HEART BEATS TRUE: Demons fans have every right to celebrate their club's return to finals footy.
HEART BEATS TRUE: Demons fans have every right to celebrate their club's return to finals footy. JULIAN SMITH

A glass half-empty view to being a September sport fan

WITH finals fast approaching for the major winter sporting codes, it is a good time to remind avid fans there is a light at the end of the tunnel, even if September action does not fall your way.

The sun will rise again, even if it does set on your team's premiership hopes.

For those fans lucky enough to have teams vying for post-season glory, you will be rewarded with another month of nervous anticipation. Congratulations! You have earned it.

If you sensed the sarcasm, well done.

But that is only half-tongue in cheek. Because seeing your team succeed is an earned experience.

Just ask Demons fans, who have suffered through 12 years without playing in an AFL final.

Some pundits have slammed the players and fans for so deservedly celebrating their return to September footy.

But when wins are an uncommon circumstance you must celebrate the small victories, lest you return to the week-to-week football malaise Gold Coast and Carlton fans in particular are currently feeling.

Unfortunately, here comes the bad news for Dees supporters.

Unless your boys go all the way in September, the heartbreak this time around will likely be the same as it has the past decade.

Because consistent failure breeds a tough skin, but false hope is the true destroyer of souls.

Geelong fans who have watched their side finish in the top four in four of the past six seasons without a flag will tell you this.

Crows supporters watched as the flag meant for them went to Richmond instead, and now the boys from West Lakes will watch September action from the periphery after a rare failed campaign.

Both of these sides are perennial finals contenders, so a lack of empathy from rival fans is to be expected.

But to this point, simply making finals is not enough for the Cats and Crows.

Everyone loves a steak dinner, but after a week of rib-eye you could forgive a person for wanting chicken.

That is what it is like to be a sports fan. It is by most measures an investment with diminishing returns, remedied only by the occasional premiership deposit.

In April, British economists released a study which in summary, found sport on average makes fans unhappier.

For supporters of struggling teams, the lows are more common than the highs; those blessed with regular success feel the heartbreak of defeat more broadly than the happiness of wins.

If the Dees lose to Geelong next weekend and their return to finals is short-lived, fans will take solace in the fact their side progressed further than it has in more than a decade.

But an honest supporter's introspective view will still ultimately lead to more disappointment.

"We could have been better”.

Knowing all of this, is being a fan truly worth all the pain and suffering?

If you ask any of the thousands of Richmond fans who descended on Swan St after breaking a 37-year premiership drought, they will tell you.

In this caper, the disappointment only makes the eventual triumph that much sweeter.

So to the supporters of 17 other AFL clubs who find themselves wondering why come the beginning of October - pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and allow yourself the six months to mentally prepare for the next go-around.

And when it does come, let nobody influence your fandom but you. Ignore the grouches. Take the small victories when they come; ride the losses with a wry smile, and stay hopeful.

Your time will come. Maybe.