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Living in a loser's paradise

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I feel ya.

I feel ya. Photo: Quinn Rooney

"Come on, Souths! Make my life better!" screamed my friend as we nervously entered the stadium to watch the Rabbitohs compete in the NRL preliminary finals last month.

I don't care what code or club you follow, if you don't understand this sentiment you're not a sports fan, you're an observer, a dilettante. 

It's not that life without victory is insufferable; it's just that when your team is winning, the world's a little shinier. If your team's in the grand final, well, I imagine it'd be kind of blinding.

Not that I'd know; it's been 42 years since my club appeared in one, and just as long since they won a premiership.

The NRL's Cronulla and AFL's Richmond and Western Bulldogs fans know the feeling. It's debatable whether this is worse than what St Kilda faithful have been through, or what Manly and Fremantle just experienced in losing grand finals.

It's brutal being an also-ran, even worse being a perennial loser because, despite adult rationality and success in other parts of your life, there's still a tiny voice that whispers in your soul: "LOSER".

You blame yourself. For changing seats. Or sending a boastful text at half-time. For even attending the game, because they'd won two without you there.

Part of me is astonished I can invest so much emotion and hope in a group of men I do not know, a set of colours I'd never be tempted to wear outside of my football affiliation.

Yet the need to take sides is as old as man and I think you have to be a philosopher or sociopath not to feel its pull somewhere in your guts, whether it be linked to sport, politics or geography.

It's a cliche to frame sport as ritualised warfare, yet the depth of my despair upon watching South Sydney vanquished made me reflect on our forebears in the ancient and medieval worlds.

Imagine standing on the walls of your city, seeing your youth and leaders cut to pieces, your banners trampled, your defences breached and knowing the price of defeat would be rape, slavery and death?

We might wrinkle our brows at it now but hundreds of millions of people have felt this anguish throughout history - every race, every religion, every continent. You can't tell me it hasn't been seared into our DNA. 

It puts a train-ride back to Sydney's Central Station with taunting Manly fans in perspective ... yet still it burns.

That voice rises inside you and you wonder if it will ever happen? What does it feel like to be the best? To have your 'soldiers' returning home victorious, those other bastards slumped and sad instead of you?

It can't just be curiosity that keeps fans coming back, year after year. It strikes me as something far more primal and archaic, a deep human need to stand on the throat of your despised enemy and take everything they hold precious for your own.

After Souths' dreadful, choking loss, after watching them for the second year in a row fall one game short of the grand final, my friend and I saw a crying seven-year-old boy walk by with his father, both of them entombed in our club's red and green jerseys.

My mate, ever the voice of tenderness, patted the child on the back in consolation and cackled his blackest laughter.

"You'll be OK kid, you've only got another 50 years of this to put up with."

You can follow Sam on Twitter here. His email address is here.

Please don't take it personally if I do not reply to your email as they come in thick and fast depending on the topic. Please know, I appreciate you taking the time to write and comment and would offer mummy hugs to all.

32 comments

  • AMCO cup 1979, ahhhhhhh.......the glory days. Yeah thats right....suck it combined Brisbane.

    Commenter
    Maxohr
    Date and time
    October 22, 2013, 10:34PM
    • absolutely killing it.

      Commenter
      Syd
      Location
      Sydnaaaaay
      Date and time
      October 23, 2013, 8:42AM
  • GO ROOSTERS!!! BACK TO BACK 2014!!!

    Commenter
    enough is enough
    Date and time
    October 22, 2013, 10:56PM
    • I'm 44. We've won a flag on average every 4.4 years of my life. Carna Hawks.

      Commenter
      HappyHawk
      Location
      London
      Date and time
      October 22, 2013, 11:35PM
      • Great piece - and as a North Queensland Cowboys fan, certainly one I can empathise with! My theory is that the eventual pay-off - IF it happens - will be worth the wait!

        Commenter
        SAJ
        Location
        Depths of despair
        Date and time
        October 23, 2013, 12:41AM
        • When you support a club, you cannot turn it off. It becomes part of who you are. You don't stop, because the sport does not stop. Your team getting knocked out is not the end. It is just the conclusion of the current chapter.

          To continue your military analogy, a season is one battle in a war that never finishes. So, every year you begin with hope and optimism that soon, the next chapter will belong to you.

          Good article, but watching your team in a Grand Final is not blinding, it's closer to hell. I had 20 fellow ex-pats at my house watching my beloved Roosters play Manly in the big one three weeks ago. I told them all I would not enjoy watching the actual game. Those who supported a team, of any sport, knew exactly why.

          I was 12 when I started supporting Easts. I was 38 I got to see them win a comp. Maybe the little Souths boy will be 'lucky' and get a result before he's 50.

          Commenter
          Joe the expat
          Location
          The Hague
          Date and time
          October 23, 2013, 12:42AM
          • True it is that watching your team in the grand final can be a nightmare. I saw easts lose in 2000, win in 2002 (all the while wondering whether we could have beaten Canterbury), lose in 2003, lose in 2004, lose in 2010. Sure it was good to win in 2002, but that was just once since the mid-70's.

            At half time this year I sat quietly while my kids were going mad. I turned my phone off so people couldn't call me. I got roundly abused by Manly fans as I took my 5 year old to the toilet as the penalty try was awarded. I knew what this felt like, I had been there before, ahead at half, only to lose, only to lose again.

            But the last 30 minutes were insane. The roosters fans going beserk. The wife and kids laughing and smiling. And watching replays of the game, later that night, and over the next week, knowing the result, without the absurd nervous tension of being there, was glorious.

            Bring on next year, round 1, a new season, with all the crazy, nervous tension of every weekend that makes life worth living. Roosters v Souths - home game for the bunnies.

            Commenter
            plebc
            Date and time
            October 23, 2013, 8:08AM
        • There is always next year..... as the fans trudge their weary way home.
          Souths had already seen their glory days in 1973 when I went to work after the School Certificate for a few weeks before Christmas in a screen printing factory in Macdonaldtown that printed TAB signs, radio dials and scrabble tiles.
          The next in charge after the boss was John. He liked his beer and loved his Souths. He was a good screen printer, setting up and printing. One day he came in and said "Souths got Courage." Souths had put on Courage beer and a big banner was on the club building now gone. Courage beer came and went a couple of times. Souths have courage but not the beer.
          Souths were always good for a fight, from the legendary Radfern Bulldogs street gang who touched up the Town Hall Sharps when they foolishly went visiting to on the field. But sadly the best and longest fights were in the club and with the then richer club Souths Juniors.
          As a Wests supporter I regularly would listen to the radio as the half time lead was frittered away. I would turn it off and go back to whatever I was doing. I sympathise with Souths.
          I reckon the kiss of death in League is to either be on the promotion ad for the start of the season or worse be favoured to win.
          I have still not recovered from Wests being the Minor Premiers, to loose both their finals games let alone get into the Grand Final. Yes we won a premiership but it was with Balmain and they can't seem to put a few deaners to anything these days.
          Then again my most improved player trophy from 1967 from Ashbury Angels sits on my bookcase..

          Commenter
          The Old Guy
          Location
          Marrickville
          Date and time
          October 23, 2013, 12:46AM
          • Maybe this video will explain what you're going through and make you feel better:
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2fraSdN-PG8

            Myself, I'm enjoying mocking my Mexican friends about Australia being in the FIFA World Cup and them still scrambling to qualify.

            Commenter
            JEQP
            Date and time
            October 23, 2013, 2:33AM
            • It would be better to give up watching then to support a team that hasn't got a winning culture. I've stopped whacking league years ago because my team cronulla sharks couldn't win. Nothing has really changed, in fact I'd dared to say my life is.better without watching. There is just too much emotional attachment to something that you can't control, not worth the energy.

              Commenter
              Michael
              Date and time
              October 23, 2013, 4:42AM

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