Is it okay to boo your team?
While being a diehard sports fan can be incredibly rewarding, it can equally be frustrating and demoralising. You need strong resolve and unwavering passion to ride the highs and the lows of any club; be it the local juniors on a Sunday afternoon in front of you and the other mums or dads rostered to drive that weekend, or at ANZ Stadium watching the professionals do their stuff.
Mind you, some of these clubs test our resolve more than others. We're just past the halfway mark of the NRL season and I can guarantee that every fan of every team has experienced huge fluctuations of emotion since that balmy Thursday night in early March when the season kicked off.
The Rabbitohs, for example, have had plenty of highs... but losses to the Storm and Sharks would have been hugely disappointing. Other teams (well, yes, the Eels are the obvious ones) have had to deal with much tougher win/loss records – but you might argue the high of a rare win, like Parramatta's one-point thriller over the Broncos, might be equivalent to five solid (but somewhat expected) Rabbitohs wins... to say nothing of an honourable loss!
Regardless of where your team is sitting on the ladder, they should have one thing in common with every other team in the league: the unwavering support of their fans.
I've made no secret of the fact I am a huge Canberra Raiders fan – and while our 10-in-a-row streak at home is grand (I had to get that in there), our away record isn't pretty. Indeed, Friday's loss to the Rabbitohs was one of the hardest I've had to watch. There didn't appear too much of a contest; we were walloped – by a good team, yes – but I also know we fielded a team very capable of winning.
Every weekend in NRL.com tipping and also The Daily Telegraph I choose the Raiders. Not because I am tipping with my heart (well maybe just a bit) but I also firmly, wholeheartedly and unreservedly believe that the Raiders will win.
Last Friday I watched the game at a pub – and copped a hammering from a Souths fan who took immense delight in watching my frustration (read passion) at mistakes and sloppy defence, and frustration (read admiration) at a really strong Bunnies outfit dominating across the field at ANZ Stadium.
Whilst I really, really feel miserable and sometimes genuinely upset when my team loses, I shall never ever – and I mean ever – boo them. I shall never love them less and I shall never EVER, and I mean EVER, support anyone else.
I'm not looking for any kind of recognition or award for this stance because in my view it is the absolute bare minimum that should be expected of a supporter. Sadly, we've seen a few examples of fans booing their own teams this year – and of course this isn't just confined to our code. Both Bulldogs and Dragons players have had to deal with this. Teams may run out on the pitch and within seconds fall apart and then lose abysmally – but I reckon pretty much their effort will always be 100 per cent. I mean, let's face it: most of the time I try my hardest – don't you?
My colleague Tom Mitchell is a diehard Roosters fan. Now Tom's obviously having a pretty good year, but is adamant that booing just isn't an option. "I get butterflies and goose bumps every time the boys take the field... they could be coming last or coming second – did I mention coming second [laughs] – but irrespective you always back your team. That's the point, you know? Passion goes both ways – I live and die by the red white and blue."
On the other hand I have another colleague who thinks all is fair in love, war and sport. "I think it's totally fair – if you pay your money you can do what you like at a game," he reasons. "This is elite sport, and you can not only demand elite standards, but you are absolutely entitled to express your displeasure if they are not delivered."
I don't know about you – I love my footy and I love winning, but I love my Raiders too. And if they don't quite perform to my expectations on any given day, well then, I won't love them any less, and I certainly won't be booing them off the field.