By Travis Shueard
It’s hard to be a sports fan—the constant need to defend your team from unworthy upstarts who follow the rival team of your club, the obligatory pricey membership sapping away your hard earned beer money, the almost obsessive compulsive desire to discover every single last scrap of detail about your beloved club, just in case you meet a bigger fan than yourself (impossible, I know).
For those not in the know, and a plague upon your house if you aren’t, my beloved team is the Port Adelaide Football Club. My Lord, the frenzy that I work myself into as the silver, black and teal take to the turf of Adelaide Oval is incredible. When the Showdown between Port and the diabolical Adelaide Crows is upon this city, I become a soldier in a hidden war; the shadow war to prevent the corrupt institution that is the Crows from brainwashing any more young’uns who don’t know about the heroics of past warriors like Gavin Wanganeen, Matthew Primus, Warren Tredrea and Josh Francou. The campaign that myself and 50 000+ other Port members conduct to ensure the chardonnay sipping, fruit tingle lovin’ Crows don’t take over our fair city.
It wasn’t always this way, and this brings me to my point of how it can be hard to be a sports fan. You become, to tenuously relate this article to the sin of gluttony, a glutton for punishment. As a Port fan, it hasn’t always been this easy. In our 144 year history, Port Adelaide has had few hard times, but by the Gods of Alberton, were the years between 2007 and 2013 horrible. Missing finals every year. Barely registering wins. Coaches being ignominiously sacked. Prize picks getting up and walking to bigger and richer clubs. Barely surviving by the skin of our teeth financially. It was as if Australia forgot that we (yes, we!) were Champions of Australia in 1910, ’13 and ’14.
If you support a badly performing team like Port was in the AFL, or other sports codes, like the Chicago Cubs, or the Jacksonville Jaguars (the one fan they have must love pain), or West Ham United, you will understand where I’m coming from. The years where you have such hope, such promise for the future, only to have them come crashing down from Round 1. You endure jeers and rants from fans of average teams, such as the Detroit Tigers, the Oakland Raiders or Sunderland. There is nothing worse than fans of vanilla ice cream teams tormenting you. But you stick with them. You stoically endure. You stand your ground and bring forth your team’s glorious and ever dimming history as a defence, and ignore the horrible present-day evidence. Your club has culture! Tradition! Success! This humbling of a giant is only temporary!
You, with your club’s diminishing fan base, go to their games, and wave your flag and scream yourself hoarse as rookies bring new blood to the club. Then you cry in agony as an injury forces them out of the season. You cope with each thrashing with your beloved beer, and talk with venerable club elders about the ‘good ol’ days’ that you can’t personally remember but are certain happened.
Years drag on and the culture of punishment becomes ingrained into your psyche. When your club appears on the television you involuntarily cringe while you simultaneously smile in nervous hope. Your team has gained exciting new monikers in the recent past like ‘Port Chokers’, or ‘9thmond’, or ‘St. Louis Lambs’. It has become almost a habit to deactivate your social media come game time, and keep it deactivated until the new week starts.
So much torture has come your way. Good players never perform. Losses outweigh your club’s wins. The rattling of the money tin has become a way to gather finances for your club rather than corporate sponsors. The club grinds out a hard-fought and hard-won loss each and every time. Your club’s immediate rival floozies around in fancy cars with fancy players and fancy trophies. The torture you’ve endured has given you scars. You reason with yourself that no one is going to mind if you change your mind and support another team. You begin tentatively looking at other clubs. Just a small glance. Suddenly, Liverpool looks attractive. Frighteningly, you begin to think the New England Patriots are cool. Almost obscenely, you consider the Crows. Almost.
God works in mysterious ways, however. A new coach. A star player signing on another year. As you look up from your Jesuit self-flagellation upon your club’s scarf, you shake your head in denial. You’ve heard these lies, these LIES, before. Too many times has your hope been throttled by sadistic bastards who ensnared you with your club colours.
But a win. A win against a favourite! You wipe the ash from your face, remove the sackcloth and put down your lash. You try to smile but it’s not enough. Another win. Your teeth show in a radiant smile. The coach runs the team like an Army battalion. Corporate sponsors jump on board. You suddenly find that your years of faith are paying dividends. Previously critical commentators sing nothing by praises and hymns in your club’s favour.
Then pure gold. Your team makes the finals. They play on the greatest stage of them all. The MCG, Wembley, Soldier Field. They beat the favourite and they continue on. The arrogant Magpies were destroyed, and you can hang your head high. Your team may not win the Grand Final, the Superbowl, the EPL Cup, the World Series, but they’ve redeemed themselves. And you can now turn on the poor sod that supports the team your club just defeated on the field of battle, and let him experience the same shame you felt for so long.
It’s hard to be a sports fan.