To We Or Not To We
That is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fandom, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and, by opposing, end them.
Among my fellow Fremantle Dockers fans, I can simply apologise to one Shakespeare-comma-W and we all understand the point I’m trying to make without needing to spell it out, but for the Eagles fans who may have stumbled upon this piece: is it better to have lifetime tickets to the purple rollercoaster or to have to find something else to do at 2.40 on a Sunday 12 times a year?
Of course, the answer is "purple rollercoaster" because most Fremantle fans prefer our leather sadism accoutrements to be red and inflatable rather than black, studded and wielded by a woman in knee-high boots.
But unlike our friends in the BDSM community, it doesn't always lead to a happy ending. And does one's dedication to the cause mean you can say "we" when talking about whichever sports team you love?
Just like the little bloke from Jackass, I’m a “we” man, and it frustrates me no end when people - especially non-sports fans - point out that I don’t actually play for whichever team I’m referring to.
My standard response to them is: “Who is more part of the club? The guy that has been going to the games since he was boy, saves all year for his season ticket and lives and dies by the results each week, or the superstar import who couldn’t find the club’s home ground on a map?”
It’s not a debate I particularly enjoy engaging in, because you’re never going to change anyone’s mind. They’re still going to scoff and snigger when I mention how I’m pleased with how we’re playing, previous week exclude, and I’m still going to think they’re a prick for trying to tell me how I can and can’t talk about my team.
But what gives someone the right to be a "we-er"? It's hard to define an answer without sounding like John Williamson. Is it me and you? Is it mum and dad? Is it Chrises Bond and Groom? Is it sitting by your mate watching balls go through Tom Sheridan’s hands? Or just Sandilands?
It’s a nebulous concept, but more to the point it’s a feeling. I say “we” because I feel connected to the club. I’m a member. I was at the MCG in 2013. I wake up at 5.15 on a Saturday morning multiple times a year to watch us play. My weekend is better when we win, and worse when we lose.
REQUIRED READING: PRICE, M.
I think most Freo fans of a similar vintage are we-ers, even if they don't want to admit it. You can't have been a fan this long without some sort of spiritual connection that transcends logic. These are the people who read "Way To Go" and remember, rather than learn.
I've noticed this season a subtle air of entitlement creeping into our fanbase, but on reflection it makes sense: fans in their early 20s can probably only remember us being a decent team, and 2016-2021 was a blip rather than a return to normality.
So, it's no wonder that there were calls for JLo's head when we got off to a less than stellar start to the season. 2022 has shown a glimpse of what's possible. The Flagmantle bandwagon was full of people who couldn't process how we didn't immediately pick-up from where we left off - especially with a soft draw to start the season. But there were plenty of us channelling our inner Marty McFly and pointing at the TV saying "hey I've seen this one before."
But that's the story of a Freo "we-er". We were subscribing to "never as good, never as bad" before Ross got to the club, and we're still loath to believe things are as good as they appear.
NOT ONLY FANS
A friend of mine recently told me she'd gotten really into the last NHL season as her local Boston Bruins broke all sorts of records before falling short of raising the best-looking trophy in professional sports - a loss that brought her to tears. In the course of a season, she'd become a we-er.
Darius Rucker is a we-er too. He'll tell anyone who will pay him an appearance fee on a light-hearted sports programme that "I'm such a baby coz the Dolphins make me cry" from 90s classic Only Wanna Be With You is about the Miami-based NFL team, not the animal.
But crying doesn't define a we-er - certainly Freo are less likely to elicit tears in my house than they are to draw forth language colourful enough for Jason Donovan to traipse across a stage singing about the bible. And neither do being a member or going along to games define your right to be one of the Knights Who Say "We" either. You have to feel it deep inside you. One day it just comes out and it feels right, but it also doesn't mean you're more of a fan than anyone else.
ON JUST TERMS
Pithier observers than me have pointed out on plenty of occasions than when he was winning, Sir Andy Murray was British. When he wasn't, he was Scottish. And so, we have our only rule - once you've decided your fandom pronouns are we/us, there's no going back to they/them.
And if you're a true we-er, you won't want to either. You'll wear the scars of disappointment as badges of honour. The games you sat through in the rain. The games you should have won. They'll all sting, but like every Blink-182 Song the quiet parts just make the loud parts seem louder.
Perhaps this new generation of fans will become true we-ers over time, but I doubt if popping champagne and partying after winning our elusive first flag will mean quite as much to them as it will to others. I suspect the ones it means the most to - the true we-lievers - will be celebrating like Laurie Hammill, QC following his last trip to the High Court - with a quiet, satisfied smile.