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Bombers fans' boo boo

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Chief sports columnist and associate editor with The Age

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Goodes and Jetta racially abused

Essendon and Western Bulldogs have urged their supporters to "stand up against racism", after a supporter from each club made racist taunts during games against Sydney and Melbourne.

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Essendon fans spent so much time and energy booing at Etihad stadium last Friday that it was a wonder they got around to cheering at all.

They booed Dan Hannebery. They booed Adam Goodes. They booed the umpires. Some of them continued to boo umpire Troy Parnell when he was out cold, on a stretcher, being wheeled from the ground. Theirs was a night of booing on an industrial scale.

But there is booing and booing, and Essendon fans of all people should know it. Hannebery was booed for his part in a collision with Michael Hurley that left the Bomber dazed and Hannebery himself clutching at a sore midriff. Replays show that unlike in other infamous recent incidents, Hannebery was in the act of the gathering the ball at the time of the crash, and Hurley at least partly contributed to the accident. Subsequently, the match review panel would clear Hannebery of wrongdoing.

Bomber fans: not short of a complaint.

Bomber fans: not short of a complaint. Photo: Pat Scala PDS

None the less, the crowd booed Hannebery. This was excusable as football pantomime. Hannabery was the cast villain, but his was the sort of villainy that would be forgotten with the fall of the curtain at night's end.

The booing of Goodes was more problematic. Most fans say it was because he is perceived to play for free kicks, moreover to get other, soft frees even when he is not staging for them. This also is the crowd playing its part, albeit too sensitively; it was not as if Goodes hurt Essendon much that night. The Bombers had their hands full elsewhere on the Swans' forward line.

But some Essendon fans made it clear this week that they booed because they disliked Goodes. This is contentious territory. None know him personally, and so object to an image. Necessarily, that image is bound up in race. Apart from his brilliance as a footballer, Goodes is best known as an ambassador for indigenous Australia. He is the reigning Australian of the Year because of it. Fans who boo the Goodes persona are giving voice to latent racism. Fans previously have abhorred what they thought they knew of other footballers - Wayne Carey was one - but rarely did it lead to gratuitous match-day booing.

Some, we now know, were express in their racism towards Goodes last Friday. Commendably, other Essendon fans took exception to this, and named names. Commendably, the Bombers acted swiftly, on Tuesday suspending one supporter's membership.  It turned what could have been another infamous week for the club into a virtuous one.

Also on Tuesday, the Western Bulldogs came out forcefully to condemn an unidentified fan who racially vilified Melbourne's Neville Jetta. Again, the Bulldogs deserve praise for their stance. But 20 years post-Winmar, post-Long, it is depressing that a stance is still necessary. Though we have gone on long, we have not come far.

The booing of umpire Troy Pannell while prone on the ground and then on a stretcher was unforgivable on any terms. Booing umpires also is football pantomime. The Bombers were aggrieved this night as only losing fans can be. But when it was clear that Pannell was hurt, the fans should have switched to neutral, the way soccer players do when a player is injured.

Instead, Pannell was booed. Fans of both clubs were culpable, but the booing was loudest and longest at the Essendon end, where Pannell was carried off. Throughout the week, talkback callers have justified the ongoing booing on the grounds that they were frustrated by the umpires' decision-making. By the time Pannell was being driven from the ground, this was as beside the point as he was far from consciousness. Reasonable fans understood this, and many clapped sympathetically. But as with racism, it is mystifying that anyone booed a man in Pannell's position.

Trying to reason with a mob is a fraught exercise. But Essendon, of all mobs, should understand. Last year, lest anyone forget, Jobe Watson was booed by opposition fans because of a simplistic presumption that he was a cheat. It is a peculiarly honest sort of cheat who volunteers on national television details of his supposed cheating. But Watson was targeted anyway, infuriating Essendon fans. Evidently, some have shorter memories than goldfish.

Some Essendon fans howled at Goodes for being black, and Pannell for being an umpire. Their intemperance has nothing to do with the ASADA cloud that will not lift from Essendon. But the mindless mob will conflate them; in fact it has already. Ask Collingwood about stereotypes, and how difficult they are to shake. The club already has made a statement about Goodes. The fans need to make one about Pannell, if necessary on their banner next week.

207 comments

  • Remember this was also the mob that booed Brent Stanton, their own player.

    After all this booing I've still not heard one word of condemnation for the man who derailed their past two seasons, currently swanning around in France, on their membership dime.

    Go figure. At least Hird knows where to look for easily led followers if he ever wants to start a cult.

    Commenter
    mark
    Date and time
    May 21, 2014, 8:43AM
    • This is one of the great football furphies. Stanton was not booed by Essendon supporters. Some - a small number - cheered ironically when he was substituted. It is a very different thing. Please get this right, because it has become an urban myth.
      .

      Commenter
      Sorry, wrong
      Date and time
      May 21, 2014, 10:26AM
    • Yep, Mark has never been critical of his own team or the umpires ...ever....must be the only uncritical AFL fan on the planet...you're a hypocrite.
      I was at the game, and the umpiring was THE worst I've seen in living memory. Totally inconsistent. Swans received frees where there were none and missed out on frees where they should have been given. Bombers were simply just not given any frees of consequence.....This was the reason for the booing and total supporter frustration.

      Commenter
      JIM
      Location
      BAYSIDE
      Date and time
      May 21, 2014, 10:29AM
    • @mark.

      goodes was booed because of his staging. you might recall lloyd copping it after an article implying he was the only stager in football.

      you want to play afl and earn the money, acolytes and celebrity, then sometimes you've got to cop the rough stuff from the crowd. eat some cement guys.

      I also see you're fixated with Hird I see. probably follow a club that has never had a champion of his calibre.

      Commenter
      vincent
      Location
      sth melbourne
      Date and time
      May 21, 2014, 10:40AM
    • Dead right Mark - the golden child can do no wrong. As far as booing umps go, Essendon are now the worst cuplrits becasue they had it so good for so long in the era of the aforementioned chosen one and flopper Lloyd - both untouchable in umpires' minds

      Commenter
      Jason Dawkins
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      May 21, 2014, 11:29AM
    • Agreed. If Essendon and it's racist booing supporters accepts James Hird back after failing a Duty of Care to its players, it shows how far this once mighty club has fallen from its previously deserved standing in our game.

      Commenter
      Van Der Ha Ha Ha
      Date and time
      May 21, 2014, 11:32AM
    • Great call mark, in Hird we trust..... To ruin the club!! The gift that keeps on giving and will when he comes back to replace a premiership coach.

      Commenter
      Martin
      Date and time
      May 21, 2014, 12:24PM
    • @Sorry Wrong, not sure where you were sitting at the 30 or so games I've been at for the last few years, but Stanton was for a long period of time booed and heckled by a lot of the red and black mainly because he's a very talented player who'd regulalry make very silly mistakes on field moreso than most other players...no furphie whatsoever, it was loud and clear from behind, in front and adjacent. He's eradicated this from his game to an extent, continued to improve other aspects of his game and even though his tackling can still be woeful, his treatment at the hands of the specators has improved. Perhaps as one person remarked on Friday night there are now others who've replaced him as the "whipping boy" such as Dyson sheepdog Heppell. As for Goodes, this article largely has no substance. Friday was an incredibly frustrating night for all Essendon supporters watching and the incident Max Power identifies below, along with one or two other decisions leading to Swans goals in the first quater, in the context of Essendon being clearly outplayed, intensified a one eyed crowd's anger and Goodes, along with many other Swans players, became a target for venting frustration mostly within the spirit of the game. At least one spectator clearly went outside these bounds. As for the umpire, the incident occurred when Essendon had wrestled some momentum back, which was subsequently lost, which might explain some more of the frustration directed toward him albeit in no way justifying it.

      Commenter
      Holden Caulfield
      Location
      Woodend
      Date and time
      May 21, 2014, 1:37PM
    • I can't see any justification for booing Adam Goodes. He's been a fantastic player and individual, worthy of nothing but respect. Let's get real. How can it be anything other than racism given the high profile role he's played for indigenous Australians. And it's obviously piggy backed off Eddie McGuires pathetic comments last year. Shame on all those morons who booed him.

      Commenter
      sav
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      May 21, 2014, 2:13PM
    • sav - So because you think golden child Adam Goodes is perfect, that alone is enough for you to conclude that all boos and jeers aimed at him are race based. What a load rubbish. He's booed because he stages for frees and is a protected species. Some may boo at him because of his colour but to assume that everyone does that is just a cop out excuse.

      Commenter
      Kev
      Date and time
      May 21, 2014, 3:00PM

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