Umpire and Fans: Yelling at the sky

Dear Mr Umpire.


I understand that a footy fan referred to you as a bald headed flog on the weekend. It’s an interesting choice of words to use by that particular fan because after Redmond Barry sent Ned Kelly to his death Ned called Redmond a bald headed flog too. The difference here is that the footy fan was wrong, but Ned was right. (Though it must be said that you do have a bald head).


Anyway, please don’t take this abuse personally. You are not part of the game. I mean that in the nicest possible way. You are simply part of the game’s infrastructure. Like a goal post. So when the fans lean over the fence and yell abuse, they are actually screaming at the sky, not at your person, as such.


Yelling at the footy has been going on since the Romans fed Christians to the lions. (Not the Brisbane Lions, real lions). Back then they screamed, “stultus es!” which doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. They yell because life isn’t fair. They yell because men don’t understand their wives and because wives do understand their men. They yell because someone took their carpark at the supermarket last Sunday, because no one changed the empty toilet paper roll at home on Friday morning, because they got fined for doing 42 kilometres an hour in a forty zone. They yell because they are not allowed to yell anymore! It’s not about you!


If fans can no longer yell at the footy then footy is inpensius. If a bloke can’t shake his fist at the footy gods and screech, “you white (insert other appropriate colour here) maggot” then life as we know it has ended. But you need to understand that you are not the maggot, you are simply the maggot’s avatar. The maggot is the pain he is feeling now, which is the happiness he had yesterday. The maggot is the flat tyre he got on the freeway. The maggot is his inability to shoot 90 on the golf course. The maggot is his boss’s sucky mate who got the promotion over him. The maggot is the cruelty of life; the gravity that sags his pectorals, the hair growing out of his nostrils, the gut that resembles a soccer ball, the lingering pain in the small of his back, the inability to produce good ideas.


We live in an age of snow flakes (which is ironic given that we are supposedly going to boil to death). Harden up. Understand that being an umpire carries with it certain difficulties just as being a teacher does, or politician, or a proctologist. Let them yell. If they yell, they are happy. Happy in the sense that the grief no longer sits on their chest. Happy that there is still one place that humanity can return to the days of gronk and bawl at the heavens. Happy that the yell is blasting up into the sky where it will rotate around the globe like space junk. It will do no harm up there.


You would take this away? Surely not. If you take offence at being described as bald, grow hair. Or get another occupation.


For more from Dips, CLICK HERE:


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About Damian O'Donnell

I'm passionate about breathing. And you should always chase your passions. If I read one more thing about what defines leadership I think I'll go crazy. Go Cats.


  1. Dips, I reckon you should take a listen to Michael Lewis’ new podcast ‘Against the Rules’…a series that looks at the downfall of the referee in American life. The first episode is sports-based, even if those that follow aren’t. Fascinating stuff, and something that’s been interesting to think about with the AFL’s recent responses to umpire abuse.

  2. Dips as. a maggot I agree with you completely

  3. Dips, you have nailed it there. Perhaps you should put in a submission to the AFL to explain it to them. They seem in ned of some assistance.

  4. Brilliant Dips. You listed all my life grievances perfectly. Caveat Emptor. You knew what you were getting yourself in for when you took the job – so take the money and shut up you BHF (speaking as one to another).
    I went to the SANFL from when I was 6 with my grandparents who basically had nothing in common except loving our team; hating all others and despising rotten cheating umpires even more. Umpires should be able to bulk bill Medicare for the thousands of marriage counselling/depression relieving/anxiety removing consultations they provide every week. If the AFL were serious about mental health we would have 4 umpires so there was more opportunity for therapy relief.
    Anyway what sort of namely pamby abuse is flog? In the lexicon of abuse that’s like being flogged with a wet flog. Enough of this political correctness – mongrel; person of uncertain parentage; Clive Palmer voter…………..

  5. Dips, Unfortunately I haven’t been able to attend the footy for some time but for all those times barracking at the game was part of the fun. It would seem you have to chose your words very carefully now or the speech police will descend on you.

    That being said, I well remember being at the Glenelg Oval some years ago and copping a real ear full from an overly aggressive Bays fan. It wouldn’t have been so bad if he was yelling sense – he was, besides urging Glenelg on, sprouting bullldust and downright lies of a sexual nature about Norwood.

    Instead of just moving away, I foolishly suggested he get himself a new script writer. Well, if I thought him a ratbag then, he proved my assessment of him correct as he became even more nonsensical. What made it worse was the Bays went on to win the match

  6. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    I hear ya Dips. The Maggots have got it relatively easy. Wouldn’t want to make a mistake if I was a proctologist.
    I’ve been to 4 games in the last 3 years. Prefer to be at home and yell and scream at the TV, duck out for a dart, pluck my ear and nose hair at half time and not have to worry about the trip home.
    My living room is my cauldron now and I ain’t going back.

  7. Interestingly the more referees that have been introduced into American sport (basketball in particular) the more disgruntled are the fans. Another argument against big government.

    Being an umpire would be difficult. I’ve only done it a few times. But taking footy fan abuse personally (unless some lunatic, footy fan flog gets right in your face) is like believing that insurance companies really do care for you.

    The umpires should enter the arena dressed in simple, unobtrusive attire, with no names or numbers on their backs, no mention of who they are in the Footy Record, and certainly no microphone attached to their shirts. We don’t need to know who they are. Its not important. Just like knowing who manufactured the goal posts isn’t important. A really good umpire is virtually invisible. Why do judges in the higher courts wear wigs and gowns? To de-humanise them. To disguise the person and exalt the law. We should do the same with umpires.

    And if the AFL is worried about the fans not understanding the umpires decisions, then STOP CHANGING THE RULES!!

  8. Been a basketball maggot for many years. Reckon if you haven’t developed a thick hide by the time you get to this level, something is wrong. With you, I used to think of it as stress relief for those who otherwise may not get enough – stress relief that is.

    Really just symptomatic of the wider world, as you say with the snowflake line. So many people with nothing else to do but find fault in others or “ take to twitface”.

  9. Watching footy for almost 60 years, I believe it’s not the frees the umps pay that are most annoying but those that are missed. This can be most frustrating and it can be hard not to voice a disapproval. Over the years I have witnessed many shocking lack of decisions and occasionally some blatantly wrong ones.

    All one can do nowadays, it seems, is to grin and bare it, or better yet, complain about it in THE FOOTY ALMANAC

  10. I cringe every time I hear the word “flog”.
    I despise it. And I despise the person who invented it.
    And I despise talk-back radio stations for allowing people to come on the line and say it!

  11. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Your last sentence could have been shortened by eleven words Smokie.

  12. E.regnans says

    Beautifully written, Dips. Love it.

    But the umpire is not a goal post.
    He/she is a person.

    “Life is hard” – I get it.
    Yell at a goal post if that helps.
    Or at the sky (great idea).
    Or at the idea of being wronged (“Oh NO I CAN’T BELIEVE IT!”)
    No reason to make life harder for someone else.
    It’s pretty easy to attend the footy without abusing anyone.

  13. When the umpires cop as much abuse from me as Jack Darling (insert your favourite whipping boy here) they will have something to complain about. Footy is a Punch and Judy Show and the participants are well paid for our entertainment.

  14. Pamela Sherpa says

    Good article Dips . The umpires have it easy compared to some other professions,where daily abuse and the threat of physical violence is the norm now. They are at least protected by distance and security.
    Barracking loudly is harmless and different to foul mouthed abuse which no one should have to cop . If I’m near obnoxious fans at the footy , I ignore them or get up and move spots.

  15. george smith says

    What has become of Angry Cheersquad Guy? I don’t know much about him, but every time the Pharisees give Collingwood the raw end of the prawn, the cameras pan to Angry Cheersquad Guy giving a us cross between Marcel Marceau and Robbie Muir. It is alarming to see such rage but then we remember, as Collingwood supporters, we have all been there. Not, I might add, in grand finals, where we all turn into Marvin the Paranoid Android.

    I would hate to think that the Peter Duttons at AFL House have Angry Cheersquad Guy in their sights. We need him at Collingwood, after 12 losing grand finals in recent times plus all the other times the Cardinals have scrod (Japanese fish) Collingwood we need someone to remind us that life is not fair and we are shirty about it!

  16. ER agree. Not suggesting umpires are like goal posts in a personal sense or should be disregarded like a goal post . On the contrary. But am suggesting that we err when we make them part of the game. They are crucial to its operation but not its essence.

    My argument is that it is not the person that people yell at (unless it is mindless abuse) it is usually life itself! I hope the umpires understand that.

  17. Much to discuss here. I’m with you on the catharsis of it all Dips. Life is not fair. I’ll try to find a few works of literary merit that address the issue with footy specifically in mind. BUt here is a song to take in:

  18. And while I’m here this is all part of a broader issue – when a footy field moves from playing field to workplace. One thing I do know is that the ‘workers’ have a different view than the fans. I’m certainly lagging behind – and happy to lag behind.

    The question for those profiting from the game is how not to kill the very essence of the game and its meanings which is what attracted Commerce to it in the first place.

  19. JTH – superbly encapsulated.

  20. I’ve heard the term ‘bald headed flog’ used in my vicinity occasionally. Now it all becomes clear – they were talking about umpires. What a relief!

    Cheers, Burkie

  21. DBalassone says

    Well said Dips. I’m all for letting out a bit of steam from your seat, but I do wonder about people who actually run down to the race and hurl abuse at umpires as they’re walking off the ground at half time. It’s much more practical to beat the rush to the dunny before the masses get there.

  22. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Maybe they could introduce Classification Sections like the movies with the appropriate warnings ?
    Footy has become like a 6 month Christmas: Overexposed, commercialized and mainly for the kids.
    Happy Holidays Dips !!

  23. Earl O'Neill says

    Well writ, Dips.
    What became of ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me’?

  24. roger lowrey says

    Agree with everything you say Dips and I am an old very average country umpire from the 70s and 80s. Things were a lot simpler then but, essentially, it’s the difference between banter and abuse. I feel the politically correct AFL gets it wrong too often. We all know real abuse when we hear it. We get that and the AFL has done well to make crowds feel safe and family friendly. Good work. But they get the next bit wrong.

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