I went over to Melbourne for the day, to join in Richmond's centenary celebrations. They joined the VFL in 1908. Apparently they wore insipid striped jumpers in the first two seasons, which made a comeback for the occasion on Saturday (with 21st century advertising superimposed of course). They were playing the old enemy Carlton, in a game with a lot of genuine importance for both sides' finals aspirations, over and above the centenary guff.
The morning before the game there was a merchandise-fest at the Punt Road oval, beside the MCG. Joe went over for the day too, and I met up with him and his Launceston mates there, where they were queueing for something or other. There were a range of queues to join. Some tired looking older gentlemen were signing autographs - I didn't actually recognise any of them, so I bailed out of that queue. After I had soaked up some more Punt Road atmosphere I thought it was time to move on.
I met Alex, John, Carmen, Michael and Cooper, (all Carlton fans) at a pub in Swan St for lunch before the game. Alex was tardy, Michael and John have a running punt on how late exactly he will be for each event. We wolfed down some very good pub food (even pricey pub food is much cheaper than AFL prices) - then got moving. We had tickets just along from Joe in the new Ponsford Stand, roughly where I had sat with the family at the Adelaide match 3 weeks prior.
We flowed into the MCG among a massive crowd. Soon after we got settled the Tigers ran out onto the field, and the huge atmosphere went flat. Their jumpers! Holy hell, they looked terrible. The sound was that of 73,503 people turning to the person next to them and saying "Oh - they look like Hawthorn don't they?" I just hope the marketing geniuses were there to see it too. Something that looks great when paraded up close in front of the media might be worth having a look at from a distance, next time.
The foolishly stripey Tigers were the better team through the first half, as they were against Adelaide. Kelvin Moore was having a blinder on Fevola, who had no impact at all. Richmond goaled after the siren at the end of the first three quarters, but going into the last only led by a point. Carlton kicked 7 goals to two in the final quarter, with big fat Nick Stevens getting 12 touches. At one stage he smothered a shot on goal, then gathered and passed out of defence, to set up a Carlton goal. Alex remarked Stevens has been bulking up on burgers to become a smother specialist.
I have now seen Richmond play maybe ten times, for a total of one win. Obviously I should stop going. For some reason, it just didn't bother as much as it should have. I actually found the inevitability of their failure somehow soothing. I was among friends I don't get to see very often, and they were being fairly gentle with my feelings. And I only had to squint slightly to imagine it wasn't happening to Richmond at all - it was actually Hawthorn on a bad day.
We went to a different genteel pub after the game, where we were the only football fans. It was quiet and dark. I took off my scarf and slurped a flat white. The MCG seemed a very long way away. John and Carmen dropped me off in the city where I rejoined Joe and his pals. I thought the 4 of us could share a cab to the airport as they were flying out just before me. But they had come in on the Skybus, and had return tickets - those muppets. I don't know why anyone catches the Skybus unless they are travelling alone. So I shelled out for the Skybus too.
I had ages to wait at the airport, and the place was practically all closed. I had nothing to read except the Footy Record. Its always such a mind-numbing read, as everything is the official AFL opinion. Guess what - everything's great! It's pretty sad having to read about what a mouth-watering prospect a game you have just seen was. After an hour or so of reading very obscure stats in an enormous half-empty airport, I realised I am actually a bit sick of football.