So last Saturday South had a friendly against Green Gully. It was at Lakeside, so it was behind closed doors (such is life), we lost 1-0 (the score-line really doesn't matter), and the world moved on.
On the socials after the game there was an unsurprising interview with one of the youth team players who got a run. Again, no complaint from me, because these interviews are not meant to be particularly interesting or illuminating.
We got some sort of quick highlights package from a camera-angle reminiscent of one of those novelty video game angles that no one in their right mind ever uses. Once more, I expect no different, because why would there be a multi-camera set-up for a pre-season game of no importance?
Still, it is hard not to feel emotionally distant from the club at the moment. The members forum late last year and the couple of games in the eastern suburbs aside, everything's been closed doors and just... distant. I can't really find another word for it at the moment.
Memberships for 2021 aren't out yet, but they will be here soon enough, and so too will the season proper. We'll get our first home game in round 2, and then be away for a month. You'd like to think that those who are there most weeks will find themselves back at South games, but will they actually?
There's the beginnings here of an outline of a post I'd like to write, about the nature of conditional support, and the limits of "<insert team> until I die". In the past I'd probably have already written it, because I'd have felt it necessary to do so. I'd have felt that it was a pressing and worthwhile matter to discuss.
Now I'm less jaded (which for me sometimes worked as a motivating factor) and more tired. By life, sure, but also by the lack of South Melbourne action, but also by the lack of proximity to the culture. And to get to the point, how many people still care?
I mean, that's a question we've asked a lot over the past 13 years of this blog, so forgiveness please for retreading old ground. But the post-Taylor seasons were a drain and the pandemic enforced break, rather than allowing people to recharge, might it act as a disincentive to come back to South?
We know that the rest of Australian soccer hasn't missed us, and neither have most of the supporters we used to have. But what if during this time off, a good chunk of the South fans we still have, spent 2020 not missing South, to the extent that they don't think about coming back?
Everything about South (its own media, online fan activity) seems so mellow, so withdrawn, that it doesn't feel like we're building toward anything. I get that there's a lot of players we haven't grown to love or loathe yet, and that's a part of the problem. I get that everyone's a bit cautious about over-selling what soccer will be like, and whether we'll have a truly competitive team.
Oh, and there's the National Second Division stuff which, even if it too isn't getting people particularly fired up, still looks more appealing to most people than another season of trudging around the industrial backblocks
I guess what I'm trying to say is, once South starts again for real in late February, will it matter to the people who still cared?
It's not meant to sound alarmist. There's just been this incredible void with anything to do with South, and who knows what we'll see on the other side of it. It's not the first time we've had to deal with such an absence and degree of inaction. And unlike the previous we (as far as I know) haven't come close to carking it, but I guess there's at east a hint of the same quality of the unknown.
It's not a matter of an ordinary off-season, take some time off, and welcome back. It's been so much time away that it's more than enough to break the habit of caring about South.
I guess I just want to get back to a game to see for myself if it still seems to mean what it's always meant; that there's still enough people who feel excitement, and angst, and camaraderie to keep this thing continuing as a viable cultural (and not just business) concern.