I LOVE rugby league. It runs so deep and so far back it's become unconditional - good thing to with what this great game of ours tosses up.
Same goes for your columnists other great love; boxing, the sport for which all others are a metaphor.
That love is just there and it always has been. It's so dyed in the wool that we rarely need to pause and examine it but I had pause to do just that this week after watching SBS' Insight program on concussion.
It featured men, once the embodiment of strength and physical prowess, sitting broken in a chair, shoulders hunched staring blankly, searching for words they don't have describe how the hell they got there.
Former Melbourne and North Melbourne star Shaun Smith was moved to tears as he spoke about the struggles that have plagued his post-football life.
Former Essendon ruckman John Barnes suffers epilepsy and other fits of rage and is dependent on wife Rowena for things as simple as showering.
Looking at former Parramatta and Gold Coast forward Brett Horsnell was particularly heart-wrenching. He looks much, much older than his 49 years; certainly a shadow of the man he once was.
He explained that he took in the vicinity of 40 serious head knocks during his career - not to mention the hundreds of incidental hits in between.
He lives at home, in the care of his 80-year-old mother, unable to work, maintain relationships or much else.
His fight to maintain some sort of life is more admirable than anything he achieved on the football field.
There's nothing that will lead me to reconsider my love for the game but - looking at these men have been through and continue struggle with - I would be lacking in basic humanity if I didn't at least re-examine it.
For most of us, our love of the game is so inbuilt we rarely even ask what is it about the game that draws us in?
You'll never hear people describe it as 'the beautiful game' as they do soccer. The grace and skill possessed by masters of the round ball game can certainly inspire awe but when it comes to contact sports, the draw is something more primal.
The reaction is different, it's far more visceral. Strip it back to its bare bones and there's an element of blood lust. You can bet when Cain fought Abel a crowd appeared from nowhere to egg them on. It's in our DNA.
In the modern age, it's something most of us experience vicariously through sport - in particular contact sport.
In the lead-up to last week's grand final, experts in biomechanics demonstrated that a full collision between Josh Papalii and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves was equivalent to a car crash.
Another showed that a collision with Papalli was something akin to a nine-metre fall. The human body, no matter how well trained, is simply not built to withstand such force.
It wasn't built to swim or run marathons or ironman triathlons either, but people do it. It's why we admire those who push their bodies beyond its limits.
In the NRL and AFL they do it every single week as we spectators watch on. It's a relationship built on mutual understanding - they push their mind and bodies beyond its capabilities and we show our gratitude in showering them with adulation.
It's give and take. What we who love these gladitorial sports have to ask ourselves is at what point do we start taking more than we give?
It's a question that came to mind watching Insight this week. Barnes and Smith are currently involved in law suits against the AFL. Horsnell is also taking legal action, as is former Newcastle winger James McManus (who was not featured on Insight).
There are plenty willing to criticise or dismiss them for it 'they knew the risks' and all that. Others try and treat the issue with jocularity in the same way Eels legend Ray Price did on the same program.
Price has always famously said the game owes him nothing. Plenty of past players have the same attitude and they've more than earned that right.
Others will say 'we didn't know then what we know now'. That's only half true, but we certainly know a lot more about CTE now then we did even five years ago.
Just think what we'll know five years from now. Shouldn't we let that inform the caution with which we proceed?
There are other even fiercer critics of players taking legal action who question how they could turn dirty on the game that gave them so much.
It's simplistic in the extreme; more than that it's selfish. What these critics really mean is don't wreck it for us with inconvenient scientific truths. People reacted the same way when Adam Goodes brought some inconvenient political truths into the AFL.
You only need to look at the men featured on that Insight program to know it's taken a lot more from them than it's given.
Now, pause for a moment, this isn't just a hysterical reaction to a single program. It's not a call for either game to be banned, boxing to be banned or anything like it.
It's not echoing the absurd suggestion from Doctor Bennet Omalu - of Concussion fame - that contact sport be banned until the age of 18. It's not suggesting either game mirror the absurd overcorrection that we've seen in rugby union. It's about perspective.
Rugby league is the greatest game off all and long may they continue (it will). This column simply makes the point that our growing base of knowledge in this area can't be ignored.
Rugby league and Australian Rules football will never be 'safe' games, but let's bear this knowledge it mind when we're tempted to shout "the game's gone soft" at attempts to make them safer.
People - I was one of them - screamed blue murder when they banned the shoulder charge. I don't miss it now.
Let's keep it in mind when people like Phil Gould opine that doctors and lawyers are dragging the game towards extinction. NRL coaches should bear it in mind before they whinge about HIA's and their effect on their interchange rotations.
As fans let's draw on this knowledge to truly appreciate what these men do for our entertainment every weekend. Let's realise that they walk into a life without it, while we simply move on to the next batch and the next game.
Let's just ask ourselves if our pining for the 'good old days' is worth the broken lives Stuart Barnes and Brett Horsnell are enduring far away from the bright lights.
And when you ask yourself that question, be honest with your answer. Both games need to be.