Friday, 16 August 2013

The Victorian Disease

Back in the dark days of the 70's and 80's, English football was caught up in what was termed "The English Disease".
An ongoing series of football violence and hooliganism among the fans, and then the police who tried to restore order. It took various actions to unpick the hooligan gangs out of English football to the point the game is at now... essentially free of organised crowd trouble.

Australian football has never had these issues, thankfully, but Victorians suffer from their own form of footballing disease.
The unabiding love and loyalty of fans, to club.

It is often noted how Melbournians consider football a 'religion'. Clubs are the institutions that fans pledge loyalty to via memberships, donations, voluntary service, through networking and even in the simplest form of 'carrying the colours'.

This tribalism is at the heart of the Victorian culture. And it is the bedrock that the AFL has been built on. It is so strong, that it destroys the notion of 'statehood' in Victoria. In other states, 'State Of Origin' football is to be aspired too (both in NRL and AFL codes). But in Victoria, 'State Of Origin' takes players away from their prime association with the club and tribe. Injuries from representative level football rob the club.
For football and football fans in Victoria, it is all about the club.

That bedrock though is slowly breaking and fracturing, as more sports are vying for the time and money of the market. And the ongoing 'governance issues' around Essendon are the latest series of hammers cracking away at the foundations. A quick read of "The Real Damage Of The Essendon Saga" shows an impact that saga (and others) has on football's core support base

And if you, like us, follow social media, then you may have also seen campaigns like #StandByHird#Fair4Essendon and #MarchForHird.
There is nothing wrong with fans rallying behind a cause. We use these examples to illustrate that the "Victorian Disease" is alive and well.

Compare and contrast that to another of the worlds great sporting cities, with fans just as passionate about their clubs and players.
New York City.

Here, the New York Yankees are the pride of the city. The pin-striped team from the Bronx are the premier brand in baseball.
And one of their most feted players of recent years has been Alex Rodriguez, the A-Rod.
He was the face of the Yankees for years, helping deliver a 'World Series' title, breaking club records, achieving numerous awards.

Yet this year he was caught up in the Biogenesis Scandal... where players were accused of receiving Performance Enhancing Drugs from Biogenesis of America, an 'anti-aging clinic'.
After negotiations, he was ultimately suspended for 211 regular season games by the MLB.
In its official statement, MLB said the punishment was based on Rodriguez's "use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including Testosterone and human Growth Hormone, over the course of multiple years" and "for attempting to cover-up his violations of the Program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the Office of the Commissioner's investigation."
He was not alone in being suspended, but was the only player to appeal.

While there are similarities from the MLB / Biogenesis scandal to the Essendon / Dank scandal, it is very interesting the reaction of the fans to Rodriguez, perhaps epitomised by the front page of the New York Post.

The fans have had enough of the taint and scandal that this PED issue has brought.
And it is also fair to say that the A-Rod brings a different dynamic to the equation compared to Essendon.

But as Forbes says about the issue...
Alex Rodriguez Shellacking To Continue With Today's Suspension Announcement
The ugly duckling will continue to take a beating.  No one wants an alleged PED user and worse, an accused liar, to be associated with their products and services.  The days of being referred to as one of the most beautiful people in not only baseball, but the world, are over.  A-Rod no longer has the pressure of paying rent at the end of the month.  Millions upon millions of dollars have cured those issues he confronted growing up.  But those dollars can’t fix the public perception problem he will battle for the rest of his life.

New Yorkers may love their club, but they seem not to have 'The Victorian Disease'.

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