While not everyone is completely sympathetic, there has been an underlying tone throughout all the drama involving supplements at the Essendon Football Club this year that many people do feel for the players involved.
While ignorance is not an excuse, many players were possibly just doing what they were told and, not wanting to cause ripples, they asked no questions.
Some perhaps put their trust in those they believed knew what they were doing, and because of that trust, would any have really thought what was going on was illegal?
Sure, have some sympathy for them as they await the outcome of the investigation and its potential sanctions.
But now please put aside your own football biases, and whatever dislike or hatred you may have for the Bombers, and spare a thought for the members and fans of the club.
As a fan you support your team – financial and emotionally – through thick and thin, the painful losing seasons, the finals near-misses, the agony of tight losses in big games, and the anguish of being beaten by arch-rivals.
A football season can bring so much grief, but it can also deliver so much excitement, joy, jubilation and celebration.
All those good and bad emotions are what being a passionate supporter of a football team is all about.
So put your feet into the shoes of any the 55,500-plus Essendon members or of those who are simply Bombers supporters – just for a moment.
You have your guernseys, maybe one for each of your kids, at the very least t-shirts and other paraphernalia. You go to games, some you even fly interstate to, others you sit glued to the box watching.
You do what you can to support and help your club, because – as all football clubs tell us – you are part of the club.
Entering 2013, you, like members and fans of the other 17 clubs, had hopes, dreams and anticipation about what lay ahead.
Your Bombers had been thereabouts in recent years. Although only playing two finals in eight seasons, led by the Brownlow medal winner there was a real feeling among you and the other faithful, this could be the season where the premiership window comes a tiny bit ajar. This could be the year the Bombers made some serious noise.
Well, they have, but not the noise you wanted, nor ever expected.
As a fan, you knew nothing about this supplement scandal. Sure the story came out before the season began, but what did it mean? Fines? Suspensions? As time went on, who knew?
There were no answers just speculation. The team was still allowed to play games, and win games, and lots of games.
And now there is talk that when penalties are finally are announced, the club – your club – could face losing all their competition points, and being relegated to last on the ladder.
Imagine that as a fan. Your team is comfortably sitting in the top four with maybe six, five, four – who knows how many – games until the finals. You are excitedly planning your September, and bang… gone.
No finals. Season over. Season wasted.
As a fan, you haven’t done anything wrong, yet you are also being punished just as harshly as anyone at the club.
If it does happen, and the points are taken away, then that anguish will be far, far greater than losing any matches, or even spending a season watching a team with no chance of playing finals.
You will have had your hopes raised to lofty heights, only to have them chopped off at the knees.
I remember back in 2002 when the Canterbury Bulldogs in the NRL were found guilty of salary cap breaches.
At the time the Dogs were top of the ladder, with 18 wins and a draw from 21 games. They were two and half games clear on top, with just three rounds to play.
They were going to be playing a major role in deciding who would be the premiers, but for their breach.
The club was hit with a heavy fine, and the competition points they had earned – all 37 of them – were taken away. They went from first to last.
I understand the wrong doing and there should be severe punishment. Some would say if they didn’t breach the cap, would they have been in first place?
Who knows, but just imagine being a fan of the Dogs right then. From smiling to shattered.
In 2010 the Melbourne Storm were also penalised for salary cap breaches, but it was earlier in the season.
They lost all eight competition points they had earned at that early stage, but also couldn’t earn any points for the rest of the season, so the timing of their penalty makes it a little different to the Canterbury story and what could be the Essendon situation.
But what can Bombers fans do? Nothing really. Keep fingers and toes crossed that the penalty – when it does come – won’t impact too heavily on what has been a successful year. Hope that everything won’t be taken away from you.
I know if the club has done wrong, they deserve punishment. What have the fans done wrong though?
If the worst case scenario happens and all points disappear – and the season with it – if I was a Bombers member (and I’m not), I’d be asking someone at the club, those responsible for getting the team into this situation, for a full refund of my wasted 2013 membership.
That won’t go close to stopping the pain, but it will make a point.