I don’t want to watch the third State of Origin game tonight, but I will.
Like a father spending his Saturday watching under 13s cricket while he waits in vain to see his son bat at number eleven, I will loyally tune in to channel 9 at precisely 8:17pm tonight – thus avoiding the pre-game hype – to see the Blues and Maroons play out a dead rubber that many of us had forgotten about.
It seems odd to be in this situation, when a matter of weeks ago the Origin series was something that was so highly anticipated, and the entire state of NSW yearned for its first series victory in eight years. But here we are, thousands of league fans going through the paces of State of Origin, simply because tradition compels us to.
I could easily forego watching Origin tonight. I’m sure there are plenty of other, productive things I could be doing with my time like going to the gym, reading a book, or writing another article bemoaning the state of rugby league.
But no, instead I will spend almost two hours watch a game that means nothing. Why? Because rugby league is a sport unique in its ability to foster a sense of obligation from its fans.
Like a charming friend with a debilitating drug addiction, we will continue to lend rugby league twenty bucks, even though deep down we know he won’t be spending it on a cab fare to get to a job interview. He’s going to spend it getting high. Like a fool who never learns, our trust will be repeatedly abused, but we will never abandon the relationship.
In this case, obligation is a one-way street. Rugby league can change, but the fans have to keep showing up. We are obliged to keep going to games, even though our team is terrible. And because our clubs have long-since stopped playing at their local ground, we are obliged to keep watching their games on TV. And we are further obliged to buy the latest jerseys, even though our club changed its colours this season to coincide with the release of the latest James Bond movie onto DVD.
Obligation is a noble value. People who stick by their families out of a sense of duty, or are committed to a cause or their country, through the good times and the bad, are revered and lionised by societies across the world. But when it comes to rugby league, it just all feels a bit silly. Are we really giving up our precious Wednesday night for a game we don’t care about, and the outcome of which will have absolutely no bearing on our lives, simply because of a sense of loyalty to a sport that has long since abandoned such antiquated notions?
Probably. Or, we could skip the game and wake up early for the FIFA World Cup Semi-Final between Argentina and Holland. Because unlike rugby league, Australia’s relationship with soccer is a no-strings casual hook-up through Tinder. It’s fun, there are no repercussions and we’ll forget about it in a month’s time.
By Ben Shine