This is not a story about Adam Goodes and booing. This is a story about quitting. About what it took to make me realise I had quit on the AFL.
It was the fans that made me quit.
You all know the Adam Goodes backstory. The ridicule, bullying and vilification he has been subjected to. That is what this booing really is. Ridicule, bullying and vilification.
There has been a lot of grey portrayed on this subject, but it should be black and white. Perception is reality, and Goodes’ perception should be footy fans reality. It is not, because footy fans are weak.
No man or woman deserves what Goodes has been subjected too.
As of today Goodes has walked away from the AFL. And it is justified. Will Goodes come back? Perhaps. Maybe his story has more to be told in coming back. Maybe the Goodes legacy will be told on the field, over his response to this brutal period in his life. But as of today, as much as we are different – Goodes an aboriginal man, myself of European descent – we are the same. I, like Adam Goodes, have quit the AFL.
You don’t know my story and my story is likely never going to be reported in AFL media circles, but it is a significant one. My story is the second tier of the Goodes booing. It is the second tier of Goodes decision. It is the real reflection of what fan’s vitriol can do. It is a tier that if more people follow through, truly threatens the AFL.
It is the legacy and story of despicable AFL crowds.
I have been a passionate supporter of the game since five years of age. I am now 30. For 25 years I have idolised the West Coast Eagles Football Club and have idolised the AFL. I was a footy tragic, a footy loyalist and someone that always thought I would live and breathe AFL football to the day I died.
Being from Perth I have been a part of parochial crowds. I had been to both Fremantle and West Coast games and when I was younger, when I did not know any better, I too was part of the problem. I remember to this day being a part of a WACA crowd that booed Dermott Brereton when, ironically enough, he was wearing a Sydney jumper.
I would have been about nine, and the only reason I was booing was because I was copying those older than me. I saw them as leaders, and I was following. It felt really cool to boo. I was part of something, I just did not know at my naïve age, what that something was. It was abuse, vilification and ridicule. Things that should have no place in any society.
I remember going home that evening and having my Pop chastise me for being part of the crowd of booing. I remember trying to defend myself. My Pop reiterated right and wrong. 25 years later, I know how right he was. I know how wrong I was. I was lucky to have a strong leader in my life.
I have never booed a player, umpire or fan since. Sadly, most footy fans don’t see the right and wrong and are influenced by the weak. They don’t have strong leaders to demand of them what is right.
To cut to the chase of my disengagement with the AFL, the first flash point came in Round 1, 2014.
Having been lucky enough to welcome a son into the world in 2012, like so many Dads my hopes were there that I had bred the next Haydn Bunton, Ian Stewart, Leigh Matthew or Chris Judd. Yet on the opening night of the 2014 AFL season, doubts came about whether I wanted my son involved in the AFL.
During the Fremantle and Collingwood match at Etihad Stadium, from heading into the ground until half time, all I saw was despicable behaviour.
Swearing, taunting, bullying, fighting, ridicule, aggression, vilification, slurs – you name it, this game had it. I am now proud to say I left at halftime in shock, wondering what had happened to the game I loved.
During the course of that 2014 season I went to other matches in Perth and Brisbane and saw the exact same behaviour. Regardless of the crowd, regardless of the people. It seemed accepted that crowds could perform despicably.
I have been to WAFL games since, I have been to amateur games since, and the vitriol has followed down the ranks like a plague. The swearing is audible, the derogatory body language is visible, and the general sense of negativity and aggression is felt at any game of footy.
Over the past 18 months though, I have learnt that the game had not changed. I have changed. I am a family man that has different priorities and different expectations of the world I lived and the world I wanted for my kids. I lived in the AFL world not realising just how despicable the accepted behaviour of AFL and footy fans was.
That is the root of the Goodes booing saga. This is simply disgusting behaviour by people who don’t know any better, don’t expect any better, and will likely never challenge themselves to be better. They expect that crowds are allowed to carry on in this manner because football fans have been taught to slur, to accuse, to abuse, to vilify for the past 50 years and beyond.
Because of Goodes, fans are being challenged to be better, and they are failing dismally. They probably always will fail, because that now is the culture of AFL football – to abuse and then defend reprehensible behaviour.
As my son grows, he as his own boy and own man will make choices for himself on what sports he wants to pursue. I will support him in whatever endeavours he chooses, but I will not encourage Australian Rules to him. I will not take him to an Aussie Rules game if the current state of fan behaviour holds firm.
It is why the AFL and Aussies Rules is going to lose to other sports, because there are those of us who expect better for our children, and nothing suggests that AFL fans are ready to be better.
I am not here to persuade people into my opinion or to push a certain perspective on people. If there is one thing that backs up the at ground behaviour of footy fans, it has been the stubbornness to accept differing perspectives on the Goodes topic. Every football fan has their view and considers their view to be right. It is but more proof of the backward nature of footy fans. In a world that is more social, more connected and trying to be more together, there is nothing positive or together about fans of the AFL.
As an industry the AFL though has shown real togetherness. Every person who works in the industry, whether it be players, officials or administrators, has tried to back Goodes. They know Goodes the person and are trying to be real people supporting real people. Every negative or defensive comment in relation to this saga has come from someone removed from the inner sanctum of AFL clubs. People who don’t know any better. People who think it is acceptable to boo. People who think because it has always been that way, gives them the entitlement.
The negativity comes from people who are weak.
I refuse to be weak.
It is the reason I support Adam Goodes.
It is why I have quit the AFL.
I put it on you, what would make you quit the AFL?