Dear AFL, 

Please, sit down, we need to talk. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately and I reckon it’s time we broke up, or at least had a trial separation. You see, I … I don’t love you anymore.

There, sigh, I’ve finally said it!

I’m no good at break ups. I got dropped in my youth, I rarely did the dropping; girls would see the futility in flogging a dead horse, while I’d be hoping it might miraculously spring back to life. “I still love you, but only as a friend,” was a common line, and that old chestnut, “It’s not you, it’s me.”

But in this instance, AFL, it’s SO YOU!

I don’t recognise you anymore. Off field, you’ve become so, I dunno, tacky! You once let the game speak for itself and kept hush during breaks. Now, you pound crap doof and moronic MCs into my ears before and after sirens, until I’m not sure if I’m at ‘The G’ or the Chevron, where I could at least get a full strength beer back in the day. 

Then there’s the blitzkrieg advertising, thinly veiled behind inane gimmicks like “Kiss Cam” and “Cuddle Cam” and “Who Can Make The Biggest Dickhead Of Himself Cam”, followed by Betfair odds, product plugs, and more infernal doof, until play resumes and torture of a different kind begins.

I could tolerate all your off-field glitz if the on-field action resembled the game that bewitched me as a kid: when Jimmy Jess bombed 60 metre torpedos from full back to contests; when UFOs were easier to spot than full forwards on the wing; when the only rolling scrum you saw was the half time toilet queue. That’s when I fell in love with you. Deeply! 

But you’re not footy anymore, you’re ‘keepings off’, with piddly chip kicks back and forth (most less than 10 metres, but still paid), surreal free kicks and unfathomable game plans. It doesn’t help that I follow the Keystone Cops (aka Richmond Football Club), or that scoreboards replay – again and again from every angle – our banana peel slip ups, but you’ve become a stranger to me. 

I doesn’t help either, that my son, Sam, is a carbon copy of me at his age: play acting games with balloons (and hilarious commentary), obsessed with footy cards and forever asking to meet Jack Riewoldt. How do I tell him dad isn’t so keen on going every week? He and I used to talk about the astronauts and animals, skyscrapers and singers; today he wakes with questions like, “Dad, do you think we should drop Grigg?” (“YES,” is my resounding answer, “but don’t stop there!”) and, “Dad, when’s Kingy coming back? We need more grunt in the midfield.” (His words, seriously!) 

Call me Dr McFrankenstein!

Truth be told, I don’t really care if Jake King returns. Like 90 percent of his teammates, he hasn’t the speed or skill to take us within cooee of a flag. At least he has heart. As my mate Greville Warwick texted on Saturday night: “Tigers are as tough as a Little River Band lp” (to which my mate, Nick replied: “I think you’re doing Shorrock and co a disservice. They had more grunt than Richmond, particularly during the Farnham era.”)

Tragic, but true…

But this isn’t about the Tiges. They could be 7-3 instead of 3-7 and I’d still be shifting uncomfortably in my seat. Again, it’s you, AFL! It’s your $7.20 mid-strength beers and lukewarm $4.50 pies. It’s the arrogance with which you schedule matches for 4.40pm on Sundays, a ‘school night’. It’s your confusing home and away ticketing and greed during finals, when corporate pandering reaches its zenith and interstate execs – oblivious to the game – score seats at the expense of diehards. It makes me sick!

Dad, God love him, saw the writing on the wall in the 1970s, when, while queuing for Collingwood grand final tickets overnight at Victoria Park, a prolonged shower soaked him to the bone. “The bastards never thought to open the gates and provide shelter,” he spat. “Kids, grandmothers, all sopping wet. That’s when I realised they didn’t care about supporters, only money.”

From that night on, apart from the odd grand final Aunty Aileen snared tickets to, and my bucks night, dad followed his Pies on radio; ideally 3LO, where ads weren’t heard let alone seen. If he were alive today, I doubt he’d follow footy at all; he loved one-on-one contests too much. He and the AFL would not only have split years ago, he’d have filed a restraining order.

I’m not so naïve as to think you’ll shed tears over my decision. You’ve been courting younger, more attractive, less attentive fans for years behind my back. Who wants a bloke in the stands who won’t cuddle and kiss if the ‘Cam’ spots him out, let alone do a handstand. What a boring old fart! But let’s face it, so long as TV ratings are solid (and, by proxy, revenue) you wouldn’t really care if the stands were empty. 

You’re so vain! Stop looking at your bottom line and start thinking about the people who got you where you are. Until then, AFL, you’re dropped!

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