Round 17 – Geelong v Richmond: Zero



I think I’ve discovered the meaning of footy. It’s zero.


The Cats played the Tigers on Friday night. We started on zero and ended on zero. The Tigers started on zero and ended on infinity. The Cats can’t beat the Tigers. Zero times zero is zero.


Disappointment fell on me like a dead weight. Massive concrete blocks of it. Hope was crushed. Is there a greater weight to carry than dead hope? If I jump off a ten-storey building at the same time as hope which one of us would hit the ground first? (The answer is hope in case you’re wondering). I had an urge to clean the toilets today, in the aftermath, but I can’t clean the toilets unless I’m distracted. So I listened to old mate Melvyn on a podcast. Melvyn and his guests discuss things like philosophy and the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal. This one was a podcast about zero. About how integral zero is to us and our world. It’s a fabulous story. And to think that zero started as an afterthought! I might have the facts a bit wrong, but the Samarians apparently came up with the concept of zero. It was just a space then. A gap between meaningful marks that became numbers which in turn helped people trade with each other and swap ideas and culture. But this little space, this nothingness, grew in people’s thoughts and became a giant. Zero provided a platform for numbers to stand on. Clever people thought about zero. Shakespeare thought about zero. He was fascinated with the presence of absence. So he wrote, via King Lear, that nothing will come of nothing. How wrong he was. But way back in 10 trillion BC the Samarians began to trade with the Greeks, who crossed paths with a big mob called the Romans and these great empires gave their own meaning to zero and numbers and maths through trade and geometry. Maths: the language of the universe. They travelled to Asia and discovered that these people had their own view of numbers and zero. The Chinese had been counting and multiplying large numbers for eons. They still do. They need to keep track of how many are in the gulags. Then some monk in the middle ages, wanting to know if this caper of wine-making was actually profitable, and wanting to know if other monks were pilfering his plonk, used these concepts to create his own genius: double entry bookkeeping. Balance. Everything minus everything is nothing. Meaning. The ultimate measuring tool. Brilliant. And this is still the basis of our mighty commercial world. The largest banks in the world, dealing in trillions of dollars, use double entry accounting. And it’s all wine’s fault. Double entry bookkeeping determines whether people lose their houses or not as we sit in this curling lock down.  And all this came about because cultures traded and mixed, borrowed and improved, fought and cooperated. And this got me thinking how utterly empty and blank and destructive the modern concept of cultural appropriation is. It’s un-learning. In fact, it’s worse than that, its negative learning. Can learning be less than zero? This really worries me because a very clever person once said that humanity is in a constant struggle between education and chaos. So, I put on Neil Young and listened to ‘Rust Never Sleep’s and Neil told me that it’s better to burn out than it is to rust. And that got me thinking of Geelong’s ball movement. Then Cream boomed ‘White Room’ into my headphones. A white room. Blasted by light so bright that all else is obliterated. Is anything there if we can’t see it? The guitar in that song! Listen to it. It might touch God. The toilets were pretty clean at this stage, so I took up the vacuum cleaner and attacked the carpeted stairs. The Rolling Stones sang to me about ‘Ruby Tuesday’ and Pink Floyd asked me if I remembered Vera Lynn. Led Zeppelin’s brutal beat in ‘Whole Lotta Love’ got my head shaking, then Black Sabbath brought me back a notch with ‘Laguna Sunrise’. I was back at the start. Back at ground zero at the top of the stairs. And still nagging thoughts about the Cats persisted. They can’t master the shape of the Sherrin.


But none of this thinking would have occurred if we had beaten the Tigers. If that had happened, I would have been contemplating infinity, which is really just the naughty sibling of zero anyway. I would have been thinking about the tops of mountains and great valleys of possibility and gushing rivers of triumph. Gold, frankincense and myrrh. But that’s too easy. Its vacuous. Thinking in a state of euphoria is shallow and self-indulgent. We hug victory and caress it. We then become distracted like a lazy squirrel that doesn’t store food away for the coming winter. Victory is inherently hollow. It brings defeat closer. Why do we chase it? It conjures up false hope; a belief that delirium will last for infinity. And hope is hopeless because it is built on itself and therefore has sand for foundations. Pretty much like the world’s economies. Hope is a big fat zero. A schmuck. An impostor. Hope is the virus. It’s like heroin. No good comes of it. So beating Richmond would have sent me to an opium den of bleary slothfulness. Thank goodness that didn’t happen.


The weight has gone. Hope has been jettisoned. I am energised, mentally and physically. And yet I am still distraught. Knowing you can’t win and hopelessly thinking you can cancel each other out and leave you with zero. And zero is everything and nothing. Just like footy.



This is Dips’s 200th piece on the Almanac site. Read more from Dips O’Donnell HERE



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About Damian O'Donnell

I'm passionate about breathing. And you should always chase your passions. If I read one more thing about what defines leadership I think I'll go crazy. Go Cats.


  1. I blame Chris Scott!

  2. Brilliant, just brilliant. And not just having a playlist to smash through cleaning the bathroom and toilet. Been there.

    A couple of passing thoughts. Passing, because this piece really does need to be read several times and thought through for a while.

    Interesting that to understand zero we have to understand that everything is connected.

    Without Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters there is no Whole Lotta Love.

    Little Elvis would argue that everything means less than zero.

    Curling lockdown. Nailed it!

    Thanks Dips

  3. I don’t like Geelong and Chris Scott very much. Arrogant. But I really, really, really wanted them to win last night, So my Eagles got the double chance. And I got zero. Not even a sniff. A flicker of hope. The Cats were double zero for 3 quarters until the Tigers folded the tent and decided one bung hamstring and a dicky knee was enough ritual sacrifice for the night.
    So I got double zero really. Like on the roulette wheel. Its not enough for Crown to steal your money once with a zero. They double the theft with another zero – a double zero.
    But I don’t gamble any more because I found out through 30 years of trial and error and error and error that footy teams are about as predictable as racehorses or politicians or golf shots. But golf shots are a lot cheaper So I stick to them. I’m still waiting for my first hole in one in competition. If I get a stroke a hole from my 18 handicap then I’ll really have played the hole in zero.
    Which is about how much interest I have in footy where I can’t go to games.

  4. Dips, this is your 200th piece for the Almanac site. You started on zero pieces. (Thanks. And congratulations. A huge contribution. A wise voice. Your uncle would be proud.)

  5. Kevin Densley says

    I need to read this piece again – and again – and again – Dips, in order to become aware of its Rubik’s Cube-like range of implications! Wonderful stuff!

  6. JTH – 200 pieces! Wow. That went quickly.. Thanks for the information. And your encouragement over these years. Got my 200 up at the same time as Zac Tuohy.

    Thanks to the Almanac for letting me vent and crap on. Long may it prosper!

    And thanks for the comments here. As usual the interest that others take makes it an enjoyable pursuit.

  7. Well played,Dips on the Dizzy.Lots of hidden messages here I will add inside information at times about football clubs makes it worse a definite triple zero thanks,Dips

  8. Kieran Dempsey says

    Great piece of writing Dips. (John introduced us at the last lunch before lockdown, Tony Wilson’s book launch)

    Melvynn Bragg’s ‘In out Time’ podcasts are terrific. I usually listen to the History ones.
    However, one thing that annoys me is how rude he can be to some of his guests. They send in summaries of their expert knowledge – he reads their briefs – and then he tells them to get on with it when he interviews them.

    I support the Saints.
    My house has been spotless for years!

  9. For all the times that your blue and white Cats inflicted untold pain and suffering on the yellow and black through the 90s and 2000 s, I hope you enjoy a little bit more cleaning!!!! Carma is finally having a say. Love your writing and passion keep it up sorry Peter but the Tiges need that double chance more than a bit worried about the Adelaide game now since a third win on the trot as occurred for the Crow eaters

  10. Great read Dips, congrats on the 200. Congrats on the 200th piece. I have a feeling the Hoops aren’t done yet!

  11. Thanks Gents.

    Good on you RB, appreciate it.
    Kieran, the Saints have kept your house a bit untidy this year. They show promise. Melvyn does get a bit pushy at times but he has to keep these boffins on track! I love listening to stuff I just don’t understand. Intriguing that a lot of mathematicians don’t grasp double entry accounting?
    Richard we were paying back the Tigers for the 60s and 70s now you’re paying us back for the 90s and 2000s. What goes around comes around. You’re worried about beating the Crows??
    Cheers Shane. I raised the pen. Now I need to push on to Bradman.

  12. Dips, I liked the reference to White Room. Another Cream song worth referencing is Born Under a Bad Sign. I particularly like the lyrics: “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all.”
    I think we can all relate to that at some stage.

  13. Luke Reynolds says

    That’s a fantastic read Dips. Well done on the 200 article milestone, look forward to the day we can celebrate your achievement at the NFA.

  14. An interesting read, Dips.
    Have you contemplated that you take football far too seriously? Or personally?
    But I salute you for cleaning the toilets.

    “Does anybody here remember Vera Lynn
    Remember how she said that we would meet again some sunny day?…”

  15. roger lowrey says

    Congratulations on the double ton Dips. A fine achievement that.

    Curiously enough I didn’t shred my soul and parse the club song like I usually do when the Cats lose. With the handy additions from next week of 1, 4, 14 & 23 and with the Tigers’ two injuries, that will mean next time we play them we’ll be zero plus four and they’ll be plus four minus two. QED.

    BTW, curious readers puzzled at my strange character traits referred to above should note that Sister Gregory once told me I was the best parser in Grade Five. Surely this counts for something in these challenging times especially as I seem incapable of actually writing much these days.


  16. Love it Dips.

    Going back to where it all begins.
    And why not?
    First principles are a good place to start. That’s why they’re first principles.

    200 up.
    That’s terrific. Congratulations.
    The first Almanac story I remember reading was one of yours. Gee I laughed.
    It was called Bloody Daicos.
    And now I”m laughing again. Thanks Dips.

  17. A double ton is worthy of more than my first flippant comment, although I’m pretty confident this might be your first piece about a Geelong loss where your much-maligned coach doesn’t get a bake :)
    It’s a pity that this glorious rant wasn’t prompted by a game of greater significance than Friday night’s. At least you were correct in choosing zero as your theme. Should the two combatants meet again in 2020, this game will count for precisely that. One team had incentive, the other didn’t. Nuff said.
    Anyhow, only on the Almanac could you read such a wonderful melange of philosophy, history, accountancy, music and footy within a few hundred words. Bravo!

  18. Thanks one and all. Really appreciate the sentiments. My 200 was more Boycott than Gilchrist.

    ER – ha ha! Bloody Daicos. Forgot about that.

    I get as many smiles and laughs out of the comments as I do out of the pieces written. Its bloody marvellous.

  19. Glad the Tigers beat the Cats Dips. Great read.

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