The choice of what sporting team we give our loyalty to is often illogical and hard to articulate to others. Generally we decide very early in life, but once we’ve made our choice it is very rare that it will change no matter the ups and downs.
For most of us, it doesn’t depend on results like finals or trophies. It doesn’t matter if our club or team is at the top or everyone else’s punching bag, it’s our team and that is all that matters. Just ask England’s Barmy Army who never let their enthusiasm wane for a moment through 25 years of waiting for an Ashes win.
They had it easy in comparison to Chicago Cub fans. The most famous drought in baseball became part of popular culture and a standard joke in time travel stories, with the fans waiting 108 years between pennants.
As a Melbourne Demons supporter I know what it is like to follow a team that has a habit of breaking your heart. When the Western Bulldogs took home the flag in 2016 Melbourne became the team that’s now gone the longest since its last premiership. Like any Melbourne fan under the age of 53, I’ve never experienced a winning Grand Final.
What makes it worse is that the Dees have a way of getting your hopes up and making you believe that this year might be different. If they were consistently hopeless it would be easier to manage your expectations, but they can go from playing brilliant football one week to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory the next. It’s an emotional roller coaster that has gone from the highs of finals footy to the lows of narrowly avoiding a merger.
But, despite all that, I’ve never even considered saying goodbye and finding another club to pin my hopes on. The way I feel about the Dees doesn’t depend on success or constant highs, and much of what frustrates me about my team is also part of what I love so much. After all, who wants a team that never surprises you?
No matter how many times I swear that I won’t get excited by a few good games or pre-season hype, I still start every year believing that this will be our year to break the drought. That’s what supporting a team is all about, letting hope triumph over experience, and believing that this time they will be better rather than assuming that they will just let you down.
In the famous passage from 1 Corinthians 13, Paul paints a picture of what love should look like. It isn’t only there in the good times. It doesn’t give up the moment it gets let down or is disappointed, but forgives and offers second chances. It hopes that we will be the best we can be, rather than assuming we will fail.
Of course, in the end it’s just a footy team. If we can find that kind of love in our hearts when it comes to sport, how much more important is it that we find it for the people around us?