The groans can still be heard, from coast to coast, in hamlet and city alike, the plain people of Ireland asking for it to stop.
Why did the late Seamus Brennan ever use the term ‘senior hurling’ about Irish politics, thus licensing generations of commentators and politicians alike to throw out the term whenever... what, exactly? Whenever the context that gave rise to the original saying doesn’t apply?
People seem to forget that Brennan used ‘you’re playing senior hurling now, lads’ in negotiations to create a coalition. In other words, to serve compromise and co-operation. To hear it bandied around since then you’d think it was a synonym for ‘everything above the thistles’.
A licence to kill, in other words. Never mind, that is not the item atop the agenda this morning: that honour is reserved for this question. Instead of lamenting politicians using sports terms (which are subsequently misinterpreted), why is it that more sportspeople don’t use politicalspeak?
The decline in quality to be found in sports interviews and soundbites in recent years means political mumbo-jumbo should be easily transferable to the post-game presser.
“Well, Brian, what did you say to them at half-time?” “I’m glad you asked me that question, and let me answer that by addressing wider concerns, because it’s important that we see this in a holistic sense rather than in a narrow win-loss context, which doesn’t do anybody any good.”
“It would have done your team some good if they’d won, of course.”
“I think that’s a very narrow reading of a complex issue, one with implications that go far beyond today or tomorrow. What we are trying to do here is to build something that will not just stand up to scrutiny today but that will bear fruit tomorrow; something that the entire nation can benefit from rather than the usual interest groups which have dominated discussion in this vital area.”
“Surely your own team rather than the entire nation is your focus as manager, Brian.”
“That’s precisely the kind of short-termism I find disappointing, because it reduces our discourse to simple point-scoring rather than focusing on the broad issues which affect multiple generations and sectors. If we could move beyond that we would be well on the way to building a nation for all.”
Sadly, this must remain in the realms of fantasy. Kind of.
If anything, the traffic will soon increase in the other direction. With the election campaign going into its final week you can expect the boundaries to get blurred in the next few days. You can expect to see a few ‘county men’ drafted in to sprinkle some stardust on a few nervous candidates, for example, but the sports rhetoric will also ramp up considerably.
Tick off the following on your election bingo card as you hear them this week: the determination to keep going to the final whistle. Neck and neck down the closing stages. Level in the closing minutes. The prospect of a come-from-behind victory. Leaving it all out there.
All of which makes it even more disappointing that we don’t see managers and players pipe up with the focus-group platitudes, the non-answer answer, the gleeful seizing on catchy phrases in order to weaponise the blandness.
“Be honest, Brian, they were terrible out there today.”
“Tough on wides, tough on the causes of wides.”
News arrives that Daniel Kahneman has a new book which will be here soon.
This is welcome, because of course Kahneman wrote Thinking, Fast And Slow, which introduced all of us to the existence of our biases, and how those biases affect the decisions we make.
Now Kahneman has turned his attention to other influences on our decision-making, focusing in particular; his new book is called Noise.
“What I mean by noise,” he told the Talking With Tyler podcast, “I mean just randomness... A lot of things influence the way people make judgments: whether they are full, or whether they’ve had lunch or haven’t had lunch affects judgments.” Speaking as a person whose judgments are intimately connected to whether he’s full or not, not to mention whether he’s had lunch or not, this book can’t arrive soon enough.
Your columnist understands that there have been some phone calls made in recent weeks from Croke Park to various county boards regarding money. Specifically, how money is raised to support the endeavours of various county boards.
This follows some... well, how exactly to describe the knockabout fun in Mayo, for instance? The row in the west, with its Kevin Barry-esque twists, its brilliant details, certainly brightened the mood of the nation considerably, though the announcement a while back that the two opposing sides in the row had reached an agreement didn’t draw quite as much attention.
That’s no surprise. The news value of a settlement allowing everyone to draw a line under events and moving on with their lives can’t compete with that of ‘Shoe The Donkey’ playing on a stadium PA.
The legacy of the Mayo row may not be limited to surprise at how crazy things can get, however. The communications emanating from Croke Park recently amounted to inviting county boards to take such independent fundraising bodies under their wings and to bring them into the official tent, as it were.
There may be good reasons for doing so. In a general sense financial governance is a sensitive area for sporting organisations everywhere at present, and in this specific context closer alignment with an official GAA body may have tax advantages for those fundraising bodies.
Expect some delicate negotiations in the coming months, however, between county boards and supporters’ clubs. And maybe some dark muttering about the legacy in Mayo among the latter group.
An appeal to readers here. The North Monastery primary school has been in touch because a significant date coming up very soon.
Back in 1995 one of the classes in the school buried a time capsule under the direction of its teacher, Mr Herman Kemp.
Now, 25 years later, the time capsule is to be opened this month — on February 25th and 1.30pm, to be precise.
The school is trying to track down some of those who were in Mr Kemp’s sixth class — they made their confirmation in 1996, if that helps — so that they can come back for the opening.
If you were one of those involved, or you know someone who was, try the link below and spread the word.