Footy: A touch of gold on black clouds

By John Sawyer

I’ve been doing it a bit hard. A bit like Richmond, I suppose. I’ve lost confidence, everything seems to go wrong. Everything seems to be lined up against me, even the bloody AFL are trying to do me down.

“I’ve a good mind to write to the ACCC. I’ll make a formal complaint against Richmond Footy Club under the false and deceptive bloody advertising provisions. Selling me a season ticket under false pretences,” I say to my daughter.

“I don’t think the Trade Practices Act will cover the under performance of a football team, Dad,” she says.

“No, Sue. About the bloody seats. I buy a season’s ticket and I’m supposed to get x home games with reserved seats. The AFL tell us we have to play one home game on the bloody Gold Coast and at the last minute they decide that this fiasco is our designated home game, but they don’t even give us our normal reserved seats. I’m sitting up here, the best part of a mile above the ground watching two teams of losers prance about.”

“What? How many is x, Dad?”

“Well how do I know, Sue? It’s the bloody principle of the thing isn’t it? Yeah, I’ll join the AFL to the action as well; it’s their fault and they’ve got heaps of money. Yeah, we’ll all get reduced membership fees next year. All on the AFL.”

I try to get interested in the game, but it makes me fume even more, the bottom two teams appear to be making every effort to lose. The poor Dees are even playing their best players out of position so that they’ll keep below 4 wins for the year and get an extra special pick in the draft.

“Can you believe this? We can’t even score against a team that’s trying to lose. It’s pathetic.”

Maybe I can add that to the ACCC complaint; the AFL have unfair rules that encourage a false contest.

Quarter-time and I’m designated to get something to eat. I arrive back empty handed.

“Sorry Wendy. Nothing to eat on the whole top bloody deck. It’s pathetic. I’ll get something downstairs at halftime.”

Bloody Spotless bloody Catering. Maybe I should add them to the complaint. They’ve probably got a performance contract with the cricket club. Yeah I’ll add Spotless and the MCC to the ACCC action. I’m sure Graeme Samuel will enjoy having a chip at these pillars of the Melbourne establishment.

A brilliant letter forms in my mind and is read loudly and succinctly by my pompous inner voice. “… Football fans deserve better, no they have the inalienable right to better …”

I compose the accompanying press release and have it read in my ace reporter’s inner voice: “The embattled AFL had another setback today… Thanks to the tireless efforts of a dedicated Richmond battler…”

Oh yes, Jack. That’s it.

Out in the middle, the teams swap ownership of the ball through a succession of serial errors. Despite the best efforts of the coaching staff, the Melbourne players manage to score some spectacular goals and leave the Tigers scratching around for cheap possessions that lead them backwards away from their goals.

At half time, I find a food outlet on the ground floor; the only open door is half blocked by a security guard.

“Am I allowed in?”

I am.

“Well why are you standing here then?”

I push past and find myself in a queue with forty others. It’s a long wait.  I notice that all the glass doors are locked. If there’s a fire, the only way out is past the “blazing” kitchen and the idiot security guard. I get to the front of the queue and order two pies and a serve of chips. $16.80 thanks, Sir. What? I see the tiny price list with the magnificent prices. This is the café associated with the sport museum.

I pay up and grab 3 satchels of tomato sauce. Wendy loves sauce on her pie. As I leave, I engage the security guard in conversation: “How come you’ve locked the smoke doors, Mate?”

Management instructions.

“How do I get out if there’s a fire?”

I open them with this key.

“So if there’s a fire you’re goin’ to push past a screaming mob of diners, beat back the flames and stand at the door, surrounded by smoke fiddling with your keys. Yeah right.”

I discuss the fire doors with a succession of decreasingly important security guards who eventually refer me back to the senior man, the bloke in the suit at the door with the ready Nuremburg defence.

A couple of nearby cops reckon it’s an Occ. Health and Safety issue. I should ring them on Monday. The older one, grey hair, almost my age, sees my anger and offers to send an email from his phone. I see myself as he does; red in the face, two pies, a bag of chips, a bomber jacket and grey hair poking out from a silly beanie making me look like a barely rational smurf.

“Err… Thanks mate.”

The game’s started by the time I hand Wendy her pie and grab the sauce from my pocket. One packet breaks open, spreading a sticky mess over my keys, my handkerchief and $3.20 worth of spare change.  Gee thanks, Lord.

I can’t find my sunnies. I glare at Wendy until she gets up and looks for the sunnies, unsuccessfully.

The third quarter has me engaged in composing an official report of the fire hazard to Occ. Health and Safety, copy MCC Secretary. I also refine my letter to the ACCC. How much of this is about Richmond’s demise? How much is about my failure to make an impact on the world; my increasing sense of impotence; my increasing sense of failure?

The game becomes exciting in the last quarter. Its closeness rather than quality that gets the crowd excited. A see-saw struggle for leadership sees Richmond just behind when a young Richmond tyro takes a mark right on the siren and kicks a goal. I jump from my seat and yell my elation. A WIN!

As we walk from the ground I find my sunnies in my pocket, covered in sauce. “Ha, ha Sue! You wouldn’t believe that I spread tomato sauce all over my pocket. In a bit of a state – I was.”

“I bet you didn’t spread tomato sauce, Dad.”

“Hey? Yes I did, I was a bit het up about it.”

“It wasn’t tomato sauce. It was sweet chilli, but Mum didn’t dare tell you.”

“Yeah, it was actually quite good on my pie, Jack.”

They had barely suppressed their mirth at the time. Yeah it’s funny now, but it was deadly serious at the time.

There’s a touch of gold on the black clouds as we walk down Richmond Hill along Bridge Road.

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