It sometimes feels like the quickest way to shut down any conversation in a social situation is to casually mention to whomever you’re talking to that you’re an A-Leagues fan.
I’ve lost count of the number of times people have looked at me like I’m from another planet when I mention I watch the A-Leagues.
Often people will start talking to me about European football – and let’s face it, it’s almost always about the English Premier League – and the second I steer the topic towards domestic football is the second the conversation stops.
One time at a party I overheard someone complain to another guest that I “knew nothing about football” because I was trying desperately to avoid talking about the Premier League.
And so, for the most part, I simply avoid talking about the A-Leagues in social situations.
I’ve tried instead to get my football fix online, but for the past few years getting involved in social media has been even worse than trying to talk about the A-Leagues down at the pub.
That’s because, for a certain type of user, the only reason social media exists is to spark an argument.
And some of the worst culprits are the fans of big European teams who seem to spend 24 hours a day flinging out venomous vitriol on behalf of their chosen super club.
I thought as much when New York Times football writer Tariq Panja wrote a perfectly reasonable piece about Barcelona president Joan Laporta essentially mortgaging his club’s future.
Barcelona’s financial crisis is the biggest scandal since the Super League and if they were any other club, they’d be expelled from La Liga and forced to re-form in one of the amateur divisions.
But although nothing Panja wrote was remotely controversial, it didn’t stop the usual army of social media drones from accusing him of unfairly targeting their club.
The same thing happened when Adam Crafton wrote a similar editorial for The Athletic, with numerous Twitter users suggesting the English writer had it in for the Blaugrana and would never dare write a similar piece on any other club.
If there was one thing almost all of these social media critics seemed to have in common, it’s that none of them appeared to live in Spain.
And as soon as Panja or Crafton or another journalist writes about any other club, they’ll soon have an army of that club’s fans bagging them relentlessly in the comments section.
But it’s not like this sort of behaviour is limited to European football.
When Sydney Morning Herald journalist Dom Bossi revealed last week that he was stepping down after more than a decade at the newspaper, the usual cadre of Western Sydney Wanderers fans chimed in that they were happy to see him depart because he was supposedly so biased against their team.
Many of these are the same fans who complain about a lack of mainstream media coverage.
It’s the same attitude that leads many A-Leagues fans to proudly announce they’ve long boycotted this column – because at one time or another I wrote something mildly provocative about their club.
The penny has never dropped that refusing to engage with what little coverage the A-League generates only leads to outlets choosing to no longer cover it.
Everything is just so binary on the internet – there’s no room for nuance and every tweet or debate or column is either the best thing ever written or a crime against humanity.
And so you open Twitter or Facebook or whatever forum you read just knowing you’re about to be bombarded by hot takes and conspiracy theories and absurd complaints about journalists from London hating bankrupt clubs from Barcelona.
It’s exhausting. But that’s football in 2022.
And if you’re anything like me, it’s sometimes enough to make you shut down the laptop, switch off the phone and find something better to do.