AFTER what seems like 1000 years as a sports journalist, yours truly has never lost an ingrained sense of envy for the people lucky enough to earn a living as professional athletes.
Every time Sporting Declaration ventures out to a training session for the Newcastle Knights or Jets, I come away thinking what a life those guys enjoy.
While the rest of us are digging ditches or slaving over a hot laptop, they get paid to exercise and hang out with their mates.
They travel around Australia and even overseas, playing in great stadiums in front of big crowds and watched by vast TV audiences.
If they are any good and half-smart, by the time their playing careers are finished they should be financially secure for the rest of their days.
The bottom line is that they are living their dream and, in many cases, earning a lucrative wage in the process.
If they were not good enough to be playing professionally, they would probably be running around in amateur ranks or, like many of us, slothing on the sofa, watching their preferred code and wishing they were out there on the pitch.
But the past week has reminded me that it is not always a case of money for nothing and your chicks for free.
After the reaction to their loss last week to Brisbane Roar, I can’t imagine it has been much fun this week being a Newcastle Jets player or coach Phil Stubbins.
For most people, if we have a bad day at work, nobody knows about it, other than perhaps our colleagues and immediate families.
But for the Jets there has been no place to hide after their 4-0 capitulation.
If they were not already feeling dejected about their performance against Brisbane, the players had to endure the ignominy of being booed off the field by their own ‘‘supporters’’.
This has been followed by a week of team meetings, soul searching, public apologies and unrelenting media scrutiny.
You wouldn’t want to trade places with them for any money.
What has struck me most is how scathing the fans have been in their criticism.
This has been brewing for some time. The Jets have not made the finals for the past four seasons and disappointment has turned to frustration and, finally, outright anger.
The Novocastrian faithful are fed up. And perhaps deservedly so.
Without their support, and the money they spend on season tickets and merchandise, the Jets would not exist.
These long-suffering punters are entitled to their opinions, and with their team winless after six games, the feedback was never likely to be complimentary.
Players enjoy the adulation when they are successful.
The flip side of that is they can expect to be taken to task when they are losing regularly.
Sporting Declaration fully endorses freedom of speech, but what I don’t agree with is the anonymity of social media.
Whether it is on the Herald’s website, Twitter or the online forum frequented by members of the Squadron, the comments posted rarely have the author’s real name attached.
They will use a nickname, or a pseudonym, and I find it all a tad cowardly.
The players, coach and club officials are in the public eye. Everyone knows who they are.
Media commentators and columnists also have to stand by what they write or say.
We are expected to maintain some semblance of dignity, no matter what the provocation, although Mike Carlton may beg to differ.
But Joe Public can deliver whatever diatribe he (or she) wants, without any identification, and thanks to the wonder of the internet it can be read by millions of people around the globe.
I guess it’s easy to be brave when you are hiding behind a keyboard and nobody knows who you are.
It must be hard for players to ignore.
In the case of the Jets, I know of one former player who became so obsessed by the hammering he was copping on social media he needed counselling.
His confidence was shot to bits.
Given the Jets may not yet have hit rock bottom, the queue of punters putting the boot in is unlikely to shorten any time soon.
All of which makes me wonder if it is time to change Never Tear Us Apart as the theme song before every home game kicks off.
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