Much has been written about how the Grand Final attracts the non-supporter. And it is true. They go along to the game; no true allegiance to either team; adopt one for the day and barrack hard until it is obvious their team is going to lose. “They are not my team anyway” is their final remark. Frustrates the heck out of any true supporter who may be nearby. There is no winning satisfaction.
But such beasts are found elsewhere as well. They are actually even more prevalent at your typical Grand Final barbecue or football pub gathering. They are horrible to be around when your team is playing. Their righteousness knows no bounds. I hate them. Possibly because I am one of them.
2012 Grand Final day. The venue is in leafy Hawthorn, a couple of punt kicks better than mine from Glenferrie Oval. Our hosts Guy and Suzanne are Richmond and Geelong supporters respectively so hold no true allegiance themselves. The crowd is mixed with no actual Swans supporters. There is one Hawthorn supporter. I will call him Joe, because that is his name. Joe has barracked for Hawthorn for the 35 years we have been friends.
The crowd comprises a majority of genuine football followers, so once the game begins, the focus is definitely on the TV. Surprisingly, considering our location, most of the non-aligned adopt the Swans for the day. I think Suzanne may have sided with the Hawks because of where she lives, and she likes to be contrary.
When I watch the game at home I am the frequent target of complaint from my wife, and especially from my children, for my comments. If Collingwood is playing, my biases are evident. If other teams are playing, I still cop it. And so it was this day. Can’t remember anything specific, but by the second half, Joe had moved himself behind the exterior glass wall so he could still see the TV but didn’t have to put up with the peanut gallery.
Now Joe is not so pure himself. Three weeks earlier in the first week of finals, we had been at the MCG watching Freo and Geelong. At half time Joe had had to create some distance between himself and a Geelong supporter who wasn’t reacting well to Joe’s vocal support for Freo.
Back to the present, and the invitations have arrived – Guy and Suzanne are hosting again. As Guy wrote after the Tigers’ elimination final loss:
After 48 hours of anguished soul-searching, I’ve now turned the corner and can see some positives in the Tigers’ early final exit –
1. I won’t have to queue up for a beer with 95,000 people again for at least another year;
2. I’ll have at least 2 hours extra every day to devote to family & work, as I no longer read the sports pages, watch Footy Confidential, League Teams, AFL 360, On the Couch etc; and
3. best of all, we’re free to host a Grand Final BBQ! (Actually this bit was probably never in doubt)
Joe has confirmed he will be there. He has already questioned whether I will be attending and whether there have been any additional constraints placed on my behaviour. But Joe will be tested himself. The reason Joe had supported Fremantle so ardently at the ‘G last year was that his nephew, Michael Barlow, was playing. On Saturday Michael will be lining up against Joe’s beloved Hawks. So Joe may have more than just me to put up with. He may also be fighting with himself. Then again, maybe he just can’t lose.