This article marks a century of articles I have written on the San Francisco 49ers, Australian running back Jarryd Hayne and the NFL.
Of those 100 articles, 80 you see here on 49aus, some are over at ninernoise, others were on an old incarnation of this site and never made the transition (yet).
Since September, I have started a podcast on the 49ers, tweeted almost 4000 times on the 49ers, and have dragged myself out of bed at 4am to be abused by over-protective NFL fans while watching grown men in spandex.
All before the sun has warmed my pillow.
That is 100 articles on a sport I didn’t know, focussing on a player I didn’t like, who plays for a team I didn’t follow.
So to mark the occasion, it is time to once again strip back the veil of journalistic structure and tell you, the American NFL fan, why us Aussies just won’t leave the whole Jarryd Hayne thing alone.
How can a nation, and at least 20 of it’s naive, over-enthusiastic reporters still be following a guy who was a pre-season hero, but has made (so far) a minimal impact in the regular season?
It must drive you mad. I get it.
But American NFL fans, I am not sure you are getting us.
It is not about the player
It is not about us Aussies proving to you Yanks that Rugby League has the best athletes in the world. We know we don’t. But here is a tip, Americans don’t have a corner on that market either.
Heck, there are only around 18,000 total members of Hayne’s former club in Australia. All of them aren’t following Jarryd Hayne, the NFL just doesn’t make enough sense, and there are not enough cheerleaders to keep them around.
No, what some of you guys aren’t getting, is Australians are on the Hayne Plane because we have taken flight with the story that is Jarryd Hayne.
My ticket on the Hayne Plane
When in Australia, Jarryd Hayne played in a sport I was losing interest in, for a rival team that was running near dead last (remind you of any NFL team you can think of?).
I had no attachment to him, his team or his accomplishments on the field, unlike this guy:
@49aus oh I'm passionate alright esp about the eels pic.twitter.com/90Ygq9m2IG
— troy worner (@troypod78) October 3, 2015
Now I can’t speak for all of the Australian supporters. In truth, most American friends of mine question us Aussies can speak at all (we do, after all, pronounce Australia, ‘straya’).
But I can speak for me.
Eight years ago, at age 30, I had cancer. Two weeks more without treatment and I was catching a perfectly thrown spiral by the big man upstairs himself. It was the ultimate 4th and long.
Like so many doing it tough, I looked for a reason for optimism, an inspirational story, a reason to keep fighting through whatever difficulty that had owned me on that day.
I thought I had found that story in Lance Armstrong. I was given his “Beyond the Bike” book by a friend while in the hospital and it provided some drive to believe things could get better.
Then he went and proved to the world that they not only fed chemotherapy into his veins but directly into his logic controlling cerebrum when he admitted to widespread, performance enhancing, drug use after he had treatment.
I had six months of full-time chemotherapy intravenously fed into my body through a tube in my chest. Purposeful toxic poisoning that attacked every cell of the body.
How Armstrong let a needle anywhere near him again only proves what a …. how do they say it here in Australia …. oh yes … dickhead he was.
Where was I? Oh yes, the story.
For me, that experience fed the love of an inspirational story. It is something sport provides me better than any other medium.
For others, there are so many others ways, like watching another of my favorite Australians, Nick Vujicic:
For others things aren’t so deep, they are following Jarryd Hayne because for them it is just about Australia proving itself on the world stage. A bit of small country syndrome.
It’s about proving that a country that has fewer people on its entire land mass than watches Sunday Night Football (this is actually true, 24.02M vs 26M), can produce talent that can mix it with the best in the world.
Australians in the NFL
But that is not the whole story, it can’t be. Australia has provided many NFL players already.
Colin Ridgway was the first back in 1965 with the Cowboys. Colin Scotts was the first Australian to get a college scholarship and played with Cardinals. There is all-pro punter Darren Bennett who played for the Chargers and Ben Graham, the first Australian to play in the Superbowl with the Jets.
In the NFL today, there are three active players other than Hayne.
Jesse Williams currently at the Seahawks was the first Australian to win a SuperBowl ring (Jesse is fighting his own cancer battles, all the strength to you mate).
Brad Wing is tearing it up as a punter at the Eagles and Jordan Berry is doing the same at the Steelers.
None of them though have caught the imagination of a nation as has Hayne.
It isn’t fair, and I put my hand up as one who needs to lift their game in that department in 2016, but it is fact.
The Hayne story has achieved maximum buy-in.
Hayne the story
Australians love a battler. Someone who we feel is just like us, who shows some “ticker”, and as Jarryd Hayne put it himself in pre-season, “has a crack”. We love an underdog, someone who shouldn’t make it but does.
Like our first ever Winter Olympics gold medalist:
This guy became a national hero.
For not falling over.
It was the proverbial “up yours” to those that think a nation of desert and beaches can’t skate on ice (they actually have a point).
A game of chess with pads and dancing girls
We know Americans are the best in the world at American Football. We get it. It is “American” football after all.
We admire the sport best described as a game of chess with pads and dancing girls. We admire it for its complexity, athleticism and that squad sizes are as large as some Australian suburbs.
It is why, when Jarryd Hayne announced he was quitting Rugby League to pursue a dream of playing in the NFL, it stopped being about Hayne the player, and started being about Hayne the story.
Hayne had no financial reason to quit, in fact, he had 10 million reasons not to. He had proven his abilities as an athlete, he had proven his loyalty to a game that had let him buy his mom a house and travel the world.
Hayne had little to gain and everything to lose.
Yet here he is, scratching an itch that won’t go away and “having a crack” at making it in the NFL.
I have broken three New Years resolutions and it is the 2nd of January.
Hayne has put himself out there in the most public way possible, the ultimate accountability tool, with a raft of “told you so” observers ready to shout him down.
This is the story Australian’s are following, the same story so many ordinary Aussies live each day in their own way, but this time, under one of the largest spotlights. The NFL.
Whether Hayne scores a touchdown, beats Kaepernick at table tennis, wins a Super Bowl or finds a decent coffee in America is not the point.
It is the fact he is having a go when there was no other reason other than to just “have a crack”.
And as Aussies, we love that shit.
That is why I have written 100 articles on a sport I didn’t know, focussing on a player I didn’t like, who plays for a team I now follow.