Old Man Attack: On Missouri’s Sheldon Richardson, The Old Man and the Sea (& Acceptance)

Sheldon Richardson, defensive tackle for the Missouri Tigers, shared his opinion that the University of Georgia Bulldogs play, in Mr. Richardson’s words, “old man football”. Reaction before and after Missouri’s initiation into the SEC has been, thankfully, good-natured all around. I would like to introduce Mr. Richardson to The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway’s last work published during his lifetime. It follows the travails of an old man, Santiago, on an epic hunt for the marlin of his dreams.

There are a number of themes involved in The Old Man and the Sea, but truthfully, what got me thinking about Sheldon Richardson and Mark Richt (architect of UGA’s old man attack) was this: In Hemingway’s story, Santiago (the old man), who is Spanish, adopts many Cuban customs in order to fit into the Cuban community. The chase for the big fish symbolized his effort to be accepted into Cuban society.

In this case, Richardson and indeed the University of Missouri football team and its fans are those who seek acceptance into the SEC fraternity. (I suspect Mark Richt and the UGA football team is the marlin in this metaphor). To belong to a group is one thing…to be accepted and welcomed is another. We are all old in some ways and young in others, and the tension between youthful energy and the wisdom of age is natural and healthy.

Mr. Richardson, you have not caught your marlin yet, but your SEC brothers and sisters are with you. Welcome to the SEC. I leave you with this:

Mr. Richardson, meet Mr. Richt.