Hugging strangers at the footy

Have you ever embraced a stranger at the footy? I have.

Every now and then there are matches where it is entirely appropriate to do so and Richmond’s 2017 preliminary final win over the GWS Giants was definitely one of them. When Dustin Martin kicked his third goal, I hugged the bloke next to me for dear life. Without self consciousness or hesitation, we embraced. For one beautiful moment; the emotion of the moment shattered manly awkwardness.

This isn’t a first either. As a Fitzroy supporter in 1992, I celebrated Paul Roos’ match winning goal over Collingwood in the dying seconds at Princes Park by hugging my dad and then hugging a stranger sitting to my left. Never met him before, haven’t seen him since. It felt a bit like we were doing the ‘sign of peace’ at a Catholic Mass except instead of saying ‘Peace Be With You’ he said ‘you f@#king beauty!’

Can you imagine any other moment in your life where you would embrace a stranger so completely and without hesitation? If someone rescued you from a burning building (which was essentially what Paul Roos did for us that day), you probably still wouldn’t jump to your feet, let out a blood curdling scream and hug someone. This is the best illustration of why I love sport… because it makes people do stuff like that.

And, yeah, it was loud during the game on Saturday. According to the television coverage, 125db of loud, the equivalent of standing under a jet aeroplane and when the Tigers ran out you couldn’t hear the theme song playing beneath the crowd singing. We all essentially had to do it acapella…

But the loudness wasn’t the thing. It was the energy in there that was truly amazing. It was more like a day at Wet ’n’ Wild than a rock concert. Every time Richmond kicked a goal or layed a big tackle, there was a wave of energy from the crowd, like the rush you get going down a water slide. The kind that makes you run straight back up to the top and go again.

The problem is, it’s addictive and right now there are 250,000 Richmond fans declaring that they will find a way to get to the 2017 AFL Grand Final… only to discover the club hold little more than 17,000 tickets. The maths doesn’t work out.

My prospects of a Grand Final ticket are looking doubtful so I’m going to watch the game on the big screen at the Punt Road live site with a completely partisan crowd of Tigers fans. It might be a few hundred metres from the real action but there’ll be plenty of strangers to hug should we win.

When did you hug a complete stranger at the football? Leave a comment below…

Leave a Reply