Above: The Roosters basking in the glory of being crowned ‘World (Club) Champions’.
I love and hate the sports teams I choose to follow. It’s hard to explain why I feel this way; it’s most likely because I have invested far too much emotional energy into these teams. Specifically, I have my lifelong love/hate relationship with the NRL team, the Sydney Roosters and a growing series of conflicting emotions directed at the NBA team I follow, the Boston Celtics. The former has more emotional baggage attached to it than the latter, but dark negative energies are become stronger the more I think about the Boston Celtics’ tanking efforts and the numerous failures in the playoffs during the ‘Big 3’ era.
Let me tell you how negative I can get. Several years ago, I bagged out the Roosters so much that I lost my voice. Ironically, the Roosters ended up beating the Parramatta Eels in said game. My negativity/hate has been so intense and confronting that some good friends of mine no longer want to go to games with me. Part of me doesn’t blame them, because I imagine that they wouldn’t want to sit with a cantankerous grump like me. You may think this may have prompted some change in my behavior, drawn me a little closer to the more common ground optimism (or at least pragmatism). Sadly, I’m already set in my ways. I both love and hate (in somewhat equal proportions) the teams I support. To the outsider I probably seem like some sort of irrational lunatic, who enjoys abusing a highly-paid sportsmen, that I claim to support. The truth is that I do love my teams, but I can’t look past the fact that they have let me down on so many occasions. Sports teams are like that friend who arranges a catch-up and then takes a rain check.
Last month I went to see the Roosters play in the World Club Challenge. The game is a concept where the reigning champion from the National Rugby League and the European Super League face-off to claim the title of the greatest rugby league club in the world. This game is a big deal. I’ve never seen (in the flesh) the Roosters compete in a game of this nature before. The last time the Roosters appeared in the World Club Challenge was in 2003, in St. Helens, England. This year’s WCC was played in Sydney, for the first time in two decades. Honestly, I was happy, but I still couldn’t contain my negative energies. I’m like Vegeta from Dragonball Z, I try to be good, but I end up lapsing into bad habits.
For the vast majority of the game the Roosters dominated proceedings. However, I couldn’t shake my negative tendencies. A family friend that was sitting in the row behind me asked what I thought of the first half the most positive comment I could muster was ‘I wish they wouldn’t throw the ball around so much.’ Conversely, my friend was very happy with how the Roosters played, with the comment that they’d ‘picked up where they’d left off’. My friend was right, what should I expect in their first competitive game in over four months? Also, the risky carefree plays is what made the Roosters such a dangerous team, but I can’t accept this because it does not fit into my safety first approach to football. To put the icing on the cake, my team was up 18-0 at half time and I still certain that the wheels were doomed to fall off. No team, not even the champions, could live up to my ridiculous expectations and I will dwell on every mistake, no matter how insignificant, that they make. But there are benefits to being negative.
You are convinced that you’re team is going to lose, irrespective of the quality of the opposition, location of the game and how corrupt the referees are.
The highs amazingly high; if your team does win, they have managed to shut down every psychological barrier that you have put before them.
You expect and can therefore deal with failure.
You gain a perverse sense of pleasure at the fact that you are right about your team’s ineptitude.
Your negative anecdotes may provide some much needed laughter for other supporters while your team is being put to the sword.
You will annoy a lot of people.
You run the risk of being called a ‘fake supporter’ (if anyone calls you this, they obviously have something wrong with them in the basement of their soul).
If you expect that you will face a lot of mediocrity and failure in your vicarious sporting endeavours, I suggest that you embrace your darker, negative side.