Tigers: it's not me, it's you.
The best moment was right after I made the decision. If things were going to get better, they would have done so years ago. But lately, the relationship was deteriorating faster than ever. This was the right time to quit. And now it's over, I can't wait to get on with the rest of my life.
We got together, you and me, when I was barely out of nappies. I liked tigers. My brother always said I liked the winning streak you had one year, but he's wrong. I just liked actual tigers and your fearsome tiger logo.
In the early years of our relationship, you went through some tough times yet I always stuck fast, buoyed by the genuine prospect of a better future. In their way, the bad times were more nourishing than the good. They taught us both that there are more important things in life than winning.
When success came unexpectedly with that premiership in 2005, it was the high point of our relationship. But things turned sour immediately afterwards when all your bad habits came flooding back. Obviously I stayed with you, but it was sure hard to watch. It was as though you didn't know what to do with your success.
Down you slid. And slid, and slid, until now, here you are at pretty much rock bottom. These have been bad years. Not only have you made the finals fewer times than any other team (just thrice in 17 years), but your three best players -- including the captain -- have just decided to leave.
That, after the previous captain was shoved out by a coach who's now been sacked, the superstar who guided you to a premiership left, and countless players who have since won premierships elsewhere were shown the door.
You're self-sabotaging and dysfunctional as all hell, did anyone ever tell you that?
Let me tell you the main thing I've learned all these years, apart from the obvious fact which is that the current board -- like others before it -- has no idea how to run a football club.
I've learned that there's something much more important to every football fan than success. Know what that thing is? It's hope. It's the belief that better times are around the corner.
That's what's been so wrong with this relationship all these years. I've had no reason to hope. In a competition where all teams have the same amount of money to spend, all fans should have the reasonable expectation that their team will be competitive any given year.
Tigers fans have never had that.
Hope, above all else, is what attracts people through the turnstyles. Fans rightly have loyalty to a name, to a set of colours and logo which has been worn down through the decades by generations of hulking men. We have our collective memories and our united passion. These things are all real and sustaining and good.
But fans need more than the past experiences of standing on crowded hills or sitting in plastic bucket seats squeezing sauce sachets on their freshly washed jeans watching blokes in familiar colours turn grass to mud. We need hope. If the team sucks on any given day or season, so be it. But give us hope that you're building something. Make us believe, even if that belief is clearly irrational.
With the departure of James Tedesco and Aaron Woods announced yesterday, I no longer have any hope for the future as a Wests Tigers fan. Maybe we'll attract other good players, maybe we won't. Either way, I can't bring myself to care anymore.
Read the Tigers' strategic plan (alternatively known in the corporate gobbledygook favoured by one board member as their "strategic pillar"), then ask yourself how the disgraced former Tiger Tim Simona was betting thousands of dollars each weekend on the pokies -- and even betting on himself to score tries in NRL games -- yet no one from the club intervened.
You could ask a lot more questions of this deeply dysfunctional organisation. Truth is, I don't want to know the answers anymore. At some point in a relationship, you've got to stop expecting the other half to get better, and concentrate on what you can do.
What can I do? Walk out, that's what. For this, some will doubtless call me a quitter. "You've got to stick with them through the good times and the bad," they'll say.
I disagree. A football club is not a birthmark. It is not family. It's an organisation you choose to associate yourself with, and you can break that bond anytime. I'm not walking out because they're no good at football. I'm walking out because they're no good, full stop.
And instead of spending $20.50 on a ticket to the match at Leichhardt Oval next week, I'm donating $20 to saving real tigers. In fact I just did. And here's your proof.
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