This article was first written for an published by The Roar.
Over the last 20 years, supporting my various teams has definitely given rise to some grim times.
Despite trying to suppress them, each embarrassing loss remains unforgettable.
If I simply scrape the surface of my memory, I can remember each one vividly – where I was, what I was doing and how I was feeling. Whenever I think about these games I have a sick feeling in my stomach.
Games like the grand final qualifier in 1998, when the Parramatta Eels led the Canterbury Bulldogs 18-2 with ten minutes to go, looking all but set to qualify for the club’s first grand final in 12 years.
What followed were some of the most traumatic minutes of my young life, involving Craig Polla-Mounter and Daryl Halligan.
Parramatta lost that game 32-20 and I still am yet to recover. In fact, mention that game to any Parramatta fan and watch their face turn white and their eyes widen in horror.
I’ve got plenty more where that came from.
What about the Eels losing the 2001 grand final to the Newcastle Knights by 30-24, despite being the best team all year and breaking almost every record there was to break in rugby league history?
Or 2005, when Parra lost to the North Queensland Cowboys in the grand final qualifier by 29-0 despite, again, being the best team that year and being favourites heading into that game. Afterwards, I locked myself in my room for a week and listened to Fix You by Coldplay on repeat.
Traumatised. Devastated. Sick. Melancholy. That’s how I remember feeling after each one of those losses.
But no matter how grim the situation, there’s one thing I have never, ever done – boo my football team.
I’ve booed the opposition. I’ve booed particular players on opposing teams. I might have even booed a refereeing decision at one point, but booing my team is something with which I fundamentally disagree.
On Sunday I travelled the almost two hours from Sydney to Newcastle to watch the Knights take on the Wests Tigers. This was the first time in 18 months that the Knights went into a game as favourites and, after their performance against the St George Illawarra Dragons last weekend, I was expecting a win for the red and blue.
But the Knights didn’t even come close to a win – in fact, at the end of the first half they were 20-nil down.
It’s devastating to think that even though the Knights were playing one of the lowest-ranked teams on the ladder, and despite how much the team has improved this year, they still faced such a margin at halftime and were so far off the mark.
Despite a first 40 which was characterised by silly mistakes, plenty of dropped ball and a lack of creativity in attack, I was certainly surprised when the siren went and the Knights players walked towards the sheds with their heads down.
I was surprised because I noticed that a couple (and I mean a couple) of Newcastle fans stood on their seats and booed their team off the field – yelling things like “You should be embarrassed”, “Don’t bother coming out for the second half” and, what they thought was straight to the point – “You stink”.
I am certainly not tarring all Knights fans with the same brush. In fact, I respect Newcastle fans almost more than any other fan-base in the competition, because more than any other in recent times they really have stayed true.
It speaks volumes about how passionate Newcastle fans are about their team that, even though their team has only won three games in almost two years, 19,531 people turned up on Sunday. These are the sorts of crowds that some of the Sydney clubs dream about and it is truly a testament to the commitment Novocastrians have to their footy team.
If any team has earnt the right to boo their football team, it’s Knights fans.
But no fan ever earns this right.
As a fan, I see my job as to support my team almost unconditionally. The men that take the field spend hours training every single week. They put their bodies on the line. At any point, they are one tackle away from serious injury. In my heart of hearts, I believe that these men take the field each week wanting to win.
Sometimes it may not look that way. It may look like they have a poor attitude, or they haven’t turned up. It’s those weeks that the players need the fans more than ever.
What does booing achieve? Some people say it shows passion. Some people say it motivates the players. Some think that just because they pay money to watch a football game that it gives them the right to do and say whatever they like.
But yelling abuse and booing players after a poor performance could not possibly make them feel any worse than they already do.
As a fan, my job is to lift the spirits of my players and those around me – I do that by cheering. Or by staying silent when others may resort to booing.
You can boo bad sportsmanship. You can boo foul play. But don’t ever try to convince me that it is OK to boo your football team – no matter how grim the circumstances.