Showdown 44: Fans: are they fierce or fickle?

Showdown 44 – not a match report

I was in South Australia for a few days last week staying with my Port Power season ticket holder friends. A couple wineries on Thursday and a magnificent lunch at Elli Beer’s The Eatery on Friday got us to Saturday in good style.

 

I could tell that my friend was trying not to get too worked up about Showdown 44. As we demolished the leftover lamb shanks for lunch on Saturday, we talked about the game. An inter-Stater, I had little skin in the game although I admit to having a preference for the Crows, a hangover from a deeply felt loathing of Port Adelaide from an earlier stint in Adelaide in the 70s and early 80s.

 

As we prognosticated, all the omens, all the press, all the chatter and most of the would-be cognoscenti pointed to a comfortable Crows win. The Crows, on a six-game Showdown winning streak, playing well in recent weeks and with Tex back on board looked the goods against a misfiring, low on confidence and out of sorts Power.

 

I decided to make my tip. There could only be one possible winner: Port Power. I had precedent for making such a call against the odds. Sometime back in the 80s, maybe the 90s, in a far-away place called Queensland and in a diametrically opposite footy code, rugby league, the all-powerful, all-conquering Brisbane Broncos, playing at home, faced an injury-riddled, bottom half of the table and directionless rabble masquerading as the Balmain Tigers. Previewing the game in the local paper, a contrarian pundit summed it up well: only one team could win – Balmain. And they did.

 

To Adelaide Oval for my first footy match there since the stadium revamp. Seats with additional friends in a good position on the eastern wing, a fine if cool evening but, alas, embedded among the Power faithful. (Grudgingly I have to admit that they’re a bit more civilised than they were at Alberton in the 70s, but that’s not saying much.)

 

Being a Power home game, the crowd was about 65% Port. The primeval roar greeting their demi-gods as they took to the field was visceral, the ‘singing’ to accompany some INXS dirge tuneless, the boos for the Crows a cacophony of calumny, the pre-bounce rendition of Never Tear Us Apart a testament of faith to rival any creed.

 

Like many other seasoned Almanackers, I find the modern game underwhelming. Today’s seeming hordes of identical, athletic, interchangeable automatons leave me a tad cold. It’s one rolling maul after another or too much chipping sideways, possession play or safety first. Why are all 36 players in one half of the field? Whatever happened to the long bomb to a one-out contest at centre half-forward with a flanker or a rover scouting the pack? There’s too little open, free-flowing play. I yearn for the one-on-one contests of yesteryear, the era of set positions, defined lines of defence and attack, strict limits to replacements and, later on, interchanges.

 

Anyway, the game got underway and the more slick Crows edged away from the fumbling, stop-start, directionless Power for most of the first half. The minority Crow supporters were in raptures, almost hoping for a percentage booster. The Port faithful were merciless, nay, utterly condemnatory, in their vocal demolition of their bedraggled, not-very-effective warriors – and that’s putting it politely. The coaching staff were useless, the match plan (if it existed at all) had to be revamped, several players needed to have their contracts reviewed if not torn up, the draft couldn’t come soon enough.

 

To this comparatively neutral observer, the crazy thing was that the Crows led by only 21 points at half-time despite their domination of the first half. We all know 21 points down is nothing these days, even deep into the last quarter. One accompanying friend remained hopeful (sharing my perception of the scoreboard in spite of the state of the game); the other was pragmatic and downcast; the ladies left and relocated to a nearby pub!

 

The third quarter turn-around was emphatic. Suddenly the ball bounced fortuitously for the Power, the odd soft free within goal-kicking range proved fruitful, Crows players became hesitant and the scoreboard had the home team a couple of goals up by the last break. Ah, how fickle the masses! Once were worriers, now become masters of the universe. Excellent coaching, brilliant game plan, players of rare quality, superb teamwork, etc, etc…

 

A tense final term, a big Crows comeback to snatch the lead with a minute to play, raw nerves among the faithful. I didn’t think it was ever in doubt and so was totally unsurprised when a poor post-bounce set-up by the Crows allowed an easy disposal into the Power half-forward line before a good bounce and slick handpass favoured Motlop to slot it through from 40 metres to ice the game. Never in doubt! And how the Alberton hordes bayed! Religions of all hues could learn a lesson or two from this mob. Admittedly the post-match singing was a touch more tuneful – perhaps their collective tonsils had been sufficiently lubricated during the game.

 

Adelaide Oval is still a very beautiful place, just different from a previous era. Fill it with 50,000 passionate supporters and it rocks. I enjoyed the experience (thanks friends!) but left smiling, bemused by the fickle nature of the everyday fan. Perhaps it’s true that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

 

 

 

Ian Hauser’s Australian football playing career extended to one match – for first year Arts students versus first year Science students at Flinders University in 1971. He played as second ruckman and found the scouting rover perfectly with a tap from a throw-in. A pity the rover played for Science! The match was a draw. These days he plays with words. Check out his editing services here.

 

 

About Ian Hauser

A happily retired ex-teacher with a (very) modest sporting CV. A Queenslander through and through who looks for those beautiful moments in sport (and life) that capture the spirit rather than the law of the game. Love reading and good wine. I run my own editing service for aspiring writers. Check me out at writerightediting.com.au

Comments

  1. chrism76 says:

    Good piece. You make some good points about the state of the game.
    But two things – ALL fans are fickle. The interest and comments vary starkly between the first quarter and the last quarter at most games for most fans.
    We expect a lot as Port fans so anything less than absolute domination is often met with groans of this or that. hardly unusual.

    Also, it’s Port Adelaide. There is no such team, club or entity as ‘Port Power’.
    But good piece.

  2. Peter Fuller says:

    Ian,
    I love your take on the match. I refer to it as champs or chumps syndrome. Our team (players, coaches, recruiting staff) are never viewed as the outstandingly mediocre actors which in truth they are. No, one week – or as you observe, one quarter, -they are idiots, incompetents; when events turn around, they are geniuses, champions.
    The supporter’s psychological investment depends on his irrationality, and it’s why normally sane people carry on like pork chops at the game.
    True there are supporters of certain teams whose mood swings are more dramatic than others, but I still think it’s pretty much a universal phenomenon. On the basis of less extensive experience of other sports, I’m reasonably confident in asserting that it applies there also. Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch suggests that it might be even more pronounced among soccer fans.

  3. Good stuff Ian, particularly the para about how the modern game is played. Think you may have been generous, I have seen games when all 36 were in about a quarter of the field at once, bit like an under 8’s game I saw once. You are right about supporters too, I suppose some of that comes from the notoriously short attention spans of many folk these days. I suppose one could quip that at least most of the Port people were still there at the end! Glad you enjoyed AO too, I am a bit mixed, have been going since Lance Gibbs’ hat trick and have outlived 2 grandstands at the south, which is a bit of a worry, but overall I like the new deal.

  4. Dave Brown says:

    Yeah interesting observations there, Ian. Adelaide Oval is a cracker and it’s unlikely you’d get a much louder crowd at the stadium than in that last quarter. Yep, all footy fans are fickle in the way you describe (I can’t find where you suggested otherwise) but the bathwater drinking tendency of more rabid Port Power supporters creates an interesting dynamic (going into each season demanding a premiership makes the other 21 out of 22 seasons an interesting exercise in reality crashing into overinflated expectations, played out week by week).

  5. Peter_B says:

    Lovely piece Ian. Adelaide Oval was my home as a child and adolescent – all of summer and finals in winter. Have been once since the big redevelopment. I prefer it to the new Perth mausoleum. Keeping the old scoreboard and the mound/terraces at the northern end keeps a little of the traditional cricket ground feel (without the inconveniences of 6 inches of urine flowing through the only toilets).
    Yeah all fans are fickle, but the highest highs produce the lowest lows.
    Port fans seem to be the crack cocaine users of the AFL. I have got off the hard stuff these days and try to restrict myself to a few bongs on match day. We all have our preferred poisons.

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