Hearts have become such a forceful presence in modern Scottish football that it's startling now to remember how they once bounced in and out of the top flight.
In a miserable era around Gorgie, Hearts were relegated in 1977, promoted in '78, relegated in '79, promoted in '80, relegated in '81 and promoted again two years later, this time to stay. It was a lamentable state of affairs for a club which ought to have been emulating the rise of Aberdeen and Dundee United against what was then a comparatively weak Old Firm. By the mid-1980s Hearts had indeed grown into a challenger for the title and at no point since then has their top-flight status been in jeopardy. Until now.
Hearts are heading down. Even without the crippling burden of the 15-point penalty for going into administration they have the form and the statistics of a team in desperate trouble. From the last available 21 league points they have taken only one. It's nine weeks since they won a game (without the need of penalties to beat lower league teams in the League Cup). They've scored fewer league goals, just seven, than any other team in Scotland. This month alone they've been beaten by St Mirren and now Kilmarnock, the two teams they've been trying to grab by the ankles.
There has been an impressive stoicism among the Hearts fans about all of this. When you start a season 15 points down on everyone else you have plenty of time to get used to the idea of facing almost insurmountable odds. In these circumstances the likelihood of relegation is a permanent accompaniment, not something that rushes in to cause late-season panic.
The Hearts supporters, who can be a pretty demanding and angry lot when they reckon their team's letting them down, have also been forgiving of their team and management because they see them for what they are: a young and inexperienced group, both on the field and off, who are by-and-large Jambos themselves.
Are they giving everything they've got? Unquestionably. Can they be replaced by others who would do better? Because of administration and a registration embargo, no, they can't. There's not really many places to go with this.
Hearts have 27 games to go. Gary Locke and everyone else speaking for Hearts can't do anything other than remind us all that the season is still in its youth. When they beat Hibernian and Aberdeen in August, losing only one of their first four league games, they began a compelling narrative of a vibrant young team propelled by a mission to claw back 15 points and hunt down the teams immediately above them. That all feels like a long time ago now. Young, homegrown teams tend to be granted a level of immunity from criticism but, to be blunt, Hearts have looked limited and ordinary, with lads being asked to do too much, too soon. Some wouldn't be there if the club had money and the freedom to make signings.
Increasingly, the real issue around Hearts and relegation is not whether they can avoid it - they still have 81 points to play for, but it's looking highly unlikely - but what dropping out of the SPFL Premiership would mean for the club's long-term future.
In one sense, the team going down this season is doing so at the right time, because the creation of the SPFL included a new model for financial distribution, which means a relegated club is no longer toppling into an economic abyss. Attendances would drop, inevitably, but there is no reason to believe the majority of supporters would desert the club or not buy season-tickets.
Yet the worry, already, is whether one season out of the top flight really would be only one. Next season's SPFL Championship almost certainly will include Rangers and that could mean everyone else battling it out for a play-off place rather than automatic promotion as champions. Hearts could not assume they would have it easy against the likes of Falkirk, Dundee or Raith Rovers, let alone the 11th-placed top-flight club desperate to stay up.
All of this is a hypothetical scenario which is still light years away, of course, but don't think for a minute it hasn't already been contemplated by the guys at Foundation of Hearts.
Their priority is to secure the right to deliver a Company Voluntary Agreement, wrestle the club from Lithuanian control, and run it on their own sensible, pragmatic model. Guaranteeing the club's survival will always reduce what division they're in to a secondary concern. The figures behind FoH must divorce themselves from on-field results and contemplate the prospect of relegation from a cold, economic perspective, and calculate the effect it would have on their future funding and investment.
But they're football men and women too, and can't close down their emotions. How could they take anything but pain from their team being in this bleak league of its own going into November?