, none of who are victims in my book.

    • March 7th 2017 @ 9:18am
      Aransan said | March 7th 2017 @ 9:18am | ! Report

      I wouldn’t be surprised if Watson turns out to be Essendon’s best player this season, and I hope everything works out well for him and his girlfriend. I am sure she is a lot more than just a pretty face.

      • March 7th 2017 @ 11:23am
        Margotdeepa Slater-Oliphant said | March 7th 2017 @ 11:23am | ! Report

        Jobe Watson’s girl friend is much more than a model’s pretty face. She is on a student exchange program from the US and is studying Neurology.

        • March 7th 2017 @ 12:59pm
          Aransan said | March 7th 2017 @ 12:59pm | ! Report

          That was exactly my point.

    • Columnist

      March 7th 2017 @ 2:09pm
      Ryan Buckland said | March 7th 2017 @ 2:09pm | ! Report

      This is so great.

    • Editor

      March 7th 2017 @ 4:15pm
      Josh Elliott said | March 7th 2017 @ 4:15pm | ! Report

      I can’t believe you got away with ‘wanker’ in an article, Ken. They don’t even let me do that! Good read.

    • March 7th 2017 @ 6:03pm
      Philthy said | March 7th 2017 @ 6:03pm | ! Report

      Can we move on from the Essendon saga, please?

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