Ignore all those people insulting you from the stands, the ones leaning over the fence and into your face spitting bile and hatred. The better your output, the more vicious they’ll get.
And don’t even think about fighting back because that’ll show what a fragile fish you are. Just weather it for eighty minutes.
And then you can come back next weekend and do it all over again. And the weekend after that. And every weekend until you retire.
Why so pale suddenly?
* * *
There has been so much garbage trotted out to justify the kind of treatment Adam Goodes cops on a footy field.
“They’re booing him because he acts like a pillock from time to time.” That was Daily Telegraph columnist Miranda Devine.
“Adam Goodes would do well to look at what he’s done bad or good or indifferent and work out what he can do to change that.” That was former AFL player Dermot Brereton. This was him in his playing days.
“People aren’t booing you because you’re Aboriginal, they’re booing you because you’re acting like a jerk.” That was the Footy Show’s Sam Newman. If there was a Gold Logie for acting like a jerk, he’d win it.
“There’s still a great deal of resentment for what he did here at the MCG a couple of years ago when he called out that 13-year-old girl.” That was sports journalist Tony Jones.
* * *
24 May, 2013. It’s the opening match of the AFL’s Indigenous Round, Sydney versus Collingwood. If there’s one time an Aboriginal player should feel at home on the footy field, surely this is it.
Goodes is having a blinder and the Swans are on their way to a historic win.
And then he hears it. “Ape.” And he calls it. He stops and points his finger in the direction from which he heard the racial slur.
It’s a 13-year-old girl. “It just broke my heart,” he said.
It sets in train a series of events that will see Goodes named Australian of the Year eight months later.
That’s when things really get ugly.
* * *
Aussie NBA basketballer Andrew Bogut says he knows what it’s like to cop a serve at the office. And I’m sure he does.
But what’s happening to Goodes is not casual heckling. It’s sustained bullying, targeted at one person, weekend in and weekend out.
If this was happening in a playground, there’d be expulsions. If it was happening in the workplace, there’d be big fat juicy lawsuits.
Oh, hang on. It is happening in the workplace. Adam Goodes’ workplace.
Only four months ago, the AFL paid a $200,000 settlement to a staff member who had been repeatedly bullied by a senior league executive.
So what is the AFL’s duty of care here?
* * *
One writer has suggested we shouldn’t make footballers Australian of the Year. As if that’s a solution.
In Adam Goodes, Rosie Batty and Patrick McGorry, we have had Australians of the Year prepared to shine a light in dark places. Through them, we have learned the nuances of racism, domestic violence and mental illness.
They are difficult discussions, revealing inconvenient truths about us, the personal prejudices we all have and the society we live in.
These are not roles that Goodes and Batty, in particular, sought. They came to this place through circumstance. But they choose how it defines them. This doesn’t suit some people.
* * *
So, back to the hecklers. Why should Goodes tolerate your abuse? Would you?
Don’t tell him to harden up. How about you grow up.
As for the rest of us, we can’t just say this is a problem for the AFL. It’s a problem for all of us. Our actions shape our society.
So let’s point the finger. Let’s call out the behaviour. Let’s demand more of ourselves.
Our cheers have to drown out their boos.