Forum Sevens:
The Virtual Fan

I remember a time in the distant past, not long after the advent of the wheel (or was that electricity) for those of you?se under 20, sitting amongst the crowd at the league. As the season would pass, the surrounding faces, once strangers would come to have a familiar feel about them and over the seasons, friendships made of a common bond would stand the test of time, blood, sweat, tears and the sweet taste of victory. A mate ship ? brotherhood even. Shoulder to shoulder in team solidarity. All for one cause and one cause for all ? the team, the game and maybe, just maybe, that elusive Grand Final victory.

(Screeching back to reality sound inserted here) I hear the collective groan about now ? ?Yeah, my heart bleeds, bring out the violins?that?s history mate, like St George?s 11 straight, a mere memory. Move into the present. Reality is commercialisation, paid TV and the Internet.? Ahh, the Internet. The umbilical of the synthetic supporter. Statistics at the ends of your fingertips, club websites providing the in?s and out?s of every player on their roster and a myriad of information available at the click of a mouse. Gone are the advantages of knowing your team from following them for years. We now have jacks of all teams, masters of none. The virtual fan has arrived. People are strange, when you?re a stranger; faces look ugly, when your alone?Sorry, I digress.

The Internet breeds? disinhibition. Anonymity brings a sense of release, a chance to explore an identity or subconscious without having to take responsibility for it. A dissociation where people convince themselves that it?s ok to behave a certain way because it?s not the way they are in ?real life?. And how many times have we heard that excuse used in a virtual fans mother ship ? the forum. More than I can count on my abacus. The virtual fan. Cacophonies of personas sitting together in the ship at any one particular time, a post count the phallic indication of the ?fans? contribution to that ship. For some, a symbol that means their opinion counts more than those ?newbies? with but a few posts. A strange sense of ownership but evident all the same. The arrogant, the antagonist, the demander of respect ? all playing on the same field as the pacifist, the joker, the taker of people as they are. My favourite, though, would have to be the Sybil?s of internet forums ? a different ID at each home ground mother ship and a vow of support for that team, only to visit another mother ship and vow the same. The annual bandwagon hoppers probably fit here too. I?m getting too old to keep up with some.

One great big melting pot. And amongst it all, rugby league, the common denominator, for most, that draws the fan to these ships with more than a morbid fascination. So why do we set out to destroy them with our emotions and complete lack judgement? What drives us to post rumours and innuendo, even after other mother ships have closed their connections (leaving Sybil with a serious problem, I might add), or resorted to vetting posts? To shock, to be accepted or just simply because they enjoy the attention their online persona receives? Maybe, just maybe, some fresh air is needed. Go and sit next to your fellow your supporter, week in and week out. Scream yourself hoarse for your team ? be it in the NRL or at grass roots level. Feel the atmosphere, remember the pain and the joy. Cringe at the swinging arm connecting with someone?s melon, cheer at that dummy that sends a player over the chalk. Take it in, experience it and, most importantly feel it. Then decide if your post count or the need to defame is as important as this great game of ours. Enjoy watching or playing the game instead of game playing and respect the voice we have all been given in these great mother ships of ours and that there is a person at the other end who loves this game too ? maybe as much as you.

Anyway, I?m taking my own advice and am off to a game?bugger it all, the seasons over. I wonder what's happening at the mother ship?this virtual fan?s off now. When your strange, no one remembers your name?well I?ve got to hope.

P.S ? I heard on the ship that you?se is plural for you. See, I do read your posts.

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