One of my favourite memories of Sydney is of a hot and sweaty November show at the city’s legendary home of alternative music, the Annandale Hotel.
It was the first Aussie tour of Californian punk middleweights Ignite and despite it being a Thursday night, the venue was packed and the punters were spilling out into the streets and milling around at Stanmore Maccas as they often did whenever an international band came to town.
Early on in their set Ignite launched into ‘Embrace’ off their 1996 EP Past Our Means, at which point a popular scene kid named Dan Bombings leapt from the front row and with split-second timing, grabbed the mic off singer Zoli Teglas.
“I try and try… to stay positive!” screamed Bombings, as a less-than-impressed Teglas – singing a song about scene unity – attempted to wrestle back control of the microphone.
I look back on the memories of that show – the sticky floor, the surging crowd, the fans lining up to sing songs of protest with a ticket from Resist Records in one hand and a Big Mac in the other – and I can’t help but smile.
But that was 16 years ago. I have no idea if the Sydney punk scene still exists because I left the city more than a decade ago.
Which brings me, in a roundabout way, to the A-League.
Along with a ticket to see Ignite, one of the other things I no doubt bought in late 2004 was a season ticket to what was then my local A-League club.
And with the exception of a year or two when I lived in Japan, my household has been home to multiple A-League club memberships ever since. This year we had three.
But this season, more than any other, has tested my resolve. It’s made me question my commitment to a league that plenty of others were happy to wipe their hands of long ago.
It’s not just one thing, it’s lots of things.
It’s Simon Hill leaving Fox Sports. It’s the Central Coast Mariners potentially leaving Gosford.
It’s the Queensland state government rolling out the red carpet and allowing AFL executives to quarantine-as-they-please, while Brisbane Roar players and staff suffer in locked-away 14-day silence.
It’s Fox Sports overpaying for the Big Bash League and exclusive cricket content, panicking after adding almost no new subscribers, then making the A-League the scapegoat for it.
It’s expansion club Macarthur FC charging active supporters $440 for a season ticket.
It’s the VAR. And increasingly it’s the rational discourse, or lack thereof, on social media.
What’s the old proverb? Repeat a lie often enough and people start to believe it’s true?
It’s hard enough to convince anyone else the A-League is decent quality without another “peak A-League” meme every time someone skies the ball into Row Q.
Just like it’s hard to convince some of the fans who revel in this side of internet culture that their determination to pay as little as possible to consume their football content is one reason the A-League is haemorrhaging cash.
But writing as much doesn’t win over any new fans.
Sometimes being the football lover who tries to take a different look at things brings nothing but brickbats and lawsuits. Just ask Bonita Mersiades.
The A-League was once fresh and exciting and new. But that was 16 years ago.
And so a week out from Sydney FC’s latest grand final win, I can’t pretend I’m not relieved the season is finally over.
There’s a tattoo on the back of my calf, which most people think is sports-related, but which is actually the album cover of Swiss punk band The Vanilla Muffins’ 2003 classic The Drug Is Football.
For me, the drug will always be football.
But as the A-League faces an uncertain future, it’s time for me to take some time off.
I hope it will be back – next December or February or whenever. And I hope I will too.