Winners are grinners, so the saying goes. It definitely has merit when you compare Australia’s sporting success from the 90s to the noughties. Something has changed in our sporting culture.
Gone are the days when highs were met with a wry smile and dry joke with a beer, and when lows were stopped only at disappointment.
In short, we have become a nation of sporting whingers.
As fans, our expectations has changed. Regrettably, the iconic underdog identity we have lovingly called our own has now been replaced with the idea that sporting success is our birthright.
Don’t believe me? Consider the 2010 evidence.
An underperforming cricket team, a Socceroos outfit getting smashed 4-0 by a footballing superpower, an Australian rugby league side getting exposed by an industrious New Zealand, the Wallabies being the All Blacks’ perennial whipping boys (save for a memorable night in Hong Kong), and finally, a nation’s collective outrage when it wasn’t chosen to host football’s showpiece, which at times descended to racial vilification.
What was the common theme in all of these instances? Fans jumping onto media outlets to vent their agony, frustration and outrage over the wrongness of it all.
“Why aren’t we winning?”, “Selectors are rubbish” and “Player A or B should be sacked”, says the armchair experts who for the majority are elbow deep in empty beer cans while punching these sentiments onto their computer screen or their mobile phone.
Yes, compared to the hundreds of athletes giving their all to achieve success, we’re the victims. Poor us.
This sort of vindictive reaction is common in other countries, where different sports are viewed as cultural property rather than a competition where anyone can win on their day.
Australia is fast becoming that way, if not already. Should we be looking at sporting success as an entitlement or something we should work for? When I say work for, as fans, it means celebrating during the good, consoling during the bad, and being steadfast supporters throughout.
Our model is the Barmy Army, currently enjoying their team’s success. Only the most close-minded Australian would begrudge them that.
So, my New Year’s sporting resolution has to do with how I support my teams.
For the cricket, I’m preparing for Australia to be swept aside from Sunday in Sydney, get knocked in the group stage of the World Cup, and roam from one disaster to another.
In the rugby, I’m preparing for another year of Tri Nations and Bledisloe pain, before New Zealand or another country destroys our World Cup dream.
In the league, the Sharks will again be miserable, as will NSW, while Australia will be tested by passionate New Zealanders and Englishmen.
In the football, the Socceroos may lost to India in this month’s Asian Cup, which at that time Liverpool may be in relegation trouble.
It isn’t hard. In sport, there are winners and losers. If we’re going to lose, doing it with a bit of dignity isn’t a big ask. It’s just a game.