When new Melbourne Archbishop Peter A. Comensoli announced last week that he would follow Essendon in the AFL, Richmond supporter Michael McVeigh offered four words of advice. Source: Eureka Street.
My heart fell a little when you announced you would be supporting Essendon, Archbishop Comensoli. Essendon? The team of drug cheats? The team of #standbyhird conspiracy theorists? Why would anyone want to support them?
Actually you didn't announce you would be supporting Essendon. The announcement said Essendon would be your "team of redemption". Now that's an interesting turn of phrase. One might even say it's a redeeming one.
What does it mean to join a wounded, broken organisation in its pain? What does it mean to volunteer to take on some of the burden of that pain yourself? You could have joined the 100,000 members of the Richmond Football Club and enjoyed a few (perhaps fleeting) moments of success. You could have stood in solidarity with Melbourne Football Club supporters as they continue their 54-year-long vigil at the gates of the promised land.
But you decided to stand with Essendon. Broken, wounded Essendon.
Now that the choice has been made, might I offer you some advice? From one AFL fan to another: Sit with the people.
The corporate masters of the game are going to court you. The Essendon Football Club's administrators will offer you a special place in the stands, and invite you to their corporate events. Ignore the masters who think they control the game.
If Essendon is a broken, wounded club it's because they tried too hard to play the game of the corporate masters. They sought a corporate approach to manufacturing success, and when they were accused of breaking the rules they followed the corporate playbook — bringing in the lawyers and the PR experts and seeking to muddy the waters rather than opening up, repenting and providing restitution for their past failings. Sound familiar?
The corporate masters are, in reality, not masters at all. Following Australian Rules football is about loving the game, and you don't build love from a corporate box.
So my advice to you, Archbishop Comensoli, now that you've chosen to be an Essendon supporter, is to sit among those who can teach you how to fall in love with the game.
Sit with the people.
– Michael McVeigh is senior editor at Jesuit Communications, publishers of Eureka Street.
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