I have always found those American Civil War enthusiasts a curious bunch. The fanatics who dress in the blue of the Union or the grey of the Confederacy and re-enact the battle of Gettysburg in some Pennsylvania field.  It is as if they yearn for a time in history which they never lived through; some golden age in which they would have preferred to exist.

It strikes me that we might be kindred spirits.

I am here at the MCG to witness the Essendon-Richmond Dreamtime at the G clash. I wear my old Richmond jacket with the snarling Asian Tiger festooned on the back. I sport a yellow and black beanie and scarf to ward off the late autumn Melbourne chill. I know the Tigers are going to lose. I know that they will probably never regain the heights they scaled in my childhood and teenage years. But like those Civil War tragics, I don the colours and pretend that I am about to witness a game that Richmond has a realistic chance of winning. I am pretending that the Tigers are legitimate contenders and not a bunch of kids merely making up the numbers in the competition.

In effect, I am living in the past.

I take my place in the Essendon members section with an old schoolmate. He has allowed me to use his son’s reserved seat for the evening.

Jack Riewoldt wins a free before the opening bounce when Tayte Pears goes a little too far with the pre-game introductions. He misses. Then Richmond goes down in a hail of bullets in the first twenty minutes. By the time the dust settles the Dons have seven on the board through seven individual goalkickers. They lead by 41 points and the contest is already over.

The Dons out-pace and out-muscle the Tigers. The lightning-quick duo of Leroy Jetta and Alwyn Davey light up the night with their pace and tackling pressure.  Richmond flounders in a morass of turnovers and wild disposals.

Essendon supporters whoop, holler, laugh and clap their hands in delight. They are coming off a momentous win over St. Kilda on the previous weekend and they know they have the four points in the bag. There is no pressure tonight. They can simply sit back and enjoy the spoils.

My friend openly speculates as to who will be the Bombers’ first multiple goalscorer. He points out how much Heath Hocking resembles Joe Masiti. He speculates that the reason why Jetta seems so reluctant to take a shot at goal and prefers to pass it off is because he wants to stay on the park and keep chasing the footy. As soon as players kick a goal these days they are summoned to the interchange bench for a draught of cordial. He also mentions the fact that his men are starting to “lairise”.

Sure enough, the Tigers rally and boot the next four goals, reducing the margin to only 15 points by the six-minute mark of the second term. I politely applaud. I know full well it is only temporary.

Coach Matthew Knights takes no chances. He shifts Dustin Fletcher onto Riewoldt, who is starting to look dangerous, for the remainder of the quarter.

After a series of comical misses the Bombers finally find their range, with majors to Zaharakis, Myers and Melksham. They take the lead out to a comfortable 29 points by half-time.

“Melksham,” says my companion. “He’s the first to kick two.”

From this point on the game becomes tedious. David Hille dominates and somehow manages to avoid being reported, something which has become an almost weekly occurrence for him.

If you take out Fletcher, who tonight passes Dick Reynolds to take second place on the all-time Essendon games list, the Bombers are at a very similar stage to Richmond in terms of age and games experience. Yet the Bombers are on the runway, after sneaking into the finals in 2009, and the Tigers are looking for jumper leads to start their clapped-out Holden Camira.

Riewoldt battles on and ends up booting six, a repeat of his effort of last year against the same team.

In the latter stages of the match it is the progress scores from the titanic struggle between Melbourne and Port Adelaide in Darwin that enthrals the crowd. There is a roar when the scoreboard heralds a one-point win for the Demons.

Essendon wins consecutive matches for the first time in the season. Richmond loses its ninth in a row; or its 13th, if you count the last four games of 2009.

As we shake hands and promise to get together the next time our teams meet, I am struck with a melancholy thought.

There’s only one thing that differentiates me from the Civil War enthusiasts. I am old enough to remember the glory days. I was there.

Somehow, it makes these weekly re-enactments harder to bear.

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