I my 20s I decided to get into personal growth and part of that was going to group therapy. At one time a participant of the group was a middle aged man. He was going trough a rough patch because his wife left him. Apart from the breakdown of the relationship, what really hurt him was that he had no inkling that his wife was going to leave. It came totally out of the blue and adding to this was that she planned to leave for some time and when she told him she already had a place to stay and all the stuff moved – he had no idea.
One of the clues that the psychologist took was that this man thought that the relationship actually got better because they stopped arguing. The psychologist said to him that when his wife stopped arguing that’s when the relationship was over.
The psychologist went on to say that when a couple argue (or any two people in any kind of relationship) that means that there still involvement. That is the parties care enough to argue. It is not the best communication, but at least is communication. When one of the parties stops caring then it is decided that it is not worth arguing. The other person may be as well be a stranger. There is no desire for any emotional involvement.
Relationship are not only with other human beings. We have relationships with all sorts of things, our work, our house, our car etc.
And of course we have a relationship with a sport team we follow. Otherwise how irrational would be to get excited, happy or sad, euphoric or gutted because of 10 men running on grass trying to kick or head a ball in a wooden structure with a net behind it.
The team we follow needs to have some meaning. It could be because it represents the city we were born or live or our family lived or were born there. It could be because we have formed a social network around it. It could be because we started following it as children on TV and we became attached to it.
So while I do agree that calling players names is unwarranted, I think that a fan that comes to games and take the trouble to boo the team and perhaps even worse, is a better fan than those who say on social media that they stopped caring for the team and stopped going to the games.
The relationship here is important and goes to the heart of what A League teams represent. Do fans follow a team because it has meaning for them in some ways, or purely to entertain? In the former the fan feels some sort of belonging to a team. They want to help the team by being there, by supporting the team in some way. So the relationship is outwards. In the latter, the fan wants to be entertained and feel good. So it’s no wonder if a team loses every week, and badly that these fans stop supporting the team. They support a team to feel good, not bad. The relationship is inwards.
And this is the argument some of the supporters of community teams throw against A-League teams by describing them as just franchises. Concocted teams formed without any community underpinning. And they do have a point. Teams such as South Melbourne, Melbourne Knights etc. may be predominantly based on one community group, but it is a community which has rich emotional links attached to them, something A-League teams do not have as much.
So, perhaps we can see anger against the team as a good sign. The empty chairs and the non membership renewals are the things that Melbourne Victory needs to be worried about.