The religion of footy and the phenomenon of ‘Richo’

I wouldn’t call myself a ‘football tragic’. But being a Melbournian, I thought I should declare early on that I barrack for Richmond, as do my family, my parents and my parents’ parents. My great, great grandfather was born in Richmond, I think.

A favourite ‘Tiger’ of mine is Matthew ‘Richo’ Richardson, about whom much has been written. Having played a fair bit of sport, I can relate well to Richo.

Some of the following quotes are from an article by Martin Flanagan which appeared in The Age in 2009:
Flanagan wrote:

“Richo was manifestly imperfect. He was fallible. He was like us …he played with his emotions bare for all to see …There is no doubt that Richo has his flaws, like nearly all of us. He has a tendency to get a little nervous from set shots … but these are nothing more than blips on the radar of his greatness.”

Richo once provided the following answer to the question about ‘being in the moment’ – when everything clicks:

“I’m definitely not saying that it happens all the time, as it might be once every year or two years, but it is pretty much where you just feel like you can’t do much wrong. Whenever the ball comes your way, you feel like you are going to get it, and you feel like you are not doing much to get it. It is almost like you are in cruise-control. Whereas other days, you can be trying your guts out and nothing goes right.”

This reminded me of something I once read in Robert Pirsig’s book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. He said:

“I like the word ‘gumption’ … It’s an old Scottish word, once used a lot by pioneers… I like it because it describes exactly what happens to someone who connects with quality. He gets filled with gumption. The Greeks called it enthusiasmos, the root of ‘enthusiasm’, which means literally ‘filled with theos,’ or God, or quality.”

Pirsig wrote: “The gumption filling process occurs when one is quiet long enough to see and hear and feel the real universe, not just one’s own stale opinions about it.”

Today, of course, Richo is a TV football commentator, which gives me some added interest when he is ‘on the boundary’ for games when Richmond are not playing.

The other night he was commentating on a terrible game between North Melbourne and Gold Coast. It was pouring rain, the ball was slippery, every player seemed to be ‘on the ball’ and North simply couldn’t get it out of their backline. To the derision of his colleagues, Richo declared that North should concede a goal so they could get back to the centre.

At this point, I diverted my eyes from the TV to our wood fire and found myself thinking about church again (as you do).
It seemed to me that there were some parallels for us … ‘conceding’ so we can get back to the centre… an invitation for confession?

Dan Wootton

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