Footy Tipping, Supercoach and its impact on traditional support.

As the cricket season dies a slow death in another meaningless One Day competition, like all Almanackers, I await the football with great anticipation.

The discussion on this site in recent days about the winter game, coupled with membership drives, calls for Foxtel subscriptions, players talking up pre seasons (where everyone is ‘flying’ on the track and it’s the hardest one ever) coupled with a large increase in advertising in the little paper for SuperCoach competitions, has caused me to reflect on how we support our teams nowadays.

There’s no doubt from these pages and past Almanac publications, that the passion we all have for our chosen team is strong. Equally, that there’s love of the game itself, an appreciation of the talents of some who wear opposing jumpers and a genuine feeling that this game, in its purest form, remains one of the finest sports in the world.

I know of many people who can’t stand the rubbish that accompanies football during the winter: the lead up and reverence shown to it, the slo-mo tributes, the wall to wall discussion on OP and hammies and all the TV shows.  However, they completely love the 2 hours of the actual game and can get incredibly and emotionally caught up with a stunner by Buddy to put the Hawks ahead with minutes to play against the Pies in the Prelim, even if they didn’t know the game was on until they walked past.

But has the rise in football tipping comps and various virtual team competitions that offer significant financial rewards changed for the worse the way we follow matches outside of our own team.

There was a time when you followed your club but had an interest or view on others. You hated Collingwood, and possibly Essendon and Carlton, for tribal and historic reasons you may not have even understood. You felt sympathy for the working class, hard done by Bullies, and didn’t mind the Swans as you grew up on Sunday football when that was the only game on TV, or that Paul Roos was a hard bloke to dislike. You can’t fathom Adelaide sides full stop, but the Cats deserved a break after the Blight years (although their stay at the top is now outgrowing its welcome).

The Tigers make you laugh and you wish them just enough success to die in 9th place again. The Dees, despite you having fun with caricatures of their MCC supporters, are hard to hate, although you still fear they could be a sleeping giant if all works out.  North get some slack due to training out of Atco huts and raising funds almost exclusively it seems through sausage sizzles. Freo can’t be taken seriously although you’d take Pavlich and Sandilands in a heartbeat if the opportunity came up and the Eagles haven’t lost the arrogance of the Malthouse years.

Brisbane still makes you happy when they play in Fitzroy jumpers and the expansion teams are a novelty you simply don’t get.

In some situations then, people could quietly claim to have a ‘second side’, which is often what Richmond supporters do every September.

I know since my 11 year old chose Hawthorn as a little boy, I have taken an interest in them, not to the desertion of my Tigers, but am happy for them to do well for his sake. That’s led to an appreciation of the work of Hodge, Cyril and Buddy which I can reasonably justify having been to many of their games in recent years with him, (although the Tambling draft choice will rankle forever).

That doesn’t mean I don’t want Richmond to beat the Hawks every time, but feel I can take a passing interest in how they are going more than I would, say, Adelaide. You can’t have two sides, but you can love the game, and watch a game not involving your side wanting a team to win for possibly illogical reasons.

My point though  (and I do have one) is that I fear the interest in having a ‘second side’ or worse, the wonderful tribalism that you don’t want to see the Pies succeed at anything, is being threatened by tipping and Super Coach formats.

I struggle with the idea that it is OK to want, for example, Carlton to win (if you hate them), purely because you tipped them in an office competition. Or that you don’t want someone on your own side to kick a late goal to put you 9 goals ahead of a rival in an upset win because you took the lesser margin odds. You don’t want the Dons to win but fine for Hurley to dominate as much as he can as you have him in your Supercoach side.

Seeing people barrack against their side winning big seems incongruous. Following the success of a single opposition player seems bizarre. Willing a hated rival to success seems, well, (everyone bandies the phrase around so I’ll jump on), un-Australian.

I struggle with the idea of wanting a side to win one week then lose the next, purely based on tipping rather than a more primal interest like the impact that win or loss has on your own team’s chances or simply a loathing of them that is inbred.

I accept completely the financial aspect and changing face of football and the fact that having a personal financial interest in games that aren’t your own team is fine and makes the game great. I am not naive or want to see these things gone.

I don’t want to see a return to black boots or woollen jumpers, all games on a Saturday, broadcasts on 3UZ being interrupted by the races,  a Moorabbin mudheap or standing on empty cans on the concrete concourse. The game today is fantastic.

But I wonder what has happened to the concept of wanting another team to do well simply for sympathetic or nostalgic reasons. To carry that through a season (or life) not a week to week proposition based on tipping.

Some clubs of course don’t want your sympathy and rally against it. What I admired about Essendon’s approach to dumping Knights and getting Thompson and Hird a few years back was the absence of any hesitation or shame Essendon felt in going about what was best for their club.

I got the impression that they felt the football world had stopped fearing them, that the Sheedy led ‘us and them’ years had been replaced by a completely un-Essendon notion of almost sympathy from non-Bomber people, which they sought to stamp put through a blatant act of bastardy, for the sole purpose of being successful. Essendon want and need to be feared and despised, that’s when they are at their best. When Essendon felt that opposition supporters may no longer feel any pleasure in belting the Dons, and may have felt pity for how the club and Knights were going,  they acted with 80’s style Bomber aggression and arrogance.

Ethics aside, I was impressed with their single minded focus to move away from the Knights era of poor performance and its repercussions on its brand and culture (not values), to going back to their roots of crushing anything and anybody in their path for the blinkered goal of taking their club to where they feel they should always be. Essendon don’t want your sympathy and acted when they felt that it could start to happen.

Last year’s GF saw a great example of what was described to me as supporting ABC, (Anyone But Collingwood), and indeed the BBQ I attended contained supporters of neither side, but was followed by a mad passion and enthusiasm for every Cat goal that wouldn’t have been out of place in Moorabool Street.

So in some ways, in some games, this is still alive.

But I miss the days in which you simply didn’t want someone to win who you couldn’t stand, illogical as that feeling may have been, didn’t take an interest in the stats or performance of one player from a different club to the detriment of your side and felt Ok about the success of a side you didn’t follow but didn’t mind.

I love watching high quality football, which sadly over the years meant watching games not involving the Yellow and Black. I admire players from many sides and will attend and watch just to see some of them perform.

I am not advocating one eyed supporting and “death to all who oppose us”.  One blight on the game in my view is the blinkered bias of some supporters and their ignorant refusal of any appreciation of good football whenever it occurs. This includes fellow Richmond people, as guilty as any of rapid supporting.

I love the unpredictability of footy tipping and admire the ability to put together a side on paper with a salary cap and see how it performs.

Colour me old fashioned. However, I fear the artificial passion and interest generated by tracking and hanging on the stats and performance of an artificial and virtual team, willing on a despised rival to a win, or quietly wanting a handbrake placed on your side’s winning margin, is taking away the tribalism of the game.

About Sean Curtain

"He was born with a gift of laughter, and a sense that the world was mad". First line of 'Scaramouche' by Sabatini, always liked that.

Comments

  1. Sean,

    It appears that we are just following on from professional sports in the U.S.A.

    Fantasy football/baseball/basketball etc is absolutely massive over there, with
    television shows dedicated to the topic, featuring analysts talking about
    who the viewer should draft into their fantasy team etc. Sportscenter on ESPN
    often bang on about the consequences of injury to fantasy teams etc.

    I would not be surprised if Fox are preparing a DreamTeam/SuperCoach t.v.
    show as we speak. One only has to listen to the overnight guys on SEN, who
    dedicate hours to prattling on about whom they may select for their fantasy
    teams, to know that footy analysis is changing…and not for the better.

  2. Skip of Skipton says:

    Jumping at shadows there Sean, I reckon. If the tribalism was being threatened then I can’t fathom how the Yellow and Black signed up a record membership of masochists last year.

  3. Some fantasy players here in the USA have a purely mercenary attitude — fantasy fortune supersedes all cheering interest. I admit to some of that when I don’t have a horse in the race, as it were. And yes, I do play Dream Team and Supercoach (somewhat ironically in leagues filled with Magpie supporters). But NOTHING interferes with cheering for the Saints. And I don’t populate my teams with many Saints, either (maybe 2 or 3, max). I find fantasy can enhance my interest in a sport because you must follow it more closely to succeed. But fantasy is cerebral and real sport is emotional. Fantasy is individual and real sport is tribal. So for me fantasy is a diversion, and it’s fun to match wits with Aussies at their own game. But being a Saints tragic (I LOVE that term) makes one a part of something so much bigger. I’d like to think there are enough die-hards to keep traditional fan support strong. If fantasy becomes the be-all and end-all for some, I don’t think those folks were true supporters to begin with.

  4. Peter Baulderstone says:

    Don’t know why you care so much about this Sean. You’ll have plenty on your plate in the Carribean.

  5. Skip of Skipton says:

    It’s OK Glenn, Sean has some issues and is still upset about his possible selection in the cricket team being up in the air.
    What we really need here, at this moment in time, is a bonafide American to walk us through the Superbowl. It’s hype and show; and the actual game itself. I’m serious here dagnammit!

  6. 1. I doubt there’s anyone at this site guilty of what Sean fears.
    2. As the Super Bowl is being hosted by my Colts (season tickets), I’d be happy to help. You want style or substance or both?

  7. 3. Is it really on live at 10 a.m. Monday your time?

  8. I remember when young men fantasised about playing the game.
    I remember when young men fantasised about the girls from Beverly Hills 90210, or Winona Ryder, or Pamela Anderson.

    Now, you roll out of the changerooms after training or a game and the boys are talking about fantasy football teams. Urghhh.

  9. “The Tigers make you laugh and you wish them just enough success to die in 9th place again.”

    Strange, but true! Enjoyable read Sean. You captured my emotions regarding other teams quite well.

    PS. Sorry, don’t mean to rub it in but I’ve seen a lot of quality footy in matches involving the Tigers over the last 25 years. Unfortunately for you, the quality was mainly from the boys in the Blue and White hoops.

  10. Tiger Hunt says:

    Nice article Sean, as a diehard tigers supporter, i have swan in my super coach team……….but i hate colliongwood………still……..always…….and forever

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