They say long distance relationships don’t work. They’re right. It’s one of life’s certainties, that it’s all destined to end in uncomfortable estrangement.
Yet I once thought differently about long distance love. Sure, I was young with naive dreams of open waters and shimmering sunsets, she was just a blistered cargo ship. But I’d pull her hulking steel hull close as we passed vast continents and forget the world. Then I found out she had a wharf in every port where she’d be filled to the beams. That dirty bitch.
What I’m trying to say is that when you move to a new country and leave loved ones behind it gets complicated. And your relationship with Scottish football is no different.
Things will never change you repeat over and over before walking away. We made it through harder times than this. The Mouldmaster years, the Skol Cup finals more difficult to watch than a Susan Boyle skin flick. I’ll never forget you. And you mean it all. God you mean it all. But temptation always finds you.
You turn up wide-eyed in your new surroundings. And then they set upon your good intentions like dogs.
Here in Melbourne they break you down in subtle ways. It’s not just the saturation factor in a sports mad city that treats Aussie rules football like a religion. Here they even try to make you question your sexuality. Pre-season the media will bombard you with images of taut, tanned men dousing impressive physiques with water. When winter comes it’s all footage of players wading into freezing seas in tiny shorts to warm-down after games.
Aussie blokes, who do blokiness pretty darn well, slap their members on the table and shout incessantly at each other about disposals, shots inside 50, best on ground. Then they insult you and what you left behind. They call it soccer. They ridicule that sometimes there isn’t even a goal scored, while they see one kicked almost every 10 seconds.
But you rise above it and try to resist. They don’t understand true beauty, you tell yourself. I’ve always got Jim Delahunt and his pickled eyebrow-raising on Press Box. Jim Duffy will never let me down. But then he does. And so does the product you’ve loved and defended.
Maybe, I’ve been away too long. Maybe the 2am kick-offs are just getting to a father of two. Maybe all that temptation is just proving too much. But why is that watching Scottish football these days feels like a slow and painful death?
With the quality dropping that once intimate relationship now resembles the aftermath of a tragic car crash in which your true love’s legs have been mangled beyond repair. Sure, for a time the bond grows stronger in adversity. But then the frustration creeps in. You resent the removal of that physical connection and the chance to get physical. And you start hating her for the fact she can’t even fucking walk.
There is of course now a very real chance that the Setanta implosion can stop all the pain. No more Crocker, no more SPL broadcast deal. No more glimpses of what you left behind with wild promises. Euthanasia it seems is now a live chance.
But somehow you just know you’ll still be there sitting in the dark in just your pants scouring the web for any kind of torrent link from China to the big game at Fir Park, praying that some ned with entrepreneurial skills has set their mobile phone to video and slung it up on to the main stand when no one is looking.
Because no matter how hard it gets, you know you just can’t live without it.