Be a good parent at the footy please

‘F-ck off you Green Maggot’, said the patron two rows in front of me on Saturday night at the G. Nothing unusual in the statement I guess. Many patrons probably said something similar at the questionable call from the official in the second quarter. What made the outburst so disappointing was that it was from a Parent who was sitting next to his son (probably between 3-5 years of age). Following the outburst the young kid then rose to his feet and impersonated Dad by letting out a loud scream (no words).

Several F and C bombs followed during the game and Dad seemed oblivious to the fact he had his little fella sitting next to him and watching his every move. The Dad was absorbed in the game. It was sheep stations for him as he rode every bump and gave his two cents worth on just about everything. Among the other comments I can recall were ‘Franklin you f–cking traitor’ and ‘Goodes you soft p–k’.

Years of watching football and you tend to get a feel for spectators. As a general rule I think guys who call players soft have probably never ventured onto the turf in a serious game of football. Anyone who has played the game generally knows that most players (particularly at the elite level) don’t lack courage. Usually I think it is their own insecurity coming out.

I was angry and disappointed. I wonder if the Dad was. He didn’t look it. He might be a ripping bloke and a great Dad, but he let himself down on Saturday night. A blip on the radar hopefully.

That kid walked away from the footy thinking it was acceptable to use that language. I wonder if he let rip at childcare on Monday if one of the teachers took away his spade in the sandpit?

I wonder if I let myself down by not saying something to him during the match? Should I have gone for a walk and given him a tap on the shoulder to take a step back. Maybe he would have thrown his $7 mid strength at me? Who am I to be the moral police? I do know if it was one of my mates I would have told him to pull his head in.

I’m no saint and yes I’ve sworn in front of my son at times. I do try hard to set the best example I can, like most parents I suspect. I used to get really wound up watching footy, before Jack arrived. In the early days when he was a few weeks old Jack was alseep in the pram and I was watching the Tigers play my Swans. The Tigers were hammering us and I threw a remote at the TV, missing Jack by a few centimetres. I was digusted in myself. I let emotion sweep me up and afterwards it really stopped me in my tracks. I had to pull my head in when watching the footy and I’m happy to say I have. When I am watching the footy with Jack I make it about him – have fun, encourage him to cheer and kick his little footy etc. If I feel I’m getting too involved in the game then I remove myself and retire to another room to watch.

Most blokes like to let fly with some fruity language at the footy. I get that. No problems at all with it. If you want to do it then don’t bring your kids. You have a choice. Make the sacrifice and go along with your mates and scream your head off. If you choose to bring a little tacker then modify your behaviour. Thats is your responsibility as a Parent. You can’t have your cake and eat it.

I was hoping to take Jack (2.5 years old) to the footy for the first time later this year. Now I am not so sure.  I can’t protect him from society (nor should I) but I think I should probably wait a few more years before I should expose him to this environment.

At what age should you take your kid to the footy?

It was interesting to watch the kid’s Mum on Saturday. I could see she was uncomfortable and squirming in her seat. She decided to say nothing. Maybe she has tried before? I’m pretty sure if I carried on that way my better half would have me sleeping on the beanbag downstairs for a week.

When at the footy the role model for your kids is not Buddy or Hodgey, rather it is you.

Know that and modify your behaviour. If you simply can’t help yourself then the footy is not a family outing for you.





About craig dodson

Born in the sporting mecca that is Wagga Wagga and now reside in Melbourne with my lovelly wife Sophie and son's Jack and Harry. Passionate Swans supporter and formally played cricket at a decent level and Aussie Rules at a not so decent level! Spend my days now perfecting my slice on the golf course and the owner of the worlds worst second serve on the tennis course.


  1. daniel flesch says

    Good stuff , Craig – all well summed up. Your neighbour at the footy showed a distinct lack of class , imagination and possibly intelligence. Big diff. between a smart quip and just vulgar abuse. And he was a Hawk fan(atic) too , sigh. If Buddy’s a traitor so are Gunston , Lake , Gibson and Hale all recruited from other AFL clubs.

  2. Good to recognise Craig that after all it is just a game. Sometimes we take it all too seriously. Neither the players or umpires can hear the comments usually so who are they for? themselves, the crowd?
    For your son the decision is based on how important footy is to you will probably determine how important it is to him. I think even a 4 year old would struggle with boredom sitting for 3 hours and barely be able to see much of the action but as you say it should be more about the relationship building, bonding if you like, an event that helps the father-son relationship in incremental steps which is sadly lacking in many youngsters today. So the game itself may be all but irrelevant to Jack but the time spent with his Dad will be invaluable.

  3. An earlier piece of some relevance to this topic k

  4. Dave Brown says

    Yep, top article Craig. As a dead set white line fever tragic, regardless of which side of the line I’m on, the kids certainly are a great mirror of your behaviour. Not everyone chooses to look into it, sadly.

    I thought I was pretty good at moderating my commentary once we started taking kids along. But seeing my nephew start abusing the umpires anytime things weren’t going our way, it was pretty clear where that was coming from.

    My kids both started going to the footy at 3. But that is SANFL footy where there is a bouncy castle, face painting and you can go out on the ground during the breaks. My 6 year old is still not interested in going to AFL games because it doesn’t present the same entertainment opportunities.

  5. Gregor Lewis says

    Thoughtful piece Craig.

    Which is why pretty much anything you could have said to someone so deep in that barracking delusion, would probably come across as white noise.

    Or, worse still, be perceived as a challenge to his cowardly display of ‘alpha’ bravado.

    I’m a fiery viewer of most sports in front of my TV in my most natural state – solitary. I like to use colourful language as added flavour to my invective. I’ve been known to abuse anyone in the game – always about their performance in the moment, because I get so caught up in that moment myself – under certain conditions, but never when children are around.

    Now you, or his wife could have pulled him up. The fact he let rip with such cowardly insults could mean he might have caved when calmly confronted with what he was doing.

    On the other hand if that confrontation caused him to arc up, escalating the situation, then one has to consider what further bad examples his child is being exposed to.

    I’ve never agreed with this ‘fair game’ theory. ‘I pay my money I can say what I like’ has always seemed off to me. Moreso because of what alot of kids exposed to that attitude take away from it.

    But you have to seriously consider just what might happen & how far you’re prepared to go with your objections, when a quiet word is not enough.


  6. craig dodson says

    Daniel – good point about the smart quip vs abuse

    Noel – I think you are spot on in regards of looking at it as a bonding experience and time spent together.

    Dave – you have given me a good idea, I’ll take Jack to the local footy for a quarter and see if it captures his interest. I think he would love to have a kick at the breaks.

    Gregor – It did pop into my mind what would happen if my approach was not well taken. In the end I guess that is what held me back. 10 years ago I probably would have taken the punt, but now I guess I jumped to the negative of what would have happened.

  7. daniel flesch says

    Craig , thanks for the compliment. I think not confronting that loudmouth was probably the wiser move. Years ago (you can guess how many from the context) i was at a Swans vs. Hawks game at the SCG. Bloke behind us repeatedly calling Robert Dipierdomenico ” a bloody wog.” Tiring of this , i suggested he be more inventive . Just copped abuse myself , of course. My mate (a Swans supporter) said “I would’ve thought at your age you’d know you can’t reason with stupidity.” Fair point.

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