|Issue No 52||05 May 2000|
The Locker Room
When Things Are Down
After watching his team lose five games straight, our footy philosopher Terry O'Brien asks whether it's only just a game.
Last week my team lost their - our - fifth game on the trot. The Swans', (we, that is) haven't done that for years. Not since Rodney Eade started coaching them. Up until now it hasn't been a disaster. The last game, against the Mexican Silver Tails, (Carlton, for the uninitiated), was a calamity.
It brought back memories of last year's finale. In inglorious loss to the lowly rated Hawthorn, followed by being unceremoniously dumped out of the finals by Essendon. It also brings back memories of the dark ages. The days when the Swans' - we, I have to keep reminding myself of that - couldn't have got an Indian bookie to buy us a game. The days when you knew everyone in the ground on a first name basis. The days when I was the only person, well one of the few anyway, that was silly enough to buy a ticket to the game. Everyone else was picking up freebies at Hungry Jacks. The days, I remember, walking out of the ground getting sympathy from a couple of Fitzroy supporters. Well, at least Sydney's - sorry, we - are still in the comp. The Roy Boys were subsumed by Brisbane.
Today's the day after the debacle. The pain is still real. By Thursday, with luck, the idiotic optimism will return. On Sunday I will go to the game. Guaranteed.
What I wonder about is who else is going to be there? Sydney has a reputation for loving a winner. Mexicans love to point the accusing finger at us claiming we are just fair weather friends. Band wagoners. No knowledge of the game.
Now, some of this may have some basis in fact. But, we don't exactly corner the market in fickleness. Victorian club memberships rise and fall with the relative, or perceived, successes of their clubs. When it comes down to it the world loves a winner. Even the most ardent socialist probably had a sneaking admiration for the wing-keeled win over the cheating Yanks in the America's Cup. Even Alan Bond, then comparatively untarnished, included.
Still, I remember seeing people leave the SCG after 'Plugger' scored that goal. And it wasn't even quarter time. There for the moment? I guess so. There were those that left the St.Kilda game at half time when it was patently obvious we were going to cop a flogging. I was one. I reserve the right to vote with my feet. They were playing badly. I told them the only way I could. I was, of course, back the next week. Then there were those who bought Swan's memberships so they could see the last few games of the '96 season. It was the only way to get a ticket. How many came back for more? How many of those will stay if things go pear shaped again? I don't know, and only time will tell.
Having said all that, I reckon 'Rules' has taken a hold on Sydney. Sure, we're going to lose a few punters if things go down. Quite a few perhaps But, it seems to me, that the core supporter group is there and there to stay. They days of pick-any-seat and freebie tickets are gone. Forever.
The problems with Rugby League are still there. The dumping of the Rabbitohs and the 'enforced' mergers, for instance, has and will continue to take their toll. That, and continued (relatively) good coverage TV of 'Rules', and the Swans in particular, have left an indelible mark on our 'Harbour Siders' psyche.
But I suspect that the real strength of 'Rules" in NSW is the number of kids playing the game. The AFL has targeted this State, (and Queensland), in order to help the game become truly national. The figures for the junior teams have gone through the roof over the past few years. The number of parents involved, obviously, has increased proportionately. Most of this, it could be reasonably argued, is on the back of the Swans success over the past few years. It seems, therefore, that it is in the best interests of the AFL to ensure that the Swans remain a viable force in the League.
I suppose the test of the commitment of the junior 'converts' will come when they reach fourteen to fifteen years of age. The world game, aka soccer, suffers its biggest loses in this age group. Not even the staggering, if not obscene, amounts of money that a talented player can make in the game seems to dent the power of peer group pressure. Many go on to join their mates play other codes of footy. Perhaps the success of Harry Kewell, and the press coverage that surrounds him, may change that. Australia making the World Cup wouldn't hurt either. If it does, then all other footy codes could suffer. But I have a sneaking suspicion that the cultural forces surrounding the more 'traditional' codes will bolster their prospects for some time to come.
So I reckon I can look forward to going out to the SCG, hopefully not Homebush - too often, at least - for the rest of my lifetime. I can sing "Cheer, Cheer, the Red and the White" more often than walk out of the ground before I hear too many bars of the opposition blasphemies. And best of all, I will, one day, sing THAT song at the MCG on that One Day in September.
Interview: War Stories from the Shakey Isles
After being flat-earthed, New Zealand unions are making a comeback under a new progressive government. Darien Fenton is at the forefront of the resurgence.
Unions: Laying It On the Line
A complex international legal web underpins a long-running South Coast picket.
International: Alive and Kicking
Those representing right wing political forces and strategists for multi-national corporations would be disappointed by the success of the recently concluded Congress of the WFTU in Delhi.
Economics: Fair Trade not Free Trade
The successful MAI and Seattle campaigns have sparked a new debate about the role of the World Trade Organization.
History: The Manchester Movement
Manchester, in Asa Briggs memorable phrase, was the shock city of the early nineteenth century, a small and obscure market town that in a matter of a few years had become a huge city.
Satire: Passing the Buck
Government report tells bosses how to lie and pass the buck: Reith blames Kemp
Review: A Book to Set the Left Right
The Australian Finacial Review's Stephen Long gives his verdict on 'Tales from the new Shop Floor'.
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