Collingwood’s Catbird Seat

Collingwood Football Club’s boast in their theme song that the ‘Premiership is a cakewalk’ is not borne out by recent history. In my 50 plus year lifetime, they have been runners up 8 times and won 2 premierships, as compared to the 11 they won in a 36 year period leading up to 1936.

However, this boast is, when compared to that of other AFL clubs, not particularly extravagant. You can see the comparisons here:

AFL Club Songs Ranked by Ambition and Boastfulness

Rather than Cakewalks, Collingwood seems more preoccupied at the moment by what might be called a ‘Catbird Seat’.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines this term as meaning:

‘a position of great prominence or advantage’

I am particularly interested in the use of this 1940s American idiom in relation to the Australian context of the Collingwood Football Club because of the recent eruption of infighting between the recently installed president and board on one hand, and an alternative candidate for club president on the other.

It becomes particularly interesting because the alternative candidate appears to be heavily backed by the immediate past president of Collingwood, the extremely annoying and oafish looking Eddie Maguire, who was forced to step down as president several months ago after a long reign, brought to an undignified end due to various club cultural shortcomings which had come to light, as well as a list management debacle which has caused the club to turn from recent premiership contenders into cellar dwellers virtually overnight.

Eddie Maguire is clearly sitting in the catbird seat, or at least thinks he is. He believes that he can force the newly installed president out, and replace him and a large chunk of the club board with his own proteges.

This would be to ignore the sad reality that the problems faced by the Collingwood Football Club at the moment are ones which occurred on Eddie’s watch, and that turning back to him and those of his ilk would not give the current board a chance to move on from his plethora of mistakes, but rather to allow them to be repeated.

However, Collingwood supporters are rarely known for their Nobel Prize nominations, or for the scholarly tomes they produce on the lessons of history. We probably should be grateful for that.

The phrase itself first emerged in a 1942 short story by the American humorist James Thurber, which features a battle of wits between the manipulative Mrs Barrows, who constantly brays out ‘Are you sitting in the catbird seat?’ and the mild mannered Mr Martin, the latest target of her office machinations. As it turns out, Mrs Barrows is not, as she thinks, in the catbird seat, and is tricked by Mr Martin into making accusations which cause her to be perceived by their mutual employer as paranoid to the point of insane. Perhaps there is a lesson there for Eddie Maguire.

You should read some Thurber, starting with The Catbird Seat. It is laugh out loud funny, in a rather wicked way, and far more entertaining than anything going on inside the Collingwood Football Club.

Except of course on those occasions when Collingwood loses an AFL Grand Final and causes great existentialist suffering to the myriad legion of their dentally challenged supporters. That of course is always great entertainment.

Published by Ernest Zanatta

Narrow minded Italian Catholic Conservative Peasant from Footscray.

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