As I write this today, I do so with a heavy heart. Why, you may ask?? Well I'm a sports fan and I follow sporting teams, and anyone who follows and supports a sporting team knows the giddy highs and terrifying lows associated with being a fan. So after spending all week hyping myself up for the Newcastle Jets clash with Brisbane Roar, watching them lead then ultimately lose, then going home and staying up all night to watch my English team Derby County also lose at home, I'm feeling bluer than BB King.
What I find hard to understand is why am I such a rabid, hard core fan, devoted to the cause of my chosen team with heart, soul, mind and wallet, yet others have virtually no interest in following a team or sport in general?? What exactly was it that triggered this disposition I have had all my life.
When I cast my mind back as far as I can, I have always supported football teams. Those who know me well know of my undying love for the Eastern Suburbs Roosters(yes they will always be Easts to me) going back to early school years. I have tried to pinpoint the reason why and have come up with 3 possible reasons; At an age I was discovering Rugby League, Easts were the current premiers. The first player I can remember is Russell Fairfax, who I was mesmerised by, and my fathers race car was the same colours as Easts, Red, White and Blue. A possible 4th reason was I loved the Uncle Sam deodorant ads on TV, and they were awash with Red, White and Blue. My parents had no interest in Rugby League but they did compete in individual sports.
The earliest game I remember caring about was the 1976 Preliminary Final between Easts and Canterbury, which the then 'Berries' won, ending Easts season. At the time it was about a month before my 7th birthday. I remember being really upset and crying when they lost. So if my earliest memory is of defeat, and the pain that goes with it, why then have I spent the last 35 years, the majority of which have been more pain than joy, devoting my time and energy to such a ridiculous pursuit??
Though when I think of that roller coaster of emotions being a fan has presented me throughout my life, I can't help but wonder about those people who don't support a team. What moves these people? What lights the fire in their hearts? Do they live with the constant swings in emotion like sports fans? What replaces that nervous anticipation that sports fans feel as the weekend approaches? What do you look forward to on the weekend if there is no sport? Having a picnic in the park? Reading books about war? Shopping? I don't know.
I feel genuine sadness and pity for these people, do they feel sadness and pity towards me??
Personally I couldn't imagine a life without being a fan, even though as I think back it's the losses,hurt and sadness I seem to remember the most. Then again, without sadness we wouldn't really appreciate what happiness is. The feelings of happiness during the good times totally outweigh the feelings of sadness through the bad times. Supporting a team can also fill you with anger and resentment. When things are going bad for the team it's my right to criticise them to the hilt, but I'll defend them even more vigorously if you criticise them. And after a lifetime of wearing my heart on my sleeve I get quite upset when I see others with less or no passion basking in undeserved glory. For example, I recall watching the 1997 Grand Final between Newcastle and Manly at a mates house. The group of people I was with were not fans, and their only interest was that a team from Newcastle was playing. As Darren Albert crossed in the dying stages to secure the win for the Knights, I along with everybody else leapt in the air to cheer. It was then as I sat back down and watched my friends continue to celebrate I became really upset. None of these people were fans, they didn't follow the team yet here they were celebrating while the only fan in the place sat there disconsolate, as I was the only one who deserved that celebration. Did they care the next day? I doubt it very much. It took 5 more years before I finally got to experience that joy when Easts won in 2002.(Greatest night of my life, I didn't come home for 2 days!!)
So if punishing myself every Winter wasn't enough, with the introduction of the A League in 2005/6 my support of local Football teams went from casual to extreme and I now live these emotions 52 weeks a year. I had always been a passionate Derby County fan in the English leagues, even though they have supplied me with more angst than joy, and as far as the Jets go, well I have travelled to China and Korea to support them and last year I was at every home game despite living on the Sunshine Coast at the time. The only home games I have missed in the clubs existence is one game when Steely Dan were playing at the vineyards, and one game whilst I was on holidays in America. Even though looking at the Jets record they have lost more games than they have won, they did win a Premiership, and that is what makes being a fan worthwhile, and worth continuing with.
I know people think I'm absolutely nuts following an average Football team around the country, but I wouldn't have it any other way.....For I am part of the team.