In keeping with the blog's low level of productivity in 2020, I was going to produce a very, very short piece thanking a handful of people, and then moving on.
At best it would have been a box-ticking post, doing one's duty to increasingly vague ideas of the blog's continuities, and then forgetting about it.
But upon further reflection, it is worth making at least brief reference to the pile of crap that was 2020.
I doubt there will be many people who enjoyed this year. From my point of view it was an ordeal. Not an unmanageable ordeal, but an ordeal nonetheless.
At least in previous years there was not, for me at least, this extended social isolation, partly a result of social distancing, and partly a result of things not related to the pandemic. At least in the past there was something to look forward to, and one of those things for me was attending South Melbourne Hellas matches.
Attending Hellas matches didn't solve any of my personal problems, and I wouldn't expect it to do so. But apart from watching the games live, there was also an entire procedure undertaken in order for me to watch South games. This procedure included the trips (usually by public transport) to and from whatever ground we were playing at; the getting to the ground early to make the most of the evening or afternoon; and of course writing the blog piece after a game, which gave me the chance to try and make sense of what I'd experienced, and to place it within a wider context.
My weekend was scheduled around South games - everything else in terms of leisure time was a bonus, and subject to negotiation with other duties. But apart from the certainty created by routine, the most important thing of all was that going to South games was a social experience. There were people I could speak to, whether briefly or at length. There were people who were glad to see me, and people who weren't. There were handshakes and eye contact. And there was a feeling of a common cause, no matter how absurd that cause is, and how marginal it has become.
People shared their joys and frustrations together, in social proximity to each other. What the pandemic and the lockdown diminished then, on so many fronts, was that feeling of social proximity. We were all in it together we were told, and that was true to a large extent. But we were also mostly all in it together apart. We became remote from each other. No amount of online work - chats, forums, Zooms, or whatever other technological tools kept us connected - can replace that absence of social proximity.
This year I continued to co-host a podcast on a weekly basis with my good friend Ian Syson, producing 36 episodes, mostly remotely via Zoom, and it was enjoyable, not least for giving me something to look forward to, a reliable signpost in the desert of social distancing; but what I most looked forward to by the end of the year was getting back into the studio. And it is to the resumption of engaging in the practice of social proximity that I look forward to most of all in 2021.
I hope the team does well on the field and that it prospers off it, but I especially look forward to reconnecting with my fellow South fans, and maybe even some opposition fans. There were about 20 people at the members forum in the social club last week, and as low as that seems, it was wonderful to be in that room with those people, and to be chatting with them after the meeting had ended.
I missed watching South play, but mostly I missed being near South people, and I look forward to getting back to Lakeside in 2021, reconnecting with the human side of the sport and the club, and once more making the abstract idea of supporting this club into something more tangible.
Fuck, just getting back into Row H will do me wonders; until we cop that first goal of course, and then I start wondering what I'm doing there.
Now that the verbose emotionality is out of the way, thank you to the following people and organisations in what was South of the Border's 13th year.
Thank you to Football Victoria for media accreditation, even if it only lasted five games.
Thanks to Football Nation Radio for continuing to give me and Ian a radio slot to talk Australian soccer history.
Thanks to everyone who offered their condolences after the death of my father, but especially to Greg Stock, Sam Barres, and Davy Raff for checking in on me regularly at the toughest time.
Thanks to those also who gave me and Gains a lift at some point during those memorable five games of 2020.
Thanks to Gains for being my public transport buddy.
I would like to think that I'll try harder next year.