You know, over the years being a fan has changed a lot. In the old days life was all down to routine, it was safe, comfortable and you knew where you were. Every week revolved around the first team playing one Saturday and the A team the next and year in year out things hardly altered.
Now we live in changing times and nothing is certain anymore, we play Thursday’s, Friday’s, Saturday’s or Sunday’s and even after they are printed the bloody fixtures still change at a week’s notice. Quite frankly, as fans that invest in passes, there are times in the season when you don’t know whether you’re on your hands or your arse. I really believe that despite all their good intentions the folks who run our game still keep us lot the customers a long way down their list of priorities.
What brought this on? Well it all started in a small way really with the total buggering about that’s gone on with the new Under 23’s League. Our first game, due to be played on 14th February at Bishop Burton, was suddenly postponed at four days notice and the venue for future matches switched to Brantingham. What the hell’s all that about? Don’t they bloody realise we make plans?
Valentine’s Day has always been an important date for me and I make meticulous arrangements to ensure everything is just right. These usually involve leaving home as early as possible and staying out of the house, in the Club and away from our lass, as long as I can. This fixture was to be a real godsend to me, providing as it did, the ideal alibi. Then, just when I’ve got everything arranged they go and bloody postpone it.
Why should we not be surprised? Well in the bigger picture buggering up the fans is what it’s all about these days isn’t it? Over the years (and for yours truly there’s been a lot of them), I’ve become conditioned to being messed about and as my age increases so does my ability to chunter and whinge about it all the more; I guess, in the end, that’s all we have left as fans, isn’t it?
However there is little doubt that when you’re totally committed you just become more and more oblivious to it all, but at the same time it’s not hard to appreciate at all how all this buggering about can soon piss off the less dedicated or ‘new’ supporter as well. We need to build the game, but persist in making it difficult to sustain support for it.
It ain’t gonna change.. I’ve been around Hull FC as long as just about anyone. It was back in the 40s when my Dad, (with a bag of Tiger nuts and a liquorice stick purchased on the way to the game from Hennessey’s in Woodcock Street), coaxed me to stand at the Gordon Street end of the Boulevard. I can just remember clouds of cigarette smoke and a lot of fellas wearing flat caps and mufflers, just like my Dad. Otherwise all I can recollect is standing at the fence at the front for twenty minutes, (until the sweets ran out) and then running around between the sea of legs on the terraces for the rest of the game. My Dad told me before he died that he’d said, “I’ll bring you here every Saturday until you’re old enough to decide about coming for yourself” and by I was eight and spending most nights sat in the air raid shelter down Kings Bench Street, I was hooked. Since then the game and my Club have been my lifelong obsession.
However, if truth is known, back then with my bag of goodies, I had very little idea what the hell was going on at all and with the game of Rugby League I seem now to have gone full circle and these days find myself firmly back to that state. Little changed for many years but in the last couple of decades sport (when you’re really involved in it) has slowly evolved to become nothing more than a less realistic version of a TV soap opera. These days I seem to be gradually getting ‘left behind’ as the constant changes to the structure of the game and the rules, the machinations of Koukash, Pearson, Hetherington and Co and the extra-curricular activities of some of our players (and their wives and partners), have I think reduced the whole game to a sort of ‘Emmerdale on embrocation’.
I feel as if we are all in some great big reality show, as sadly, instead of tries, great tackles and superb flowing rugby, as with most sport, it’s the sensationalism, scandal and novelty value that sells the game; it’s no longer about the bloody entertainment on the field, but more about what’s going on all around it. Why else do you think that Sky employ a couple of clowns as commentators if not to just adds a bit of slapstick to the proceedings.
As an old head it’s easy for me to see that we are now just being sucked into the entertainment business which is without doubt the craziest industry in the world and a place where it’s all about emotion. You don’t agree? Well, putting aside the massive news stories that kicked off a while ago concerning Carney and Ferres and their indiscretion’s with their mates Mrs’s, when we went to Catalans the other week and blew them away in indefatigable fashion, our performance only managed a few lines in the national papers. However the fact that Jamie Shaul had left his girlfriend behind as she was about to go into labour, got the most ‘hits’ in 24 hours on ‘BBC Worldwide News on Line.’
You see when, like me, you have lived through most things and run the complete gambit of all the emotions there are to re-live as a fan, you realise that now it’s not about going out every weekend to support your family team at all. These days supporting your Club sees you immersed in a bigger and wider reality show that takes over your whole life. For many outsiders in the South, Rugby League is just a sideshow akin to ‘Big Brother’ for ‘hairy arsed’ northerners.
It hasn’t always been such a blooming Soap Opera though. Like me, most of you reading this will have been brought to the Boulevard or the KC by their parents or their grandparents and the team you support, through thick and thin, has become an expression of your personality, it’s what people know you for, because it’s your life, it’s about belonging, identity and legacy; we can’t escape it nor would we want to either.
Nowadays however other’s outside the close knit family of the game are fast losing sight of the fact that in the end it’s just a great physical action sport and for us lot, just about watching YOUR team through thick and thin. However much the dicks on social media, in the press and at the RL bugger around with it, our game is still an amazing product and that affinity to your team whatever happens, is something to cherish even though in hard times, it’s an affinity that makes absolutely no sense at all.
Say for instance that our lass gets a dodgy sausage roll on road; never mind not buying them in future, she’d bloody take ‘em back, causes a scene and never go in the shop again. However if your team breaks your heart…again, the fact is that you still come back for more and you do it week in week out even when you reach an age like mine. That’s because it’s not so much about what you see, as that something inside us all that we simply can’t explain.
So I’ve gone full circle from having no idea what’s going on aged 6 to having little more idea aged 75. As a grumbling old git I just wish Rugby would get back to being all about going to a game every Saturday with your pals, to first and foremost be entertained. But, that ain’t gonna happen, is it? We are all in the entertainment business now…..
‘Bring on the dancing half backs. Gerrum in.