I BARRACK for Melbourne. Somebody has to. I couldn't help it. I was born that way, and a painful journey it's been.
There have been highs, of course. Robert Flower weaving along the wing in the 1970s. ''Flash'' mowing down anything that moved in the Noughties. And ''Jimma'', who brought a smile to the eye and an innate decency to everything he touched: whoever heard of a footballer using his fame to help homeless youth, rather than those of property or ego development?
There haven't been too many highs of late, though - 2012 was an annus horribilis (Latin for ''pain in the arse'') if ever there was one.
Dear Jim died. Davey was cast as the villain in a media storm in which the coach was accused then acquitted of racism. Our major sponsor turned out to be a sleazebag. Our freakish forward was caught up in a machete attack and lit out for Adelaide. Some of our best players left in search of fortune or flags. We played like bumbling amateurs.
And now they're telling us we tanked.
A team of investigators - including an ex-UN investigator, no less - has been sent in to interrogate anybody who ever pulled on the red and blue. They've seized the computers, uncovered a secret meeting in ''The Vault'' - shades of Voldemort! - during which Chris Connolly threatened staff with dismissal if we missed out on those picks.
Caroline Wilson labelled us ''pathetic and disgusting'', opined that Connolly and Schwab were finished, that the club was to be eviscerated. Dwayne Russell compared Jim Stynes to Lance Armstrong. Jeff Kennett, who knows a thing or two about wilderness, has said that's where we'll be for years to come.
So what does the supporter do in the face of this firestorm?
Well, you could roll over and die, start supporting your local suburban team.
Or you could ask a few questions.
Now that Melbourne has appointed a prominent QC to marshal its defences, here's a few he might consider.
Such as - what exactly is tanking? The Demons are blithely condemned as tankers extraordinaire, but no two people seem able to agree on what that means. The term doesn't appear in the AFL statutes; like a lot of other contemporary sporting phenomena - Moneyball, Meat Loaf, headbanging sound-and-light shows - it's an American import.
All the AFL Regulations have to say on the matter is at 19 (A5): A person, being a player, coach or assistant coach, must at all times perform on their merits and must not induce, or encourage, any player, coach or assistant coach not to perform on their merits in any match - or in relation to any aspect of that match, for any reason whatsoever.
Say what? Perform on their merits? An instruction to players to throw a game would presumably be in breach of this rule, but not even Melbourne's most feverish critics have alleged this.
In the game against Richmond in 2009, widely cited as evidence of the Melbourne tank, the Dees were ahead at the final siren. Another supposedly suspicious game was the 2007 ''Kreuzer Cup'' - but they won that one. If there was tanking going on, nobody told the players. They just sucked, big time. So if Melbourne hasn't instructed its team to lose, what has it done?
Here we enter the murky waters of ''list management''.
List management: is there a more slippery, more subjective concept in Aussie rules?
How do you ''manage your list'' to maximise your chances of losing a game? You could drop seven of your best players. Fremantle did that in 2010, going down to Hawthorn but guaranteeing themselves a home final.
You could send a raft of your best players off for season-ending surgery. Collingwood did that in 2005, losing the last eight games but gaining Scott Pendlebury and Dale Thomas.
You could deliberately pick young players. Kevin Sheedy did that in 1993 and won a premiership.
You could play players out of their normal positions. West Coast did that in 2010 and picked up Jack Darling with its priority pick, miraculously rocketing up the ladder the following year. (John Worsfold describes this juggling act as ''a development tool''; he obviously develops his tools extremely well, having led his team from a flag in 2006 to a priority pick in 2010 and a tilt at yet another flag in 2011.) You could sit in the coach's box and ''do nothing'' while your team goes down in a vital game, as Terry Wallace has admitted doing to snare Trent Cotchin. You could do most of the above, as Carlton - according to Libba and Fev - appears to have done.
If you are the Demons, of course, and have the temerity to try any of these, they send in the goon squads, interrogate the boot-studders, seize the computers (the computers of any of the above-named clubs would make fascinating reading, but doubtless anything of interest has long since been deleted).
Little of the ''evidence'' would stand up in a court of law, but it's enough to eviscerate the Demons in the court of public - read, media - opinion. It is fostering an environment in which - if perchance the inquiry concludes that Melbourne is innocent - the attack dogs, already goaded, will go for the throat.
Demon supporters all over the country are anxiously waiting to see what's next on the agenda.
They see two possible outcomes.
One, the AFL can put on the black cap and find us guilty, they could strip us of draft picks and assets, banish us to the wilderness, bury the team, already on its knees, in a deep, dark grave. The AFL is more divided than ever: the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting shafted. A few years on and the league's founding club could be franchised out: the Tassie Devils or some such circus.
Alternatively, the AFL could admit that - well, OK, maybe the cat did take a lick of the cream that we inadvertently left out, maybe it didn't. Who can tell? But if it did, it was neither the first nor the last to do so; every other tomcat in the alley has had a slurp.
Just maybe - given that the Demons played like the lily-livered fuchsias of old before and after the alleged ''tank'' - the thousands of poor sods who barrack for them have already had punishment enough. Perhaps it's time we clarified the rules, declared an amnesty for all and let the show go on.