And although we grow, we never really lose this immaturity. After all, many fans, even as adults, would walk over broken glass or hot coals to hang out with their favourite players. Some shape their whole weekends around making sure they can watch their team play. More than a few would rather go to the footy than a wedding. It’s illogical and even irrational. Most of us don’t personally know the players we barrack for. We convince ourselves they’re the type of people we’d love to hang out with. We imagine they’d like us and we’d become friends if only we ever met them and spent time together. None of this is terribly mature, nor is it rational.
But for all of this, if any of our favourite players raise their hand during the trade period and ask to be traded to another team, there seems some sort of weird expectation that fans will understand and, further, be happy for them. Really? The players and clubs are almost just as bad. Essendon star Joe Daniher, for example, has declared he wants to play for Sydney next year, even though he still has one year left on his contract with the Bombers.
Essendon are not that keen to trade him, but will they have the maturity to work with a player for another year who has declared he no longer wants to play there? And if Essendon do force him to stay, will Daniher have the maturity to continue to work with a club that blatantly ignored his wish to leave? This sort of thing has happened in the past, but more often than not, the player and club part ways, too immature to deal with the consequences of staying together. It’s all very interesting, and of course we could all collectively try to be more mature about players trading places, but in reality, that would be, well, boring.
Sam Duncan is a lecturer in sports media and marketing.