It’s getting to that time of year. No, not Christmas—though it’s now less than three months away (bet you are glad for the reminder!). I am talking about something that many Aussies are far more excited about, that day in September when our various football codes hold their Grand Finals.
Whether it is Aussie Rules or Rugby—League or Union—you can tell when we are getting close to finals season. People who have never given any hint that they know the difference between a try and a behind are suddenly swaddled in their team colours, and bringing up their team’s finals prospects every chance they get.
To be clear, I am not one to throw any stones, I didn’t know that my team, Melbourne, was a chance for finals until almost half way into the season. It’s not that I only want to watch when we are willing, I try not to be a fair-weather fan, I never leave a game until the final siren no matter how much of a flogging we are getting.
I am definitely not a footy fanatic; I can’t recite statistics or player names and numbers, and I am doing well if I get to more than one game a year. The truth is, I usually only know what is going on with my team by catching snippets of the news, or having someone walk up to me, grinning, and yelling, “How about those Dees!?”
Let the Good Times Roll
Of course, it’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement when your team does start hitting the headlines for the right reasons. My team, the Melbourne Demons are particularly good at providing a roller coaster of emotions—on their day they play the best brand of footy you’ll ever see, but when they are bad…well, they are horrid.
But, there is always just enough promise to keep you coming back, telling yourself this time they will go all the way, that this time it’s the real deal. No matter how many times you have been disappointed, and promised yourself I wouldn’t take it that seriously ever again, it has a way of sneaking past your defences and, once more, you find yourself dragging out the old scarf and jumper—making sure everyone knows where your loyalties lay.
If I were being completely honest, I can’t say I feel too much guilt about it. It’s the same approach taken by thousands of other fans who still get enjoyment from the game, support their team financially as much as possible, and are perfectly content with their level of engagement. They don’t feel that they are really losing out on anything. However, if we pause to reflect a little, we might have to admit that perhaps we are denying ourselves the full experience.
One thing that I have noticed, both at games and on social media, there is a real sense of community for the die-hard fans who come week after week. You get the feeling that many of them have gotten to know each other, and even that the players have become familiar faces, too. You can see that many have been whole journey together, through the ups and downs, that this is something more to them than something to tune into from time to time.
Obviously, a lot of people don’t see sport as something they would want to become so invested in. I can understand that, I have so many other things in my life demanding my time and attention. I don’t think I will ever be the sort of fan that goes to every game, as well as all the club events, or can tell you who kicked the most behinds in 1967.
But, I think there is a lesson in that level of devotion for all of us. What’s true of sport is true of everything else in life, whether it is faith or relationships or your own personal passion. There are lots reasons to hold back from fully committing to something. It might be time, or money, or the effort it takes to be part of something. It might even be that when you have been hurt, keeping your distance or acting casual so no one know how much you actually care is a form of self preservation.
In the end, unless you go all in, unless you are around for the ups as well as the downs, and let yourself care about something so much you can be hurt—well, then you’ll always be missing out on everything it can possibly be.
David Goodwin is the Editor of The Salvation Army’s magazine,War Cry. He is also a cricket tragic, and an unapologetic geek.
David Goodwin's archive of articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/david-goodwin.html