A View from the Hayne Plane: A Rookie’s journey to NFL fandom

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This is a story from AussieFaithful reader and contributor Renee Wright that mirrors so many others from Australia who jumped aboard the Hayne Plane and the 49ers. Enjoy, and be sure to follow Renee on Twitter @21writingwright and hashtag us with #AussieFaithful. There is more of us than you think.

I haven’t always liked Jarryd Hayne. In fact, I’m following his career for the first time in my life.

Anyone with a passing interest in the NRL knows who Jarryd is. For me, prior to Hayne’s switch to NFL, he was an opposition player, albeit a damn good one. Nevertheless, he wasn’t one of my guys so I rarely thought beyond how he affected my team on game day.

Matt King | Getty Images Sport
Matt King | Getty Images Sport

When Hayne announced he was leaving the NRL it was BIG – but I didn’t really care.  The gravity of the journey he was embarking on was still lost on me. As for the game of NFL? Up until this point, my knowledge was based on the Super Bowl, Friday Night Lights, Remember the Titans, The Blindside, and Jerry McGuire.  

Then he signed with the 49ers, the pre-season happened and, well, we all know the rest.

I get my seat on the Hayne Plane

Since I’ve always loved a good bandwagon, I was happily swept along with the high-fiving Aussie crowd, officially seating myself on The Hayne Plane, pumped and ready to go. I bought the jersey. I updated my pay-tv subscription (somewhat prematurely as it turned out because all bar Thursday night games are shown on free-to-air). I liked every NFL page I could find, followed fan pages and US sports reporters on Twitter, and basically dove head first into Hayne mania.

Initial confusion was based around the obvious:

  • Why don’t they just stay out there and play?
  • Why can’t these guys play offence AND defence, why the annoying chopping and changing?
  • What’s going on with the flags?
  • Why are there hundreds of people milling around within inches of the sideline?
  • What’s a screen?
  • Is a safety a position or a point?
  • What are snaps and picks?
  • Where’s the pocket?
  • What’s a blitz and a pass rushing game?
  • How do the divisions work?
  • How does a team qualify for the Super Bowl?
  • Are those pants hot to play in?
  • How can they see anything with those helmets on?
  • And most importantly: why aren’t the 49ers playing Hayne more often?

All in or not at all

At this point, the depth of the game revealed itself. The fact is, you can’t just casually watch NFL. You need to understand it or it gets boring really quickly. With Jarryd hitting the field only once or twice a game (or never ☹), the only way forward was total immersion.

I downloaded the rules from NFL.com and studied Cam Inman’s idiots guide to the NFL at the end of his Hayne pieces. I bothered my new Twitter friends with the most basic questions on this complex game. I watched every clip reviewing 49er games I could find, trying to work out what the hell the commentators were talking about.

All the while, donning my #38 jersey for each game, blearily drinking coffee during the early morning wake ups, or pretending to work while following game day Tweets during office hours than watching a replay later.

I will tell you this, it takes dedication to be an Australian and an NFL fan because the International Date Line is a bitch

I will tell you this, it takes dedication to be an Australian and an NFL fan because the International Date Line is a bitch. Just once I’d like to watch a game at a decent hour, in a pub, surrounded by other NFL fans, with a cold beer in my hand.

Seven games in, the most basic questions have been answered but in their place hundreds of others have popped up. Now it’s about who’s who, positions, plays, coaches and the opposition teams coming up against the 49ers. I feel like I could devote a significant amount of my life to this game and still barely scratch the surface. It’s like discovering a new favourite author with a never-ending back catalogue to delve into.

Rich, flashy and flamboyant

Then there is the spectacle of the game itself. Visually, this is one hell of a sport. The immaculate fields, the absolutely huge stadiums colour coordinated with the team uniforms and chock-full of passionate fans. This league is rich, flashy and flamboyant, full of big characters and a cut-throat pressure to perform that is unlike anything I’ve seen before. It really is quite brilliant.

But … the 49ers are not winning. Turns out Jarryd Hayne landed in a team that’s going through a significant rebuilding stage (to put it kindly). For me, I’m glad to be getting on board with the 49ers during this transitional period. With the old guard gone, both old and new fans are learning together about the skills of the new members and what form this team will take as 2015 progresses.

As for Hayne, it hurts that he’s not playing.

He brought me to this game and his story is a wonderful one. I’ve now read a lot about Jarryd and like all Hayne Plane fans, watched every interview and replay I can, feeling proud of this humble, highly-skilled, professional athlete.

I’ve never bought a team jersey before so when my #38 49ers jersey arrived, my kids asked why I even wanted one.  I told them the truth: I respect the man.  I respect his journey

I’ve never bought a team jersey before so when my #38 49ers jersey arrived, my kids asked why I even wanted one. I told them the truth: I respect the man. I respect his journey. I respect his courage and strength of character, which enabled him to give everything up — from the highest paid contract in NRL history, to being able to see his family and friends daily. He had a burning passion inside him and a spirituality that would not let him turn away from the tough path.

I’m a strong believer in positive self-expectancy and for me, Jarryd Hayne is the perfect example of the power of positive expectancy in action. Jarryd Hayne will succeed. I now realise his journey will be harder and take longer than I wanted, but that’s ok too.

Forever faithful, even blindly

Many Americans are no doubt sick of Aussies bombarding feeds with our blind faith in Hayne and, in my case anyway, confused questions about why he’s not playing. I feel like one of those annoying people everyone hates to sit next to in the cinema, the one elbowing you and asking stupid questions about what’s going on right in front of them. Painful I’m sure.

But he’s our man and we want him to succeed like he’s a brother. He’s bringing with him a proud nation of sporting addicts and we’re falling in love with your game (which happens to dovetail nicely with our off-season). I even found myself Googling flights to San Francisco, dreaming about the awesome times I’d have at the tailgate parties across the road from the stadium before I headed into a game at Levi’s.

Am I getting off the Hayne Plane? Nup. Not on your life. Do I expect Hayne’s journey to end anytime soon? No way. Is this rookie officially entrenched in NFL fandom? You better believe it.

Do you have a story like Renee that you want to share? Why not share it with your other #AussieFaithful and head over to the contact page to submit yours.

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