I was queuing to get into a burger restaurant on Saturday night, after the game, in front of Avenue Book Store and someone asked,
‘Has anyone seen a shoe around here?’
‘What does it look like?’
‘Kind of like this one, but for the other foot.’
On the night: The Burger joint was relatively restrained and had two large screens showing the replay of the day’s game. Drunken revellers shouted the Tigers song over and over. Mick Molloy walked past and was appropriately mobbed. I got in, found a table, and got into a conversation with someone who had been at the 1967 Grand Final. I asked him, how did he cope with watching all of that success (1967-1980) and then putting up with all that un-success 1983-2010 (roughly). He replied, ‘by being overseas, until the last five years. He said how he had attend the pre-preliminary final open training and put his elderly father onto the phone when Josh Caddy walked past for him to talk with. I got into a conversation with a man unadorned; free from yellow and black. As the conversation rolled, he revealed himself as a serious, dedicated and committed Melbourne fan. ‘How were you when the proposed merger was happening?’ ‘I was panicking.’ The replay showed the Tiges win again. There was a roar. High-fives up and down the restaurant. Them the moments.
By the corner of Stewart St and Punt Road: ‘Richmond won the Grand Final … and you’re going for a run … you’re such a fucking loser,’: surely this is a good a statement as any to knock oneself out of a pan-Richmond-fan sense of family. My way of celebrating, going for a run while wearing a Richmond training top, a full 24hours after the event had happened, was too much for one fellow and his mates who will still going full bore on the Premiership drinking binge. Good on ‘em, but, go steady on the verbal abuse, please.
A few days later at Almost French, Swan Street: ‘So, what is it, Thursday? It was last Saturday but it feels like it was yesterday. I’m not taking the decorations down until someone orders me to. Number 4, he was brilliant. He has won everything. ’ This fan was so wrapped up in her business of selling pain au chocolate et al that she had momentarily misplaced Dusty’s name somewhere next to the eclaires. What she saw, in her mind, was just a marauding 4 on a yellow/black jumper stretched tightly over a hulking frame, underlined by bingle.
Last year, I had a coffee with a friend, @rawtoast, at one of the cafes inside the MCG during Grand Final week. We talked while taking occasional interest in the replay of the GWS-Dogs game. He was nervous and excited. He said how he wasn’t particularly fussed about not being able to get tickets for the game and that winning the Flag ‘would be the first step for us to being hated’. He spoke with a calmness, learned-excitement and serenity rarely seen in any sort of football fan. And all this seems so long ago: the Doggy’s fairy tale victory has indeed become a fairy tale in that one can barely believe it to be true, considering their half-hearted and splintered performance throughout 2017. One year and a couple of weeks on, I’m still almost not believing that ‘my’ team won the Premiership. As wondrous as it is, I am believing though that being a fan of a football club is not about seeing them win a premiership/become champions. Witnessing one’s team win a premiership does not provide a fully satisfying moment that dissolves one’s desire to be a fan, to be part of a club, to go to games and to shout with others. Winning shapes a narrative, but doesn’t provide a conclusion.
I walked down Tanner St after leaving Punt Road Oval. An Adelaide fan, stuck out his hand to give me a high-five, and then when I did, he withdrew, making me slap the air. I thought of Jake Lever. I said: ‘Adelaide, the best team all year’ – without bothering to mention, ‘couldn’t get it done on the most important day’. He replied to say, ‘Richmond, best team on the day’. And, the best team of the finals: three resounding wins that got better each week, as the pressure grew. A moment later, I heard some people above, on the balcony of their apartment: ‘look at this guy, he looks sad.’ I looked up, and they said, ‘come on! Be happy!’ I gave them my best ‘Go Tigers!’ and then continued my dawdle home. By the time I made it upstairs though, I was trembling. My wife, one of the few persons in Melbourne to not know the result, looked at me expectingly: menang? ‘did they win?’ I replied yes. Then I told my daughter, Richmond won! Only for her to reply, ‘not again!’ Even if she hadn’t grasped that Richmond had actually won the trophy, here she was, growing up being bored by Richmond winning. Footy moves too quickly, sometimes. I inhaled some pasta pesto and the euphoria slowly sunk in. I exited the premises and went to the sea of fans who had taken over Swan St.
In the lead up to the Grand Final, Pres.O’Neal mentioned 3million as a ball-park figure for what the Club could earn if they won the Premiership. Having no job, I believe I’m at the most frugal end of us fans caught up in perpetuating celebration capitalism, or, perhaps, ‘euphoria capitalism’.
Richmond-related consumption/Grand Final-fever induced (paid):
- Punt Road Oval live site ticket: x 1
- The Age: x 3
- Herald Sun: x 1
- AFL Grand Final Record: x 1
- (Official) Richmond badge: x 3
- Hand-made Grand Final badge: x 1
- Herald Sun, Richmond Premiers Poster: x 3
- Benny Burgers, post-Grand Final: Two beers and a beetroot salad.
Richmond related ‘consumption’ (free; sort of):
- Grand Final YouTube highlights: 8minutes x 7
- Richmond Tiger Talk podcast: 3 x 50minutes
- Grand Final Edition of The Couch: 50mins
- Grand Final replay at Punt Road Oval: 2hours
- Conversations with strangers regarding the game: 5 x 7mins
What I haven’t bought (but have been imagining)
- The Premiership magazine (already for sale on Sunday morning $7; not really sure of the quality of reflection in the writing)
- The New Era ‘Premiers’ hat (I think, $50, but I did make a video recording of the labels being affixed; am perfectly happy with my SF Giants hat)
- The Carlton Draught RFC Premiers slab of cans ($53; I don’t drink – except for exceptional circumstances)
- A tattoo ($170) (pre-Grand Final attitude “I would never get a tattoo.” Post-GF: “too many designs to choose from!”
I walked past Kane Lambert as he had a coffee. He looked so calm, clean and rested. In my imagination, I gave him a hug. I smiled. His goals are so often my favourites: roving and snapping and celebrating. He continued to have his coffee. I kept on walking as if I was a regular person, not someone overcome with Richmondy euphoria. Even premiership players deserve their privacy. As the fellow fan who had attended the 1967 Grand Final said, ‘how we idolise these players…but, gee, they bring such joy.’
On the grass, after the event.
*Initially titled ‘Richmond Accident’.