Let’s keep all sports teams out of the Áras

Now that the championship has kicked off, or thrown in, in earnest you can almost hear people thinking about the All-Ireland final. Winners. Losers. And most of all, tickets.

To me, however, something that happened to last year’s hurling champions is a dangerous precedent.

I refer here to the invitation from President Michael D. Higgins to the Limerick squad to come to a reception in their honour.

I hate to be the one to break the bad news to everyone, but this is a recipe for disaster.

Cast your eyes across the pond to the ongoing embarrassment in the White House, which hit another peak or trough — depending on your perspective — just last Thursday, when the Boston Red Sox, World Series champions, visited the US president.

This is a tradition going back decades in the States, where the professional team which has picked up the top honour in its sport drops in for a photo op with the President, one that’s usually accompanied by some harmless banter.

Since Donald Trump became president such events have routinely been boycotted by black sportspeople on those teams, not to mention those from other social groups targeted by Trump. 

The Red Sox manager, Alex Cora, is from Puerto Rico and did not go to the White House because of Trump’s handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

Cora’s decision was backed last week by former Red Sox star David Ortiz, whose contribution to the debate was reported as: “You don’t want to go and shake hands with a guy who is treating immigrants like [expletive] because I’m an immigrant.”

(There’s an interesting subplot here, in that the New England Patriots — from the same area as the Red Sox — have two of the best-known Trump boosters in coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. The political fault lines in America between conservative sportspeople — many golfers, for instance — and liberal athletes — many basketballers, for instance — is one without a clear parallel in these parts.) 

Before everyone starts shouting, there is obviously no comparison between Trump and Michael D Higgins, who has graced the presidency of this country and repeatedly struck the right note in his comments. However, can we be as confident that future occupants of the big house in the Phoenix Park are as sure-footed? I think not.

In a couple of weeks, we have plenty of ballot papers facing us: European elections, local elections, and the referendum on divorce. Is it too late to include another question for the populace?

I was thinking of a Sporting Exclusions (Miscellaneous Provisions) Amendment to the Constitution — just a line or two disqualifying future presidents from extending invitations to sports teams and individuals of all stripes from visiting Áras an Uachtaráin.

If we don’t move now, we’re at risk on the double. The first threat comes from the use of such visits for political purposes: fine if you agree with the purpose in question, not so fine if you strongly disagree.

Second, what happens when a president lands in and knows nothing about sport? 

Nothing inherently wrong with that, but surely we could all do without the painful attempts to replicate ordinary human interests that mark less inspiring politicians. 

Yours truly was at a launch some years ago at which a politician tried an elongated, excruciating riff on the sports rivalry between Cork and Dublin that had listeners chewing their own arms off to dull the pain in their ears.

The man behind The Wire

I got a copy of that Robert Caro book — many thanks, Lily Lindon at Vintage/Penguin Random House — and it is every bit as good as you might think. Mind you, I am simultaneously enjoying George Pelecanos’s The Man Who Came Uptown.

If you don’t know Pelecanos’s outstanding Washington-based thrillers then you should, though you may be familiar with his television work: he worked with David Simon on The Wire and latterly on The Deuce.

Hopefully he’s also working on Simon’s adaptation of The Plot Against America — a treat looming in the middle distance for fans of all concerned.

For parliamentary drafting and PowerPoint denials, mail me at michael.moynihan @examiner.ie.

Dragons paddle on

It was a pleasure to chat to the Cork Dragons recently, the Leeside specialists in dragon boat racing.

If you can’t remember the exact details, I’m happy to remind you: their rowing teams are made up of a mix of breast cancer survivors and ordinary members. The motion of paddling aids the healing process after breast cancer surgery, and keeps lymphoedema at bay, while anyone who has had any form of cancer, along with their family and friends are welcome to join.

The boats carry up to 22 people each — 20 paddlers, a drummer, and help for races and other events. The average boat holds 16 paddlers, a drummer who beats to the rhythm of the first two paddlers, and the helm who steers the boat from the back.

Now they’re hosting an open day, on Lapps Quay in Cork on this Saturday, May 18, between 10am and 1pm.

All welcome to come along to participate or watch: what else are you doing this Saturday?

It was a pleasure to chat to the Cork Dragons recently, the Leeside specialists in dragon boat racing.

If you can’t remember the exact details, I’m happy to remind you: their rowing teams are made up of a mix of breast cancer survivors and ordinary members. The motion of paddling aids the healing process after breast cancer surgery, and keeps lymphoedema at bay, while anyone who has had any form of cancer, along with their family and friends are welcome to join.

The boats carry up to 22 people each — 20 paddlers, a drummer, and help for races and other events. The average boat holds 16 paddlers, a drummer who beats to the rhythm of the first two paddlers, and the helm who steers the boat from the back.

Now they’re hosting an open day, on Lapps Quay in Cork on this Saturday, May 18, between 10am and 1pm.

All welcome to come along to participate or watch: what else are you doing this Saturday?

Gaffers earning their corn

I know the climax of the soccer season is close, the matter of Spurs-Liverpool in the Champions League dominating many a conversation to the point where you’d feel like feigning death until the scouse/cockney accents being put on by Irish people die away. 

Sorry. 

Anyway, I stumbled across an interesting piece recently on BBC Sport which detailed some of the challenges facing professional soccer managers when they go for interviews for jobs.

I have to confess that I thought most of these guys were appointed based on their friendliness with the chief executive/ability to tell war stories about their international career, but this piece recounted Sam Allardyce’s complaints that the lack of PowerPoint facilities at the Football Association harmed his chances of managing England at one stage.

(Given what happened when he eventually managed England maybe someone at the FA made the right call when saying there were ‘no’ PowerPoint facilities, wink wink.)

Still, it was interesting to see the piece refer to a manager whose job interview consisted of selling his new club as a destination to a potential signing; preparing a half-time pep talk in the event of the team being 2-0 down after 45 minutes; dealing with an actor playing the role of a parent of an unhappy player in the club’s academy; and then planning out and taking, on the field, an afternoon coaching session.

All in one day.

Whatever wages he negotiated, he earned them.

Dalo's Hurling Podcast: Bubbles baffles Cork, Clare conquer Walsh Park, Dubs rattle the cage

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