Are We Sports Fans, Or Bullies?

The Proteas have been knocked out of the Cricket World Cup again. With predictable dullness online media has erupted with anger and vitriol.  

AKA (also known as a cyber bully)

The pattern never changes. Before a match: unrelenting love and support. After a loss – angry armchair sports experts lay into the team and its individual members with a digital rage that borders on incitement to violence. 

Sport is a passionate, emotional thing. International sport more so, for the fans. 

We all wish that we were on that team, chasing victory and its attendant glory. 

Watching each match, we live ourselves into roles of heroes and victors through our national sports teams. If the team loses, we are gutted – absolute betrayal and disappointment pour into that deep hole so recently vacated by fanatical hope. 

We are ANGRY! We are MAD! Someone must pay – someone must feel the brunt of these overwhelming emotions and feel the pain of loss that we feel.  

Mike Beatty, safe behind his keyboard

So we turn to Twitter and Facebook and criticise and attack the team, we bemoan the captain, we denigrate and belittle the players, the coaches, the refs and umpires…no one is safe from our strafing tirade. 

But here’s the thing…the men and women that are the subject of those tirades of abuse see our words, read our hate-filled, angry judgements. They see cold, critical headlines. AB De Villiers, Grant Elliot, Daniel Vettori and Morne Morkel do not live in isolation. They witness our relentless attacks and criticism.  

Times Live said it…it must be true!

Surely it must affect them? We’re not talking about one or two people calling them out – we’re talking millions. Millions of angry tweets, comments and headlines, each one like a tiny water droplet of vitriol that over time carves through the rock of their self-confidence, wearing them down, turning them into bitter old men by the time the retire.  

Just wait until you see what we said about you online…

Is this the reward they get for years of being top international sportsmen? Bitter ignominy as they play and replay the closest of their losses over and over in their heads, wondering what they could have done differently, to deliver a victory and fleeting praise from a fickle nation?

We are not fans. We are bullies. Angry, hateful bullies hiding behind keyboards, safe in our digital anonymity, knowing we’ll never have to account for how we made another human being feel after they gave it their best, and still lost. 

Our intense pride and support melts like butter before a blowtorch in the face of a loss. We cannot truly call ourselves supporters. We are fickle cheerleaders at best. 

The wild passion and dismay at the moment of loss seems to justify our puerile binary outbursts. Would we spew such venom if we were face to face with these men and women? 

There is no difference between the abuse we fling at these sportsmen and the cyber bullying of immature, thoughtless children on Facebook.  

Your bullying brings more bullies to the yard…

No, it’s quite clear we are not fans. Not by a long shot. 

© Dave Luis 2015. All Rights Reserved. 


    I am absolutely gutted that we lost. I really really wanted us to win, but not more so than a single player on that field today. Not one of them went out there today to try and loose. Are we all SO perfect that we NEVER make a mistake?????? Only those who are perfect have the right to criticize!!! The rest don’t even realize that their rants aren’t a reflection on anyone other than themselves. Shame!!!!!

  2. Thanks for this Dave. Too much true by and large but I LOVE MY TEAM and love how they gave their all and while it makes me sad we lost, i do think we were outplayed on the day and hope that we pick ourselves up and become dominant West Indies and Australia team from the past – it’s about time and we’re so close… but ja this jump from BEST EVER to WORST EVER YOU SUCK after one game is just too much and you should just stop and become Kevin Pietersen supporters. [oops, i hope i didn’t say that out loud!]

    love brett fish

  3. Well said Dave. I get SOOOO angry with people who insist on calling them chokers and a whole lot of other names. It sickens me.

  4. The true mark of a lover is when he/she continues to love even after turmoil and mistakes. Is it not the same for a true fan of the game? If we are real protea supporters,then we stand behind our boys and give them a heroes welcome.

  5. i absolutely could not agree more! Being a passionate Proteas supporter, I was naturally upset by the loss, but I still love that team. That team is still the best test team on the planet. They may have missed a few chances in the field, and may have made a couple of mistakes, but who can say that they have never made a mistake in their life?

    That image of Morne’ Morkel should tell anyone how much that loss means to them. It’s a powerful image. These guys are human. Just like everyone else.

    Long live the Protea Fire!!

  6. I am a firm believer that you should not say anything on the internet that isn’t edifying, constructive, or at the very least, polite. Our parents did not teach us to be terrible people either to the faces of others or on the other side of a computer screen.

      1. Do you mind if I link to you on my blog? I am not a very frequent writer (my poetry one is updated more) but I like the things you have to say.

  7. Finally, someone said it. I find it’s not just with cricket though. All our sports, not even just international. Currie cup and Super rugby too, full on fan till your team loses, then you go to your back-up team. No with-you-till-the-end type commitment. BRILLIANT piece of your mind here. Well done!

      1. I think it touches on the personality of the new-society… the people who are so afraid to commit because something better might be just around the corner…

      2. And all the corporations are milking this… Welcome to the Information Age, where something new is just around the corner, so don’t commit, you will definitely miss out on this totally non-unique gimmick.

  8. I honestly avoid all this crap. I have a son who is a sportsmen and part of a two teams – swimming and soccer. I have seen the effort he puts in and the team as a collective – winning is everything to them. They want it so badly but sometimes the stars don’t align on race day and it falls apart – no ones fault, certainly not the sportsmen’s fault.

    There devastation is actually more intense and more real than a bunch of spectators sitting watching.

    When I saw AB’s face yesterday I knew he not only carries the weight of his team but the weight of a nation who will never give him an inch!

    1. You see? All around us is the evidence that these we hold up as superhuman (and then attack as if they were demons) are human beings just like us.

  9. Very well said. There’s that old saying about university squabbles, attributed to about five different people, that goes “Academic politics are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so low.” The same applies to sport. Cricket is a game where you hit a ball with a plank and then run 22 entirely arbitrary yards. All sport is objectively meaningless, with stakes that are lower than low. But as a blank screen on which projections can be flung, it draws out the strongest emotions. High emotion, low stakes, no thinking. A recipe for ugliness.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Tom – you touch on something I didn’t even think to mention: the fact that all sports are just games – mere games – yet the emotions they fuel would have any observer believe that sport is a life or death affair.

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