So much hostility

Couple of interesting looks at fan behaviour:

Joe Posnanski

Last week, when Butler played VCU during the Final Four game, I happened to be sitting near a very loud Butler fan. And all game long he screamed at the officials. It was non-stop. “Where’s the traveling call, ref? … How could you miss that foul? … That’s over the back … When are you going to call this thing fairly? … Why won’t you let them play? … When are you going to make a call?” On and on and on and on. I’ve heard people yell at officials pretty much all my life, but I can never remember hearing anyone so determined.

At some point, I started to wonder what motivates someone like that. What could possibly keep him screaming? Is he unhappy with his life? Does he have terrible frustrations he needs to unload? Is he an amateur referee who simply cannot abide bad calls? As the game went on, it became clearer and clearer that Butler was going to win, but his anger to the referees never subsided. It never even diminished. In the last minute, with Butler up by nine, he was still yelling at the referees, just as loud, just as intently, with the same fury.

I was pretty close to going up to him to ask why he kept yelling. I was really interested. But I had work to do and anyway I suspect he wouldn’t have given me much of an answer. He might have punched me in the face. He probably would have thought I was making fun of him. But I was really curious and I am really curious: What is it that drives people to be so angry? Maybe it’s just the fog of the times. Maybe, in the end, we all just want to be heard.

The Guardian’s Secret Footballer:

Yet, in my opinion, how players goad referees pales in comparison to what players are expected to take from many fans.

As an example, we now know that swearing at a camera gets you a two-game ban but from the stands it is fine to swear at that same player, or a referee, as many times as you like.

Only last week the West Brom manager, Roy Hodgson, spoke out on this subject: “I don’t think fans think they need to show anyone respect, be it other fans, players, coaches or refs. Of course we should, as managers and players, show more respect to referees and other coaches but it would be nice if the fans were a bit nicer – are you going to show a bit more respect to the ref or are you going to abuse him every time he makes a wrong decision? Or is it just the coaches and players that have to show the respect? Maybe it should be widened, to the whole of football?”

Absolutely right. Travelling around the country every other week, the abuse seems to be coming from all corners of the ground more frequently and from nearly every demographic. My wife told me that last week two girls no older than 13 or 14 were shouting the F-word at anybody who came near them.

Apparently I came in for a particularly vicious barrage after miscontrolling a pass – a cardinal sin, admittedly, but I wouldn’t have thought deserving of back-to-back F- and C-words? It would be difficult for me to show any respect in this situation and if I reacted I bet I’d know who would be all over the papers.

All too true.


12 thoughts on “So much hostility

  1. Sitting in the Riverside I experience very little real anger and only then as a reaction to events on the pitch.

    About 10 years ago though I went to see Northampton play Brighton. Now Northampton are my local team and I know a few people who go regularly. They’re quite normal as is the Town.

    I went because they were playing a Brighton team managed by Mickey Adams and had half of his Fulham promotion team but I was a genuine neutral and sat at the side with Northampton fans.

    I assume this was a typical game but I don’t know because I haven’t been back and the essential reason is that the place was in a froth of fury notwithstanding the fact that Northampton had a routine home win with no obvious flash points.

    Every Brighton tackle was howled down whilst the home team was encouraged to be ever more physical. No decision to the away team or against the home team could be accepted. All around me people were standing screaming with neck muscles bulging. Young and old, male and female.

    It was ugly. I kept very quiet but was aware that that of itself was marking me out as an outsider. I was though careful to seem to be celebrating Northampton’s goals.

    I have no conclusions as to why – this was just the way it was and it clearly had nothing to do with jealousy of mega rich players as these guys were lower league on presumably very ordinary money. It wasn’t racist either.

    I went on my own and later discussed this with Northampton regulars. They had no idea what I was on about. Perhaps the Riverside is therefore exceptionally genteel.

  2. There is a guy who sits behind me in the Hammersmith End who is very similar to the Joe Posnanski guy. He sits there all game calling out the referee, even if Fulham are winning comfortably.

    This is one of my bug bears, when a team that is easily winning (usually Man Utd, Arsenal) get upset when one fouls is/isn’t given…despite the fact they are winning comfortably. I understand using the referee as a scapegoat if you are losing, even if it is rather unsavoury, but when you are winning? Why?

    This gentleman also continuously shouts for ‘more’ from Fulham, again, even if we are winning comfortably. The best example of this was his apparent disgust at the way we were playing against Blackpool. Instead of enjoying the fact that we were easily containing them and winning the game, he was having a go at the likes of Murphy and Dempsey to get more involved and for the whole team to be more assertive. Each to their own I guess..

  3. Rich – do you remember the ‘Phil Whelan episode’ at Orient. Never a better example of rampant negativity (all of which was uncalled for) inducing an error. Essentially, Southend’s fans barracked the poor guy (despite a quite tidy performance) until he scored a diabolical own goal (the best finish of the night). He went off at half time and was never seen again.

      1. Actually re-read it and thought the same. I just can’t imagine that happening at Craven Cottage. We’re a nice bunch.

        My only other hunch is Scott Parker but I find it harder to read it in his voice than I do in Murphy’s.

        1. It’ll be ghost written so the voice doesn’t have to match. Previous columns made reference to some cardgame betting stuff that I’m sure happened at West Ham and comments about bigotry from crowds suggest to me that the secret footballer is black.

          So my vote is for Nigel Reo Coker.

          1. Last week’s Guardian had an interview with ReoCoker in the left hand column, a giant photo of him in the middle column, and the second part of the TSF article in the right column. So I think that might have been someone in the know having fun and offering a clue supporting your hypothesis.

  4. I like this article, thanks for posting it. I like the story about the man that continued to yell at the ref without relent..I do wonder what his motives were too

  5. I always think it’s funny when there’s a decision made near to a section of the ground, and there’s that Mexican wave of accusatory pointing – hard to explain – bit like a lawn of tentacles thrashing about (and people will think I’m mental if they don’t get what I’m trying to say).

    In any case, it always looks ridiculous, especially if you’ve got a better view of the incident than they do.

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