When I sat down to watch Monday's game live on Sky against Crystal Palace I really did not know what to expect from Sunderland. History - especially in recent times - would suggest that with our seemingly unapparent ability to defend against pace (and the fact we are really, really awful to watch) that we were on a hiding to nothing, and that it probably wouldn't be long before I was turning the TV off and storming to bed early in a right huff. Yet, with a glimmer of optimism, I was intrigued by the team selection and the feeling that we might actually sneak a win in a fixture that has been rather kind to us in recent years.
We often follow immense highs up with even bigger lows and it felt like yet another giant kick in the bollocks when we followed up the recent derby win against Newcastle with the atrocity that was Everton away. With the Sky cameras there and the nation watching we were once again the laughing stock of the Premier League, with people everywhere wondering just how Sunderland have managed to stay up as long as we have.
I know we have no right to feel hard done to, because there are countless other football clubs in England that would love to be in our position right now, fighting it out in the Premier League, but I really do. I feel kicked to f**k. I feel like a doormat that has been stepped on one too many times by the hundreds of players and managers that have failed to realise the privilege bestowed upon them when they're given the opportunity to play on that pitch, in that shirt.
There have been points this season where, like the players on the pitch, I've just given up. The last few years have been hard on us as fans to the point where lads that I know have been Sunderland through and through for years are really struggling to make themselves go to games anymore.
Yet, as I sat there in my chair watching the game on Monday, I still felt myself being sucked in, being drawn to it. No matter how many times I tell myself that I'm sick of it and can't be arsed anymore; no matter how many times I vent and rant to my mates down the pub, I just can't help but love the bastards. When Defoe scored I was jumping all over the room, and the ten minutes that followed were probably the most nervous, anxious, annoyed and frustrated I've felt in quite some time. And for what? A bloody one-nil win away at Crystal Palace? Put that into context - consider things outside of football that we take for granted, such as the atrocities in Paris earlier in the month - and there's me, absolutely caking my kecks and going into a state of panic as the team on the pitch are trying to cling onto a potential three points.
I should probably get a grip, but I can't. Football might only be a sport to some people but to others, like me and you, it means everything. It's the first thing we talk about when we strike up a conversation with another bloke. It's something we plan our holidays, weekends and social life around. It's what we talk about when we see Dave from work on a Monday morning. It can make or break your week.
As the old saying goes, it's the hope I can't stand.
It's the feeling we get when we sign a new player; when we beat Newcastle; when we get a win away from home; when we get through to the next round of the cup. It's the feeling that we get whenever any of those things happen and we simply cannot stop ourselves from wondering what exactly might happen if all the stars align. The feeling most of us had at half time in the 2014 league cup final. What if Sunderland manage greatness, even just once?
Every football fan experiences those exact same emotions. We allow ourselves to be gripped by the notion that things are about to change for the better, and that eventually everything will be ok. In it's purest form, it's love.
Yet I - sat in my chair watching the win away at Palace on Monday - allowed myself to get lost in it again. What if we beat Stoke? Surely we won't be relegated? Is this the beginning of the Allardyce revolution? Are we now seeing just what we expected to see from a Big Sam team, a gritty, unpretty and hard fought win?
You just can't help it.