Last week I wrote here about Camus and La Peste — The Plague — in an effort to stiffen up the sinews, etc, writes Michael Moynihan.
Apologies to the reader who felt it was a little close to the bone given the circumstances: That wasn’t the intention.
The sports link was tenuous, I’ll grant you that, but the lesson from The Plague was on the nose. There will be no bowing down.
There will be changes, however.
An experience like the one we’re living through is bound to leave a mark.
Earlier this week I was reminded, however (is this story going to be another downer? — sundry readers), of another apposite comment in challenging times.
They say that while waiting for John F Kennedy’s remains to be flown into Washington back in 1963, the columnist Mary McGrory turned to a distant relative of mine, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and said: “Pat, we’ll never laugh again.”
“Ah, Mary, we will,” said Moynihan. “But we’ll never be young again.”
A Moynihan is never wrong — exhibit A, the
picture accompanying this article — but we’ll tweak his line, good as it was.
We’ll never take anything for granted again.
The occasional complaint about a player, the discomfort of a long wait at half-time: Forgotten.
The waffling of a talking head on the advanced mark, VAR, crooked put-ins: Cherished.
The smell of the newly-cut grass: Bottled and stored and treasured forever.
This will end, make no mistake about it, but while it goes on there’s much to appreciate in the efforts of sportspeople of all stripes, whether it’s GAA clubs trying to help the isolated and elderly all over the country, or Patrick Horgan tormenting us all on social media by setting up hurling skill challenges that everyone can do as long as there isn’t a camera in sight.
There are plenty of others stepping up to do what they can — the likes of Gary
Neville, Roman Abramovich and Wilfried Zaha making investment properties available to NHS staff is a fine example of a growing trend.
Still, the fact that stadia in this country are being made available to the HSE for drive-through virus tests — ahead of what is expected to be a sharp spike in the number of cases — is a gesture so laden with symbolism as to be almost over-the-top.
The venues of vivid dream and disappointment, remade into the very centre of the fight against the disease?
A novelist wouldn’t see those few pages survive to the second draft, yet here it is in fact, not fiction.
Those drive-through tests are necessary but also an indicator that the toughest times are still ahead, which is a grim prospect this unusual Monday morning, but consider what we have coped with so far.
If you hopped in a time machine and went back a few weeks, you’d laugh at the prospect that we would have come through this much of a lockdown — through any part of a lockdown, come to that— yet here we are.
Perhaps we could look at the lockdown like a block of training: Two weeks done, more to go.
A good coach would provide greater clarity on when the training will move from the drudgery of physical work to using the ball on the field, obviously, but we can’t have everything.
Remember, though, we are no mean people.
None of us wished for this, but if this is to be the trial of our time, the test of our temper, then so be it.
As a child I met old men who in their time stood out against those who came to burn our cities to the ground.
They as children had met old men and women who had survived the Famine. That’s the heritage we draw on.
The message remains the same: there will be no bowing down.
Would that the message of isolation and social distancing were a little easier to define.
I for one am finding it difficult to understand what exactly it means, to stay a couple of metres away from someone (though kudos to the inhabitant of my house who said ‘think of one LeBron between you and the other person on the footpath’).
I jest here, obviously, because it was staggering to read the comments of a GAA club chairman last week in the Echo seeking clarification as to whether players could gather in smaller groups to puck around or kick a ball...
Dear me. Surely the kick- or puck-around would mean delivering a ball from one hand or pair of hands to another, never mind just being in a small area together. What makes this so difficult for people to understand?
And yet that GAA club chairman could have made a very persuasive case for his team to train by pointing at horse racing and asking why that is allowed to continue. The explanation for this seems to be that those working in the horse racing industry need to continue working, which would be understandable if thousands of other people who also needed to continue working hadn’t stopped doing so in the last couple of weeks for the common good.
A stripped-back race meeting still involves people coming together at the very time when the entire country is trying to stay apart; to continue with racing suggests an attitude at best misinformed, at worst wilfully perverse.
At least the betting companies have something to work with, though.
Where we go next is anyone’s guess, but one group which can expect to be pretty busy in the coming months is the cohort of lawyers who focus on sport. We’re still a long way from this, but bear with me as a distraction. Untangling the mess of sponsorship agreements, broadcast partnerships, employment contracts — not to mention the intersection of those three groups with each other — will keep sports lawyers busy for years, have no doubt.
I raise this matter here not to alert you to the further enrichment of lawyers, but as a warning: Just because the lockdown comes to an end —and it will — doesn’t mean an automatic return to the old status quo. I doubt that anyone really expects an all-clear to be sounded for sport on a Friday and normal service to resume on Monday morning anyway, but this has the potential to create further problems when the dust settles.
Among the books I neglected to list in my little round-up of humorous and diverting volumes last week is a lost treasure that I’ve mentioned here before. Nora Ephron’s Heartburn has quite a few recipes in it but I have to confess I’ve never tried any (to be honest, sorrel soup sounds like a hard sell to kids). The narrative shows Rachel dealing with her husband’s infidelity, but some of the asides still bring me up short.
“Don’t stir or you’ll bruise the ice cubes”, Rachel’s mother says at one point, which made me wonder what bruised ice cubes I have poisoned myself with over the years. It’s worth your time because a) you’ll enjoy it b) Ephronologists can detect the scaffolding being erected that will eventually be unveiled to show When Harry Met Sally and c) the husband is based on Ephron’s then-husband, Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame.