Toxic Sports Fandom

by | Apr 23, 2021

Being a Sports fan is a weird emotional rollercoaster. Let’s be clear here, I’m not talking about the people that are like “Oh yeah I guess I like the Rabbitohs cause I once caught a train to Redfern” I’m talking about full-blown fandom, like, my whole weekend is riding on whether or not my team plays well.

Let me paint a picture here, let’s say there is a guy… we will call him Joel. Joel is a die-hard Cronulla Sharks fan. He has openly stated that the most important day of his life was the 2016 NRL Grand Final where the Sharks won their first-ever title by narrowly beating the Melbourne Storm. It’s safe to say that Joel cried a little when that final buzzer rang, rumors have it that you can sometimes catch him sitting at this desk watching the last minute of that game and screaming “Turn the porch lights off we’re coming home with the trophy!”

The Cronulla Sharks win the Grand Final

Joel watches every Sharks game, every season. Much to his wife’s dismay, he will be sitting at family events with Kayo booted up on his phone living for every moment. If the Sharks are not victorious Joel will be miserable for at least 12 hours after the game.

This is a common story amongst sports fans. Your team is somehow an extension of yourself and their failure is almost equivalent to a failure of your own. When they do, you will proclaim “WE DID IT” as if you were throwing the cut-out ball to the winger for the match-winner yourself. 

This is all just part of the storyline of being a sports fan. Where it dips into an unhealthy and toxic zone is when the fan takes it a step further and takes to Social Media to take their frustrations out on players. See in a time before Social Media the worst an athlete would deal with is the heckling from the stands, which granted can get horrible as we saw during the recent Australia v India cricket series where Indian players reported racist comments being yelled at them from the crowd. This is obviously unacceptable however rewind a few years and that would have been the end of it… once the game had ended and the player was back home or in their hotel room it would be over. Nowadays, with the invention of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter the “fan” in question has near unfettered access to the player. Their tirades can continue long after the performance of the player has ended and like a lot of Social Media interaction, it can get toxic fast.

An example of this is the sheer number of players who report receiving death threats from “fans” after games. An example of this is NBA Star Danny Green who after missing a shot in the NBA finals last year stated that not only did he receive numerous death threats but so did his fiance… all for missing one shot… in a series that the Green’s Los Angeles Lakers would go on to win. This is so far from okay, it’s disgusting.

We saw it on our own shores when Sydney Roosters star Josh Morris received threats of violence over Instagram, simply because the “fan” in question had missed their multi and decided to write an expletive filled rant to Morris ending with saying he will be waiting when the team bus shows up. Many NRL and AFL players have spoken out against the amount of vile messages they receive based on failed bets. South Sydney Rabbitohs star Latrell Mitchell famously stated that at one point he was ready to step away from the game due to the constant racist messages he receives.

In a world where mental health is becoming an increasingly more important issue. A world where the health of our athletes is taken a lot more seriously with concussion protocols and injury rehab. How about we look at their off field health as well. Now there is no way for the leagues to regulate this, there is only one group of people who can step up and fix this problem… us. Sports Fans… I’m looking at you. It’s time remember that there is a human being on the other side of your Instagram message, a human being who doesn’t deserve to be abused and threatened based on them dropping a ball or missing a shot at goal. We need to be better.

Written by Joel Hall