Living in a loser's paradise

"Come on, Souths! Make my life better!" screamed my friend as we nervously entered the stadium to watch the Rabbitohs compete in the NRL preliminary finals last month.

I don't care what code or club you follow, if you don't understand this sentiment you're not a sports fan, you're an observer, a dilettante. 

It's not that life without victory is insufferable; it's just that when your team is winning, the world's a little shinier. If your team's in the grand final, well, I imagine it'd be kind of blinding.

Not that I'd know; it's been 42 years since my club appeared in one, and just as long since they won a premiership.

The NRL's Cronulla and AFL's Richmond and Western Bulldogs fans know the feeling. It's debatable whether this is worse than what St Kilda faithful have been through, or what Manly and Fremantle just experienced in losing grand finals.

It's brutal being an also-ran, even worse being a perennial loser because, despite adult rationality and success in other parts of your life, there's still a tiny voice that whispers in your soul: "LOSER".

You blame yourself. For changing seats. Or sending a boastful text at half-time. For even attending the game, because they'd won two without you there.

Part of me is astonished I can invest so much emotion and hope in a group of men I do not know, a set of colours I'd never be tempted to wear outside of my football affiliation.

Yet the need to take sides is as old as man and I think you have to be a philosopher or sociopath not to feel its pull somewhere in your guts, whether it be linked to sport, politics or geography.

It's a cliche to frame sport as ritualised warfare, yet the depth of my despair upon watching South Sydney vanquished made me reflect on our forebears in the ancient and medieval worlds.

Imagine standing on the walls of your city, seeing your youth and leaders cut to pieces, your banners trampled, your defences breached and knowing the price of defeat would be rape, slavery and death?

We might wrinkle our brows at it now but hundreds of millions of people have felt this anguish throughout history - every race, every religion, every continent. You can't tell me it hasn't been seared into our DNA. 

It puts a train-ride back to Sydney's Central Station with taunting Manly fans in perspective ... yet still it burns.

That voice rises inside you and you wonder if it will ever happen? What does it feel like to be the best? To have your 'soldiers' returning home victorious, those other bastards slumped and sad instead of you?

It can't just be curiosity that keeps fans coming back, year after year. It strikes me as something far more primal and archaic, a deep human need to stand on the throat of your despised enemy and take everything they hold precious for your own.

After Souths' dreadful, choking loss, after watching them for the second year in a row fall one game short of the grand final, my friend and I saw a crying seven-year-old boy walk by with his father, both of them entombed in our club's red and green jerseys.

My mate, ever the voice of tenderness, patted the child on the back in consolation and cackled his blackest laughter.

"You'll be OK kid, you've only got another 50 years of this to put up with."

You can follow Sam on Twitter here. His email address is here.

Please don't take it personally if I do not reply to your email as they come in thick and fast depending on the topic. Please know, I appreciate you taking the time to write and comment and would offer mummy hugs to all.