Critics of Waratah booers miss the point

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I have about three articles percolating in my mind for The Roar at the moment (and have been for about six months due to a one-year-old daughter and my job taking up 99 per cent of my time), but they have been pushed aside to give voice to my flabbergasted reply to the ‘Tahs boo crisis.

I sat in the crowd for the Cheetahs game, in the same season pass seats I have sat with the same bunch of blokes since 2003, and watched one of the worst performances the Tahs have ever put it (and I have seen a few).

The Cheetahs were workmanlike, and that proved enough.

At the end of it, the crowd, frustrated at their team dropping the ball repeatedly, showing an apparent inability to cope with the Cheetahs simply competing well at the breakdown and an apparent inability to adapt their game-plan to cope, proceeded to boo their team.

It is something I haven’t done before, and I can’t remember the Tahs crowd doing it before, but the performance was that bad it seemed appropriate. Crowds express their appreciation for teams and games with applause.

There is a response available when the feeling is the opposite.

In the following week I have seen what I can only regard as an overreaction from certain segments of the rugby community to the booing. You’d think the fans had stormed the field and sacrificed a pig on the pitch while demanding the Tahs all commit hari kiri there and then.

The general reply seemed to be “how dare they”.

Firstly, Matt Burke in The Sydney Morning Herald said, “In the most humble way possible – until you have played at Super Rugby level you can’t comprehend what happens out on the field.”

The flaming that followed in the comments for that article showed that, for the vast majority of readers (including me), they disagreed with Matt.

Then Ruggamatrix’s podcast last week, in a discussion between hosts Djuro Sen, Mark Cashman (whom I have the utmost respect for) and the Rebels’ Adam Freier, engaged in a critique of the booing.

While indicating everyone was entitled to their opinion, the booing had “crossed the line”.

Now I wasn’t present when Dean Mumm, captain for that game, was apparently booed during an after game interview. Or when the players coming out to the (remnant) crowd were apparently booed.

I had already gotten out of the ground as fast as possible to go drown my sorrows at a nearby pub. I can say that may have been pushing it a bit.

However, the suggestion that the Tahs crowd somehow (there seemed to be a suggestion by Adam Freier Tahs crowds don’t usually show enough passion in good times to entitle booing in the bad times, like AFL crowds) weren’t entitled to show their displeasure by booing is just ridiculous.

Further, this criticism seems to completely miss the point.

That booing to me was pretty much the culmination of years of Tahs supporters being disappointed and let down. A South African team, a wet night – the crowd was pretty poor, so the fans there must be considered the rusted on fanatics.

The fact that the crowd against the Cheetahs was as poor as 15 years ago (when in 2002 and 2003 games were sell outs, and even SAF teams got crowds in the mid 20,000s), and is close to matched by the crowd the Rebels can get for the Hurricanes, shows the Tahs (and arguably Australian rugby generally) have a deeper problem than just one game.

Any regular reader of The Roar has seen the spleen venting that can go on against the Tahs on various issues, and much of it with some basis.

This is not personal attacks on players, but criticism of deep seated problems in the administration of the game in this state, and also the way the team seems to be run and the philosophy it approaches the game with.

The comments replying to Matt Burke’s article also touched on these.

As such, I would argue that with the poor performance against the Cheetahs it finally all proved too much, and the crowd “snapped” (in as much as booing a poor performance is snapping, and going beyond the pale so far as to attract opprobrium from ex-Wallabies and the rugby media).

With this in mind, one grinding win over the Brumbies is not likely to have salved the Tah supporters and make everything okay again.

I support the Tahs and rugby with a passion, and I have ever since seeing my first Super 10 game against Western Province in 1995 and thinking, “I’ve been liking this since the 1991 World Cup, but this is the game for me!” I have supported the Tahs through the long dry years when we had supposedly the best team in Australia, and did nothing with it, and then through the good (but not title winning) times of making the semis and even finals.

I have travelled to Canberra to be abused by Brumbies supporters when losing, and see the Tahs’ first precious win away there. I have sat in the driving rain to watch my team at the beloved SFS.

I put up having to justify the time and expense of going to Tahs games to my wife, while having a young family.

So when “my” team plays a dog of a game, and far below what they should have, and I feel a bit disappointed in that effort, I’ll express that disappointment in the time honoured and traditional way. I’ll boo.

It’s not a personal attack on the players, or questioning their integrity or so forth. It’s me saying, “I’m not happy! Pull you’re fingers out boys and do better!”

After 17 years of cheering the stuff that deserved to be cheered, I’ll bloody well boo when it deserves to be booed.

Here’s hoping from now on it’s all cheers to the end of the season!

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