In VFL/AFL football there is a time honoured tradition of the crowd being vocal during matches. Most of the watchers know the game, many have played the game, or aspired to do so. Many who watch, or listen, know the intricacies of the game, and how demanding and merciless it can be. Many consider it a game which requires extreme courage to play, seeing it as a test of the character of the players.
Many consider the game to be peerless amongst football codes, because as it has evolved it has retained its high level of physicality, it has if anything become inescapable in the scrutiny of its players, and it is relentless in the level of competitiveness between the clubs. This is replicated throughout the AFL states.
Elite football does not exist without the non-elite, players of all levels of ability, striving for excellence, and tales of the gifted country footballer still resonate, because those young men, and women, do occasionally turn up, often from country towns, sometimes from the city or wherever else the game is played, to display heroic capabilities. State that someone played even one game and most of us are still in awe of such an achievement. And the game has been played for so long now that it has its own history, with its own legends and myths.
Every country town last century boasted a footy team, and its companion, a netball team. These days many of the women who would have played netball now embrace women’s football. Many towns have the footy ground, with its four posts at either end, and somewhere close by, a netball court. It’s Australia, mate.
Football demands, above all else, commitment. The kids who are seen with a football constantly in their hands, grown men wearing their team’s colours in public, the answer to the question “Who do you barrack for?”
Those who have played at the highest level often note the level of noise at a game, the oohs and aahs of the watching crowds, the sheer numbers who attend games. This vocal quality often had a tinge of humour attached, as when Val Perovic, a Carlton player, kicked the ball. He could kick it a ‘country mile’, the crowd would erupt, shouting “woof” whenever he sent a long left footer out of defence. Shouting “woof” was a joy on a Saturday afternoon, back in the 80s, along with 30,000 other lunatics.
There have been others, of course, but always within the spirit of the game. Roy Cazaly was cheered every time he went for a mark, where the crowd roared “Up there, Cazaly”. Passionate commitment, from all, until the siren sounded. And then the most appealing part of our game; families and friends, even strangers supporting opposing teams, walking away without conflict, immediately after games, because the game is over. No barbed wire, no armed police, no segregation of opposing fans.
In recent times, however, there has arisen a really ugly addition to our beautiful game. Adam Goodes, a true giant of the game, was driven from the field of battle by opposition fans, grown ups and not so much, actually booing him. People not fit to lace his boots actually disgraced our game with this behaviour. His record is huge. Two Brownlow Medals, two premierships, All Australian four times, he played 372 games. Not one. Three hundred and seventy two!
There was a sinister reason for the booing, however. It was simple racism, tinged with jealousy and envy. Goodes had called out racist language in a couple of games, and in an act of defiance one night, he performed a short version of an Aboriginal ”war dance” at a section of the crowd which had been booing him mercilessly. Some of them actually called his gesture “intimidating”, although he was a lone black man, being publicly vilified. He had scored another inspiring goal, by the way.
Boo. It is a stupid word, which describes a stupid act. “Booing is an act of showing displeasure for someone or something, generally in response to an entertainer, by loudly yelling boo! (and holding the “oo” sound) or making other noises of disparagement, such as hissing.” Wikipedia.
Wow. I took a straw poll last weekend, and I could not find one person who admitted to booing, ever. Some expressed the free speech argument, though that is a false equivalence. Booing caused a modern master of our game to retire, prematurely, because the weight of the crowd was too much.
Booing is for babies. You boo when you are watching Punch and Judy shows. That is the only acceptable use of the act of booing, and it should be discontinued when you attain school age. If you continue to exhibit this behaviour, you are suffering from arrested development, and you need help.
Adam Goodes left the game, and he has never attended any function related to the game, since his retirement. Now that is a crying shame.