Taking extreme care of tools of the trade

Anthony Daly's hands

You know, because of course you know, that I now write a regular feature in the paper on Fridays about hurlers’ hands — injuries and idiosyncrasies, skill sets and skinned knuckles.

Perhaps it tells you something about the age range of the lads I spoke to (disclosure: all but one younger than myself) but something that never occurred to me to ask is this.

Have you ever had a manicure because it might help your hurling?

This is not as outlandish as you might think. Professional sportspeople leave nothing to chance with their money-makers. 

NBA players are famous for favouring pedicures in order to help their battered feet recover.

A recent Washington Post piece quoted DJ Augustin of the Orlando Magic on the restorative power of the pedicure. 

“Some guys look down on it ‘cause it’s girly or whatever you want to call it,” he said, “But I’ve done it from the beginning because it’s like taking care of your body. 

Just like anything else you do, getting a massage or treatment. I’ve had situations before with my toenails, or my callus on my feet, would hurt my feet during games. It makes a big difference.

Parking the glorious possibilities of what a “situation with my toenails” exactly entails, the piece’s author went on to refer to NBA players who were so conscious of the state of their feet — blackened toenails, scars, hammer toes — that they wouldn’t change their socks after a game while reporters were in the changing-room.

To which I can only say it’s a pity some of their GAA counterparts didn’t share that self-consciousness: I fondly remember being in a club dressing-room covering a county final and seeing a chap hew away with both hands at his toenails, pausing only to flick the yellowish cuttings across the floor.

What always stuck with me was that this was done after the game, when it was of minimal benefit to the, you know, county final he’d just played in. Perhaps there was a naked-foot after-party I was unaware of.

Anyway, that’s the feet. We were talking about hands.

It’s interesting that tender loving care of the hands and fingers was not always the chosen method, of course.

According to legend, baseball players traditionally strengthened their hands and wrists by digging into a sack of rice and flexing their fingers and wrists to build up their grip and strength.

That’s working on power, though, not presentation.

A smooth skin tone wasn’t a consideration for boxers like Jack Dempsey.

A hundred years ago the Manassa Mauler used brine to toughen the skin of his face against cuts, while for his hands he was on the record as recommending camphor ice to help with calluses on the knuckles — apply before going to bed, was Dempsey’s suggestion.

According to legend, however, the heavyweight champion used something else entirely to toughen his hands and knuckles: horse urine.

He wasn’t alone.

One-time baseball star Moises Alou confessed to peeing on his hands during the season to toughen them up, while Jorge Posada, another baseball player, simply said: “You don’t want to shake my hand during spring training.”

Perhaps I’ll avoid that particular line of questioning with the next candidates for the hurler’s hands slot. 

Which might be a derogation of duty, because as the last man I spoke to said: “What is a hurler only his hands?”

No longer a fan of the Warrior code

Seth Curry #31 of the Portland Trail Blazers battles for a loose ball with Klay Thompson #11 and Quinn Cook #4 of the Golden State Warriors during the first half in game four of the NBA Western Conference Finals at Moda Center on May 20, 2019 in Portland, Oregon. Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images
Seth Curry #31 of the Portland Trail Blazers battles for a loose ball with Klay Thompson #11 and Quinn Cook #4 of the Golden State Warriors during the first half in game four of the NBA Western Conference Finals at Moda Center on May 20, 2019 in Portland, Oregon. Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

The NBA Finals begin next week, as Toronto Raptors will take on the power in that land, the Golden State Warriors.

As a former East Bay resident the Warriors would be my team of choice. 

When I lived there the Raiders came back to play in Oakland, and the Athletics have since regained prominence with Moneyball, but the Warriors’ dominance has earned them a special place in the Berkeley-Oakland-Fremont pantheon.

Until they decided to move to San Francisco, across the bay. This finishes me with the Warriors. 

Yes, I have noted in previous columns how sumptuous that navy hoodie is in Elverys; yes, I own up to pondering the online purchase of a t-shirt with THE CITY emblazoned above the Bay Bridge; and yes, to even purchasing that t-shirt.

No longer. The team which abandons its city is the original sin of US sports, because there’s inevitably a narrative underlying the move, one that tells the forsaken city it’s no longer good enough. 

I am not burning my t-shirt (I’m not crazy). 

But I will consider offers for an XL, lightly worn olive-green t-shirt celebrating a basketball team.

Lauda a hero of F1 golden era

Sad to note the passing last week of Niki Lauda, a name to conjure up seventies summers and a sport of impossible glamour at a time when world stars in all sports were far more distant and unknown to us.

Everyone knew Lauda’s story, though. 

The Austrian’s passing reminds us of his catastrophic crash at the German Grand Prix in 1976, when his helmet was ripped off on impact and he suffered catastrophic burns, as well as lung damage so severe he received the last rites in his hospital bed.

He lost most of one ear and had to have his eyelids reconstructed, but he rejected more surgery on his damaged ear because it would have slowed down his return to racing. 

He missed just two races before his comeback, when he was lowered into his racing car with his wounds still weeping, and he still almost won the world title. 

He had to drop out of the Japanese Grand Prix, for instance, because his damaged tear ducts hindered his vision.

James Hunt pipped him to the post, but Lauda was world champion the next year.

In the obituaries I saw that Lauda came from an old-money family and secured loans to fund his early racing career with ease when bank managers recognised his name. 

But early privilege may have obscured the iron will: Lauda’s bravery and determination remain awesome, all those years later.

A light in young lives

Judith Kerr, author of the Tiger Who Came to Tea, has died at the age of 95 (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Judith Kerr, author of the Tiger Who Came to Tea, has died at the age of 95 (Gareth Fuller/PA)

I don’t want this section of the newspaper to be obituary-heavy, but another Germanic figure who passed away last week was Judith Kerr, who wrote books that may be familiar to readers with children, among them The Tiger Who Came To Tea and the Mog books.

Kerr’s life story would make a stunning movie: the family fled Nazi Germany for Paris and her father sold a script to producer Alexander Korda which funded their escape from Paris to England.

Kerr wrote her books as a reaction against the stuffy material provided to kids in the ’60s, and though she published dozens of other books, her tiger-visiting debut remains her best-known work, and has sold millions of copies since it was published 50 years ago. 

Rest in peace.

For bruised knuckles and nice t-shirts contact michael.moynihan@examiner.ie

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