Ever since I was old enough to know what sport was I have watched it. I know I was watching rugby league even earlier than this, but the earliest Grand Final memory I have is the 1991 Grand Final when the Penrith Panthers defeated the juggernaut Canberra Raiders, led by an old Royce Simmons, a young Greg Alexander and an even younger Brad Fittler.
Basically, I have watched every Grand Final for over 20 years (2003 I couldn’t watch live for religious reasons) as I would imagine most footy fans have. But this year I really don’t think I’m going to watch the game.
There are a number of reasons for this.
First and foremost, yes I am a Rabbitohs fan and whilst Manly beat my team fair and square, it was a heartbreaking defeat, after a magnificent season. I don’t blame the players and I’m not angry about it, but it still feels like a bit of a wasted season and I’m still very disappointed about it. Last year the team lost at the same point, but the expectations were different, as was the fashion in which we lost the game.
I have been fortunate enough to have been out of Sydney since the morning after the game last Friday and have basically avoided all Grand Final media and discussion. So yes, there is definitely a sour grapes element to it, but for my own state of mind and ability to completely get over the agonising defeat last week, I feel like it is best for me to avoid watching the big game which my team isn’t in.
Now of course, I’ve never seen my team actually compete in the Grand Final, but it’s only hard to watch if I feel like they actually should have been there… which is fair to say has not been the case until last year.
This brings me to the other sour grapes side to why I’m not watching. Not only is my team not playing, but the two teams that are playing are the two teams I dislike the most. I have joked this week that picking between the Roosters and Manly is like picking between Germany and Japan in 1942. Obviously that comment is over the top and I don’t actually think of those teams like countries we were at war with, but you get the idea.
I don’t want either team to win and I won’t enjoy watching the game. When added to the fact that I’m still sad about my team not being there and it’s a recipe for a miserable experience.
The truth is, when it comes to rugby league, the Rabbitohs matter more to me than the league as a whole. This is not something I can say for other sports as for most other sports I am a fan of the game first and my team second. Taking away how enjoyable it was to follow the Rabbitohs for most of 2013, I actually found the 2013 NRL season uninspiring.
I thought the overall quality of games was down. I found myself having way too many conversations with people about how bad games were as opposed to how good they were. It seems to be a running theme amongst my friends who follow footy that this season sucked from a neutral perspective. Add that to all the scandals related to player behaviour and ASADA investigations and 2013 has been a pretty difficult year to be a rugby league fan.
The only thing keeping me interested in footy this year was the fact that I was supporting a team near the top of the ladder all year. This is why I have a lot of friends who are fans of other teams who were completely out on this season.
In other years where the Rabbitohs weren’t actually competitive, I got my footy enjoyment from just watching all the other games as a neutral and maybe doing well in tipping comps and fantasy games etc. I don’t know how many times I turned off games and went to do something else this year though. It actually makes me sad because half of me feels like I was doing something bad or against my nature as a sports fan.
Combine all these factors together and I simply have no desire to watch the big game and I actually don’t feel bad about doing so. Maybe I’ve just a sore loser that can’t get over that my team won’t be there, but at the end of the day, we watch sport for enjoyment and entertainment and if you aren’t getting any of that, why feel bad about walking away from that experience?
I hope the rest of you do honestly enjoy watching the game and I genuinely hope it is a great game. I wish the best of luck to the fans of Manly and Roosters for the game and I’m sure I will commiserate and congratulate with the losers and winners respectively afterwards. But I’m actually glad to have put the 2013 NRL season behind me and hope we can have a 2014 season of high quality games and no scandals.
Enjoy the game.