MICHAEL MOYNIHAN: Controlling the information flow

Interesting times, as if you didn’t know, writes Michael Moynihan.

Last week the Guardian rugby writer Robert Kitson reported that Ireland’s Dan Leavy had been ruled out of the game with New Zealand because he was injured but added that he wasn’t aware what the player’s injury was.

The reason? Kitson reported the IRFU as saying there was “a general movement amongst the players controlling their own information”.

This may not be bad news for you, but it’s very bad news for the likes of me, poor

creatures who live and die by the injury bulletin. It’s kind of what we have instead of news, to butcher the old Hemingway line, and has sprung many a harassed hack from his or her chains.

However, if athletes are to “control their own information”, then that comes to an abrupt end. Remember the will-he-won’t-he saga about Peter Canavan and his ankle before the All-Ireland football final in 2003?

Or the speculation about Brian O’Driscoll’s sinus fracture ahead of the 2007 Rugby World Cup? Those golden days are gone under this new dispensation.

So are the hilarious encounters with managers or coaches maintaining a straight face about the participation (or not) of players right up to the start of an event.

One of my favourite exchanges was with an intercounty manager who said a player was struggling before the same player, of course, turned in a tour de force in the heat of battle.

Later the manager said “What I said was true when I said it to you”, which I thought Kissinger would have been proud of.

If this is the sign of a new dawn, then we’ll also be missing out on inspirational stories such as the return-to-competition trope, another mainstay of the sports reporting world.

As a matter of fact, I learned of the Leavy situation on the same day I flicked on BBC coverage of a Wales rugby international, and one of the first things I heard was Eddie Butler’s rich voice telling me the inspirational story of Tyler Morgan of Wales and how he has overcome diabetes to return to action...

See the contradiction now?

I know that the easiest way to get someone to flick over the page or click out of the site is to start moaning about a particular situation being unfair to journalists. Fear not: that’s not the point being made here.

But secrecy about injuries isn’t a good look for any sport. Just look at American football’s travails with the true extent of concussion and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).

There’s an unfortunate rush to judgment now when information isn’t forthcoming about a player’s injury, and the speculation in the wilder reaches of the internet about prominent sportspeople and their health can be hair-raising.

There are also wider implications — as there always are — about the safety of athletes’ information in the first place. The irony is surely lost on nobody that if some future news bulletin were to tell us of a sportsperson seeking the cloak of GDPR when it comes to their personal health details, you might hear elsewhere in that same bulletin about the compromising of some far more robust database. Eligible voters in an election, say.

Sometimes sensitivity on the journalist’s side can be misplaced, just to complicate everything further. One time I rang an inter-county player who had been forced into retirement due to injury.

Don’t go on about the injury, he said — I don’t want them in work to know how crocked I am, you know yourself.

I do of course, we’ll concentrate on the career, not a bother, etc etc.

A couple of days later I turn on the radio and there’s my man, describing his most recent surgery as though he were telling the guy on the other end of the line how to operate on himself.

I should have controlled that information better.

Goldman a giant in the screen trade

William Goldman, who wrote the screenplays for All The President’s Men, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Princess Bride, and Marathon Man, died last week at 87.

To say Goldman was a legend is a serious understatement. Not only did he write those screenplays, he also wrote the greatest book ever about the movies, Adventures In The Screen Trade, which is also one of the greatest books ever about writing.

Everyone quotes his ‘nobody knows anything’ line from that book, but there are gems everywhere in it, from pointing out how stars function in Hollywood to great advice on writing: Goldman said in writing films, you ’enter the scene as late as possible’ — once you read, that you never watch a movie the same way again.

Why is he here? Goldman was famously obsessed with the New York Knicks of the NBA, and supposedly didn’t go to the Oscars one year in the early 70s because the ceremony clashed with a Knicks’ play-off game.

He also co-wrote Wait Till Next Year: The Story of a Season When What Should’ve Happened Didn’t, and What Could’ve Gone Wrong Did, a tale of the 1987 sports year in New York, when all the big teams malfunctioned.

Finally, Goldman was very tight with Andre The Giant, the wrestler who starred in The Princess Bride. The screenwriter loved to tell the story of another actor who tried to pay for dinner with Andre — but Andre had invited him, so he insisted on paying. The other actor slipped into the kitchen to pay but Andre came in, lifted the actor up and carried him back out to his chair.

The actor? Arnold Schwarzenegger.

I dare say this could be my dream book

I’ve referred to William Goldman, a screenwriter and author, elsewhere on the page, but I insist on describing a book here which must have been engineered specifically for me this Christmas.

Literary editor of The Spectator Sam Leith hosts a books podcast (called the Books Podcast) which recently had Geoff Dyer as a guest. Dyer has turned his discursive brilliance on many a subject, but his most recent book is Broadsword Calling Danny Boy: On Where Eagles Dare.

Where Eagles Dare! Burton! Eastwood! Burton! The never-ending machine gun clips! The castle! Burton! The cable car! The music!

It’s about time the greatest movie in the history of the world had a book dedicated to it. Dyer’s comparisons include Eastwood having “the grace of Darcey Bussell in winter combats”, which suggests a writer suited to his subject.

A ticket to nothing in the age of idiocy

As another indication that the age of idiocy is now well and truly upon us, consider this news from California.

NBA superpower the Golden State Warriors are offering $100 tickets (€87.56) to come into the stadium for games... but you don’t get to see the game itself.

You’re in the stadium and you can wander around and buy the food and hear the cheers, but the ticket — technically the ‘In The Building Pass’ — does not offer even a restricted view of the proceedings.

A pity I didn’t hear about this before the weekend, or I could have sold €87.56 In The Front Room Passes for my own house to (at least) watch Ireland play New Zealand.


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