When you talk to coaches and managers across a range of sports in this country, it’s always interesting to see the sports they pick out as ones they follow.
Not in the ‘I’m a Man United man and always have been’ sense, but the sports they learn from — sports that are innovative, that have coaches who take a different approach, that create a template for other sports to follow.
Basketball is often the sport assigned to that role — is it the strong coaching culture, the transferability of the skills, the long-time presence in Ireland alongside other sports, or just the sheer coolness of those Golden State Warriors hooded tops in Elvery’s?
(Last entry may be author’s own bias).
This came flooding back, and I choose the words deliberately, when I became gradually aware last weekend of the hydration wars in the NBA.
We all know now that taking on water is vital for all sports — and life in general, of course. One of my favourite reads of recent years was a journalist’s account of trying to down a gallon of water a day for a month: living within 10 feet of a toilet, basically.
Depending on the equation you believe, if you’re dehydrated by 10% your performance goes down by 30% in a demanding aerobic sport, which is everything except darts, and even then they often have a pint of H2O in-hand.
But I was surprised to see the level of detail in a recent Bleacher Report piece on NBA players’ water intake. The inclination towards favourite brands was hardly a shock, whether that was Fiji Water or Eternal, brand names I drop casually as though I could distinguish between them in a blind taste test.
Don’t laugh, though, because there are strong cases made for the differences between them: Fiji Water suggests its silky feel is down to the silica content, while many NBA players are now vocal in their support for alkaline water, claiming it aids the body in fighting inflammation.
I want to warn you, though, that in the strange ecosystem of sports science and trickle-down information, it’s only a matter of weeks before some rugby or GAA star pops up somewhere extolling the virtues of alkaline water.
Because if Steph Curry’s team drinks snot-juice strained through a dolphin’s backside it has to help me, right?
The short-lived trends that cunning charlatans and smooth snake-oil salesmen can palm off on athletes looking for ‘the edge’ are without number.
A firm favourite is the NuTron diet, which claimed to fit a bespoke diet to a person’s blood type, though every year seems to bring a different fad, whether it’s cryotherapy or caffeine drinks or, indeed,
With that in mind, though, never forget a couple of things.
One, that there was a time in living memory when athletes were warned against drinking water.
When baseball players had two- or three-hour games in 35-degree heat in the 1950s, they were allowed a wet towel on the back of the neck, but drinking water? Forget it.
Two, though Woody Allen’s movies — and the man himself — get a bad rap these days, one of the early (funny) efforts is Sleeper, about a man who wakes up after two hundred years of sleep and asks scientists for a healthy cereal breakfast.
“No deep fat?” says one scientist. “No steak or cream pies or... hot fudge?”
“Those were thought to be unhealthy,” says the other boffin. “Precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.”
Alkaline shmalkaline. You have been warned.
I don’t follow the old golf myself but I note Rory McIlroy is making waves once again.
Last week, he apparently declared his preference for playing in the US rather than Europe.
“I’m not putting anyone down in Europe, but the depths of the field and everything is just that bit better over here,” McIlroy said about playing in the States.
No, that couldn’t be construed as putting anyone down in Europe. I understand Rory may be telling the truth, but that’s neither here nor there.
Whatever about his ranking as a golfer, his knack for getting on people’s nerves has him in a league of his own.
Last Wednesday evening, I was in Mallow GAA club for Cork vs Waterford in the Munster Senior Hurling League.
Mallow looked after us very well, thanks for asking; if other, larger venues had staff showing some of the common sense and common courtesy, etc etc.
Anyway, there was a basic programme on offer — for free — but one which was soon submerged in cross-marking and arrows and scratchings-out as the teams named to start differentiated substantially from those in said programme.
In fairness, Waterford were ‘as is’, in the parlance of the time, but the previous weekend, when Cork played Clare, both line-outs were more a starting point for guesswork than reflective of the teams on the field when the ball was thrown in.
I know that in the hierarchy of concerns and worries, this is not quite on a par with the disappearance of the snow leopard, but it’s worth pointing out that the people who go to these games, at the fag-end of December and in the pinching cold of January, are being treated poorly here.
They’re not the gang you find in late July looking for All-Ireland tickets, or at least if they are, they should be accommodated. Freezing your rear-end at a game that will hardly be remembered past the final whistle (or the sparkling match report in the following day’s Examiner, ho ho) is not at all the same as standing outside the Croke Park Hotel on All-Ireland final-day hoping the neighbours see the five tickets sticking out of your back pocket.
Because it’s not the same, though, those attending the pre-season games deserve better. An honest programme would be a start.
Because it’s January, and Every Day Is Like Sunday (sorry, Moz), I thought a book to suit the mood would be appropriate.
Dan Lyons has written Lab Rats, and the subtitle tells you everything: ‘How Silicon Valley Made Work Miserable for the Rest of Us’.
I’ll be returning to the topic, but here’s a taster from a recent Lyons interview: “These new rules of engagement between labour and capital, between companies and employees, that is scraping away a lot of stuff that was really good that people used to have, like childcare or benefits.
“They shift to a workforce that’s built a lot on contractors or temps that don’t really get the benefits of working for a company. They are disposable…but hey, there are free snacks.”