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Soup of This Day #149: It Isn’t Really Anywhere, It’s Somewhere Else Instead

March 10, 2012

Bouvet Island
Bouvet Island in 1898. Liverpool FC were 6 years old and the Red Sox were 3 years away from foundation when this photo was snapped by Carl Chun of the German Valdivia expedition – Image: B&W photo by Carl Chun, 1898, hand coloured (water colour) by F. Winter, 1903. Neither Carl Chun or F. Winter are affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

Bouvet Island is the most isolated island in the world. I’m fond of talking about how isolated Perth, Western Australia is but Bouvet takes the title from my home town by a ridiculously long margin.

The geography alone is impressive. This volcanic island is covered in glaciers and surrounded by imposing cliffs that have been battered into creation by the South Atlantic. At the centre of this defiant outpost is an icy plateau, the crater of an inactive volcano.

Yep, it’s 49 square kilometres of intimidation and it’s in the middle of nowhere – It’s nearest neighbour is Queen Maud Land in Antarctica, an agoraphobe’s dream at 1,750km away to the south. Cape Town is the nearest settlement of note and it’s roughly 2,500km to the northeast.

Bouvet is so out there on it’s own that we can’t say for sure who discovered it. Jean-Baptiste Charles Bouvet de Lozier is a likely suspect – The Frenchman noted the island in 1739. The trouble was that when Captain James Cook went looking for it in 1772, using de Lozier’s notes, he drew a blank.

It wasn’t until 1808 that the position of Bouvet was fixed and even then it’s rugged coastline meant that attempting a landing wasn’t a move with long-term prospects for staying alive. What was really needed was a helicopter and nobody had 1 of them until 1936. Even after that technological leap Bouvet was so remote and so unforgiving that hardly anyone could be bothered. It was said that until just recently, more people had set foot on the Moon than on Bouvet Island.

Yep Elton, it might be lonely out in space but it’s freakin’ rush hour compared to Bouvet in the busy season.

Bouvet Island’s isolation and this being my 149th post has got me thinking about a question that I hear often.

What makes a fan?

I’m a fan of Liverpool FC and the Boston Red Sox, yet I live in Perth, Western Australia and have done all of my life. I’m not on Bouvet Island but I am around 14,660km from Anfield and roughly 16,860km from Fenway. Since I’ve never been out of Australia you can safely assume that I’ve never seen either side play in the flesh.

In fact, most games I’m struggling to see them play at all – I rely heavily on the Net and most often I’m seeing the action well after it has occurred. Sometimes for me, watching a game means hitting the refresh button on text updates – An incredibly frustrating experience that often leads to a disconnect with reality, particularly if the text commentator has a technical malfunction or is a 2-finger typist.

So I’m not there in the physical sense and some people might argue that therefore I’m just not there at all – By this I guess they mean that I have no right to be calling myself a fan of either club.

You see this in forums sometimes – I once read a comment from 1 local Merseysider directed at a Southeast Asian fan to the effect that he needed to call himself a supporter and not a fan because you can’t be a fan if you’re not from Liverpool. This confused me so I looked up the definitions. It turns out, according to Wikipedia, that, ‘A Fan, sometimes also called aficionado or supporter, is a person with a liking and enthusiasm for something, such as a band, a sports team or entertainer.’

So the Southeast Asian guy is both a fan and a supporter since he likes Liverpool FC enough that he is enthusiastically wasting time conversing online with a complete tool.

Yep, that’s right. I called a Liverpool fan from Liverpool a complete tool. Do I get to stay in the clique now?

How do you measure someone’s ‘liking and enthusiasm’? Could it be in time? That seems to be the measure bandied around most often, as in, ‘I’ve supported the Red Sox since 1986.’ This is no doubt admirable and a show of loyalty but does this mean that I love the club more than the person who just started following them?

Here’s a more complicated scenario – If a person in Boston starts supporting the club now and goes to Fenway next week are they a bigger fan than me? Maybe they are although they might want to wait until the Red Sox get back from Florida. Last I checked the Red Sox had a Grapefruit League match-up against the Rays at JetBlue Park today.

1 time, during the 1999 Rugby World Cup, I sat up alone to watch Australia play South Africa in a semi-final at Twickenham. It was a tight game with tries at a premium – So expensive in fact that nobody had any of them. Kicking therefore was the scoring method of choice and both sides had taken a decent toll so it was 21 apiece at the death of regulation time. At this point I was on the edge of my seat, clasping a scarf and wearing an Australian shirt like a true fan, hoping the lads could get across the line.

They did.

Stephen Larkham stepped up in extra time and slotted home his 1st ever drop goal from 48m out. A stupendously outrageous score under pressure that sent me off the couch and onto my knees like Willem Dafoe in Platoon. There I knelt, scarf held aloft and head tilted back to emit an almost silent roar.

For some reason, even though it was just me there, I felt the need to keep the noise down. I’m stupidly considerate like that.

This was pretty much standard stuff for a fan. Except that I didn’t have a Wallabies scarf and my only Wallabies jumper was 8 years old and about 12kg in the past. So instead I waved a faded, I think orange, towel as a scarf and wore an Australian Socceroos shirt. By the measure of my merchandising I was in a group of 1 when it came to my support. Welcome to Faded-orange-towel-as-a-Wallabies-scarf-ville, population Longworth72.

Except, even with my lack of credible merch, I wasn’t really alone – As that kick sailed over the cross bar and into legend I heard a roar from outside. There was an apartment block behind the house I was staying in and around the 3rd floor 1 of the units was holding a party. I’m guessing they did not wave faded towels around of any colour but in their happiness they were as surely bound to me as to the Wallabies supporters actually at Twickenham who saw the 27-21 triumph.

I guess my point in this is that there really is no generic definition of what a true fan is. There’s no guidelines on what to wear, what to say or what to do. You don’t have to be from somewhere or go some place else, at least not because somebody else says so. There’s no time-frame – You don’t actually get a personal bonus for supporting the team for 20 years as opposed to 20 days. You define the terms of your support – You define the belief that you have.

And if it takes the form of a faded orange towel then maybe make sure it’s at least clean before you kiss it in triumph.

For the record, I have 4 Red Sox caps, 5 Liverpool shirts and 1 Dockers beanie. I’m hoping to wear that beanie to see Fremantle play at least once this season. If I don’t make it, probably because I choose to spend the money on a trip to the Zoo with The Noah instead, then it won’t make me any less happy if they win and I reckon I’ll still be a proud Freo fan, supporter or aficionado.

Back to Bouvet Island and a team headed by Kiwi adventurer Aaron Halstead recently made it up the 780m peak that forms the island’s highest point. They were the 1st to do so. Which is fairly remarkable but I thought though that I’d wrap this post up by going back a fair bit further, to 1825:

In that year Captain George Norris, the Master of the whalers Sprightly and Lively landed on 1 of Bouvet’s black sand beaches and claimed the island and it’s near neighbour Thompson Island for the British Crown. There are a couple of things to note out of this.

For 1, nobody has ever found Thompson Island again and for 2, Norris chose to call Bouvet by another name, 1 that honoured an English port. Had he tried that 67 years later he would have also honoured a football team that I support.

The Norwegians took over the island in the 1920’s but for a while there it was known as Liverpool Island. It is possible it seems to have a connection and be a long way away.

It Isn’t Really Anywhere, It’s Somewhere Else Instead

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