Friday, 21 June 2013

Sorry, I don't speak sports fan-ese

There's something about sport that I don't understand and find vaguely unsettling, that I didn't touch on last time I was ranting about it: the tribalism of sporting culture.

I used to live in Brisbane, and once found myself at large the night we had a home-game State of Origin match.  I think it was the last match of that year's series - at any rate, it was a particularly big deal.  The streets were thronging with people decked out in maroon and yellow, travelling in packs.  When a car went past with a maroon and yellow scarf fluttering from the window, they'd leap towards it grimacing and gesticulating and shouting "Whaaargleflargleblarglesnargle!" and the driver would toot and wave in reply.

I was kind of freaked out by this.

For complicated reasons which are at least partially Aspergers related, I'm not terribly comfortable among people in packs.  There's a very tangible sense of We Are Of This Thing, and by extension, You Are Not Of This Thing.  I don't think I was in any danger whatsoever, it's just that I have an ingrained anxiety about situations where everyone else is Of A Thing and I'm not, because it's led to some crap situations in the past.

I think it's also because I'm somewhat sensitive to potential threats.  Again, this is rooted in Aspergers: because I can't reliably tell someone's mood or intention, and I'm rather literal-minded, if someone leaps at me grimacing and gesticulating and shouting "Whaaargleflargleblarglesnargle!" I'm going to assume they mean me ill.  Similarly I don't really understand "friendly" teasing or piss-taking.  Then again, I've had so much teasing, piss-taking, and startling, threat-like behaviour that hasn't been good-natured, that I've come to treat it all like a potential threat.  So it's a chicken-and-egg thing - do I feel that way because of my Aspergers, or is it a learned response based on the I've been treated because of my Aspergers?

I don't think my usual response - either ignore it, back away while smiling awkwardly, or to outright bolt - was particularly helpful in terms of responding to the Whaaargleflargleblarglesnarglers.  I think it was an expression of goodwill, they were saying "We Are Of This Thing.  Are You Of This Thing?" And the correct response would have been to say "Yes, I Too Am Of This Thing" by going "Whaaargleflargleblarglesnargle!" right back at them.

Of course, I've just worked this out now, and the football game was several years ago.  I don't know that I could ever process this sort of thing quickly enough to do it in real time.  Because sometimes you will have to run, or at least be cautious, and when you've got someone bigger than you in your face you don't have long to work out if this is one of those times.

So maybe, through freezing, or smiling awkwardly and backing away, or bolting, I've avoided what could have been some very friendly folk and probably missed what could have been some very pleasant interactions.

But I've kept my hide safe, too.