Some random thoughts on what watching footy means to me

AdelaideDocker Roar Guru

By AdelaideDocker, AdelaideDocker is a Roar Guru

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    It’s a late September afternoon back in ‘06, and I’m in a car somewhere in the beachside suburbs of Perth.

    The radio’s on, and my mother and sister are deep in conversation, while a much younger me is inquisitively listening to the words coming through the speakers.

    “The West Coast Eagles have defeated reigning premiers Sydney by one point. They’re the 2006 AFL premiers”.

    Now, it’s obvious I’m not a West Coast Eagles supporter. Never have, never will be. The thing is, though, back on that spring day in 2006 I wasn’t a supporter of any AFL teams.

    I barely knew what the sport was. That anecdote is my first memory of ever acknowledging this great sport. The 8-year-old me decided I was to support the Eagles’ long-suffering rivals then and there, and …. nah, I’m just kidding.

    Young me decided that it was boring, and moved onto thinking about something. Probably what he was going to eat for dinner that night or something. It would be another eight years before I’d become a genuine supporter of the AFL!

    How did I get here, though?

    Sydney Swans West Coast Eagles 2006 AFL Grand Final

    (Jimmy Harris/Wikimedia Commons)

    It’s probably an understatement to say I wasn’t the most physically gifted young lad. Look, I’ve tried many sports. I have memories of my school team being beaten 23 to nil in a Year 9 football game.

    I remember the early Saturday mornings where I’d go to the local tennis club and perfect my backhands. I did many, many hours of swimming lessons. And I’ve even dabbled in a bit of golf … when I was in the third grade.

    The problem is, though, sport wasn’t this euphoric force in my life, unlike many of my mates. I wasn’t good at them, to start. I didn’t have favourite teams, I never collected footy cards or the like, I never had posters on my walls or sports jerseys in my closet.

    Despite being the son of two Queenslanders, I never even showed an interest in cricket, or either form of rugby besides attending many, many Western Force games in my West Australian adolescence.

    I seemed destined to remain uninterested in sport until I discovered, properly, the AFL. It took me until my teens to really start to acknowledge the sport. It was around year 10 (so, 2013) that I decided to start supporting a team – this is where the Perth connection benefited me.

    In 2014, I attended my first AFL game. In 2016, I got my first membership and started frequenting The Roar. In 2017, I started blogging games and writing articles about this sport. A meteoric rise in my fandom, by anyone’s standard.

    Why I started to get interested in footy is still a relative mystery to me. Living in Adelaide, and attending a school where footy was uber-popular, was definitely a part of it. Realising that the sport was a lot more, well, exciting than either rugby or soccer was another.

    Living in the age of constant media attention might have been an influence. Seeing Adelaide Oval being built was another spark. Beginning to support a successful, at the time, team might’ve been a tiny, microscopic enticement. Whatever the reason, I’m now the most AFL fanatic member of my family.

    Now that I think of it, I’m one of only two or three people who like AFL in my extended family.

    The thing to remember, though, is that every day I’m watching, discussing or reading about footy – I’m learning. I’m learning more about the history. I’m learning more about the players. I’m learning about the stories of the fans, or of the great games, past and present.

    I’m learning about leagues other than the AFL. It’s exhilarating, and fun, and exciting. Honestly, maybe I’m the only person who enjoys reading Wikipedia and browsing the web for the history of footy, but I genuinely enjoy it.

    Sean Darcy Fremantle Dockers AFL 2017

    (AAP Image/Tony McDonough)

    No matter how ignorant I am of the history, nor how much parts of this great game frustrate me, I’m beyond glad I’ve ‘discovered’ football. For one, I’m now able to finally join in conversations – or arguments – with friends, something I wasn’t able to do for a long time.

    I am able to finally have a team. I don’t have a poster, but I’ve got a sticker on the back of the car. I’ve got a scarf. I’ve got a team. Most importantly, though, I’ve been able to fulfill something I’ve always wanted to do: become a journalist, or at least help my journalism aspirations.

    I’ve written articles and blogged a fair few games, something that I never thought I’d get to experience. I’ve engaged with so many fellow posters, I’ve blogged some fantastic games, and I’ve written articles I’m deeply proud of.

    I can’t tell you the number of times I’d be burnt out during the week, but then get to the weekend and watch five, six, seven or sometimes even bits of all nine footy games that weekend – often blogging at least one.

    Of course, it isn’t all sunshine and roses. I’ve also learned watching footy is a wave of emotions. There’s occasionally a crap game – quite common while supporting Freo these last two years – but there’s magical moments.

    There’s controversy, there’s rubbish. There’s arguments and there’s cries of joy from many. I’ll find myself groaning one minute, and frantically cheering the next.

    For every time I find myself getting puzzled looks from family as I swear or yell at the TV, there’s a moment when I’ll find myself cheering at the same time as my neighbors while we’re watching the same game.

    This all sounds like an autobiography of sorts, so I am sorry if you’re sick of hearing about me! But I’ll be honest, for a kid who wasn’t interested in sports, just sitting down a watching a couple of football games has genuinely – and this is a cliché, I admit – changed my life.

    It’s added a whole new dimension to my life – which isn’t always a good thing, I admit – and it’s made weekends between March and October so much better. On those weekends, I feel agony and I feel ecstasy. But I wouldn’t change it for the world.

    Eight-year-old me wouldn’t understand it, but long may I groan every time Freo misses a set-shot, or cheer every time Fyfey does something magical.

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    The Crowd Says (41)

    • November 24th 2017 @ 8:16am
      not so super said | November 24th 2017 @ 8:16am | ! Report

      Realising that the sport was a lot more, well, exciting than either rugby or soccer was another
      thats your problem in a nutshell

      • Roar Guru

        November 24th 2017 @ 8:28am
        Cat said | November 24th 2017 @ 8:28am | ! Report

        Doesn’t sound like AD has ‘a problem’ at all.

      • Roar Guru

        November 24th 2017 @ 12:26pm
        AdelaideDocker said | November 24th 2017 @ 12:26pm | ! Report

        Eh, what?

        • Roar Guru

          November 24th 2017 @ 12:46pm
          Cat said | November 24th 2017 @ 12:46pm | ! Report

          Pretty sure it was just a code warrior.

    • Roar Guru

      November 24th 2017 @ 10:04am
      Col from Brissie said | November 24th 2017 @ 10:04am | ! Report

      Enjoyed the read AD – well done.

      • Roar Guru

        November 24th 2017 @ 12:26pm
        AdelaideDocker said | November 24th 2017 @ 12:26pm | ! Report

        Thanks Col! Glad my long spiels about myself weren’t too insufferable 😉

    • November 24th 2017 @ 10:22am
      Hungry Jack said | November 24th 2017 @ 10:22am | ! Report

      Congratulations AD! You’ve discovered the greatest team sport on Earth! It doesn’t get any better than Aussie Rules!

    • November 24th 2017 @ 11:04am
      Non Vic said | November 24th 2017 @ 11:04am | ! Report

      Great read!! I can definitely draw some parallels here. I came to SA from NSW after being a union/league supporter. I hated the Swans (possibly more their fans) with a passion and as such had no interest in AFL.

      Moving to SA, second only to Victoria in terms of AFL fanaticism, I found myself in the unusual position of really getting passionate about a team and a sport. Like you AD I groan when my team frequently stuff up and yet feel exhilirated when they shine. I thought I might finally see a GF victory this year but alas with the exception of the first quarter it was one long groan.

      Win or lose this game is more than a sport, it’s a lifestyle! Go the Crows!!!!

      • Roar Guru

        November 24th 2017 @ 12:31pm
        AdelaideDocker said | November 24th 2017 @ 12:31pm | ! Report

        I’m originally from NSW as well!

        Yeah, the support for AFL here in SA is amazing! Driving through the CBD on any night where there’s a game at Adelaide Oval, it’s evident how much passion this state has for the sport.

        Great comment, and glad to know you enjoyed the article!

    • Roar Guru

      November 24th 2017 @ 12:42pm
      Cat said | November 24th 2017 @ 12:42pm | ! Report

      Sports came late to me also. I grew up as an only child, my mum and dad were never into sports. In my early teens I taught myself the rules of baseball because it was embarrassing to be the only boy who didn’t know the rules of sports in my circle of friends. I grew to love the game. In 1986 a friend of the family has access to corporate seats and I got to watch the Mets with the Series.
      Over time I became a sports junkie. MLB, NHL, NFL, NASCAR, NBA, PGA, ATP, pretty much any sport that wasn’t soccer.
      It was only natural, after moving to Australia, that I’d find a local game to follow.
      I do still struggle with the off-season though. While most Aussies love to have time away from the game to rest and recharge I am used to following sport 365 days a year.

      • November 24th 2017 @ 1:44pm
        Stephen said | November 24th 2017 @ 1:44pm | ! Report

        Good share Cat. So born and bred in the US? May I ask which State?

        • Roar Guru

          November 24th 2017 @ 1:53pm
          Cat said | November 24th 2017 @ 1:53pm | ! Report

          Yep, my first 34 years (minus 3 years in the US Navy) were spent growing up (and then old) in NY.

          • November 24th 2017 @ 2:05pm
            Stephen said | November 24th 2017 @ 2:05pm | ! Report

            Right. Partly explains your NFL interest/knowledge.

            • Roar Guru

              November 24th 2017 @ 2:10pm
              Cat said | November 24th 2017 @ 2:10pm | ! Report

              When it is relevant I try to chime in with my American sports knowledge because I am more familiar than most here and have a different point of view having experienced it first hand. I’ve watched live NFL games at Giants stadium, seen the Mets play at Shea and the Knick and Ranger play at the Garden. Been to a few NASCAR races at various tracks too.

              • Roar Guru

                November 24th 2017 @ 2:16pm
                AdelaideDocker said | November 24th 2017 @ 2:16pm | ! Report

                I’ve heard some of the NFL games (or maybe it’s college football) are amazing to go to.

                I’m not too much of a fan of the NFL (mainly because I don’t know a whole heap about it) but I do want to get along to a game one day! Something about being in the presence of thousands of fanatic Americans in stereotypically huge stadiums seems amazing ….

              • Roar Guru

                November 24th 2017 @ 3:04pm
                Cat said | November 24th 2017 @ 3:04pm | ! Report

                I’ve never gotten into college sports but yes, college football is a massive industry. Eight colleges have their own 100k+ stadiums.
                On 10 Sept 2016 the “Battle at Bristol” between No. 17 Tennessee and Virginia Tech at Bristol Motor Speedway drew an NCAA single-game record crowd of 156,990.

                The 231 NCAA Division I schools with data available generated a total of $9.15 billion in revenue during the 2015 fiscal year.

                College sports pays for a lot of educations.

              • Roar Guru

                November 27th 2017 @ 2:45pm
                Cat said | November 27th 2017 @ 2:45pm | ! Report

                Just came across a quote in the news today:

                “The head football coach at the University of Tennessee is the highest-paid state employee,” Tennessee State Rep. Jeremy Faison said. “They’re the face of our state. We don’t need a man who has that type of potential reproach in their life as the highest-paid state employee. It’s egregious to the people and it’s wrong to the taxpayers.”

                That is how big college football is – the head coach is the highest paid state employee!

      • Roar Guru

        November 24th 2017 @ 2:23pm
        AdelaideDocker said | November 24th 2017 @ 2:23pm | ! Report

        Great comment, Cat.

        I’m not as wide-ranging in my sports interests as your are, but I do enjoy watching quite a few. If I had more access to the US sports, I’d definitely be up for watching some of that. The off-season thing annoys me as well, but I don’t dislike soccer so I occasionally attend a United game as I live a few minutes from Hindmarsh Stadium. But honestly, I just want more footy!

        • Roar Guru

          November 24th 2017 @ 3:12pm
          Cat said | November 24th 2017 @ 3:12pm | ! Report

          Access, or lack of, definitely makes it tough to follow American sports like I used to. The time difference also doesn’t help. When I was in the states I had DirecTV (Satellite) that gave me ~58 different sports channels to watch. I literally could watch every single game of any major sport live.

          32 NFL teams x 17 games each
          30 MLB teams x 162 games each
          31 NHL teams x 82 games each
          30 NBA teams x 82 games each
          26 NASCAR races a year

          That’s just the ‘regular’ season. Could watch every post season game too.

    • Roar Pro

      November 24th 2017 @ 1:15pm
      Darren M said | November 24th 2017 @ 1:15pm | ! Report

      This was really interesting to read AD. It makes a nice change to read an article that isn’t about whether 17-5 is a good schedule, or why the bounce should or shouldn’t be dropped. Regular contributors here interact with each other all the time, but often don’t think about or know the back story of who the actual person is.

      • Roar Guru

        November 24th 2017 @ 2:25pm
        AdelaideDocker said | November 24th 2017 @ 2:25pm | ! Report

        Thanks Darren!

        Yeah, thought this article might provide a bit of variety. I guess it’s also nice to get an article that couldn’t possibly spawn comment-section arguments 😉

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