Michael Moynihan: Strap yourself in for another gruelling year

Michael Moynihan: Strap yourself in for another gruelling year

Enjoyed the Christmas? Good stuff. Hope you didn’t overindulge, or if you did, that you’re recovering.

If you’re a little fragile this morning, though, join me in thanking the man who sent me a link to a terrific ESPN article, one of those items where the headline alone sells you on the story.

That headline? ‘The Ugly Gory Bloody Secret Life of NHL Dentists’.

It starts with an account of Craig McDonald of the Tampa Bay Lightning getting a puck in the mouth — a rubber puck, that is — and needing 75 stitches to put tongue, gums and teeth back together. On a follow-up visit, the team dentist, Gil Rivera, discovered four exposed nerves dangling in McDonald’s mouth.

It took four months and 50 hours in the dentist’s chair to repair everything. Eventually it was, and as writer David Fleming points out, the most hockey aspect of the whole story is that McDonald missed just one game during the rebuilding process.

I have to confess to a soft spot for NHL injury horror stories ever since checking out the Clint Malarchuk situation.

In 1989 Malarchuk, a goalkeeper with the Buffalo Blades, had his neck accidentally cut by a skate blade in a game with St Louis, with a huge gash opening his carotid and jugular arteries.

It was quite a sight. Eleven fans fainted at the sight. Two had heart attacks. Three players close to Malarchuk — blood spurting in a spray from his neck — vomited right on the ice. The injured player himself thought he was going to die and his family would see it happen on live TV.

Malarchuk only survived because the other side’s medic, Jim Pizzutelli, had served in Vietnam and wasexperienced in combat situations: He kept the blood vessel pinched until doctors arrived to save the keeper’s life. Malarchuk lost a litre and a half of blood and needed 300 stitches, but he made it.

(Almost twenty years later Malarchuk saw a similar situation involving NHL player Richard Zednik: It brought back such horrific memories that he needed counselling.)

If you see this as a naked attempt to tie a column idea to the time of year — winter/ice/hockey — then you are right. But it’s also no harm for you, gentle reader, to start getting your game face on. There’s a tough season ahead for you and you’re going to have to put away the Quality Street eventually.

Every sport has its tales of traumatic injury, most of them recounted with a mix of feigned horror and reflected bravado. Rugby fans tend to push forward Wayne Shelford’s tale of overcoming a slashed scrotum — stitched together before he rejoined the action — as a category killer. Maybe the horror isn’t feigned after all.

Sometimes the story deserves a wider audience. I missed the club underage game in southeast Cork many years ago but had a good eyewitness — my own father — to a young lad suffering a serious injury in an accidental collision.

The first aid man on duty — my eye witness, as it happens — rushed onto the field as soon as ashen-faced opponents started waving. When he got to the scene he recognised a broken leg thanks in part to his years as an ambulance driver but in the main to the bone sticking straight up through the football sock.

“Don’t look at it,” he told the youngster, “It won’t do you any good.”

In fairness to the kid, he came back with one of the great lines: “Mr Moynihan, I don’t think I’ll be able to play on.”

“No, I don’t think you will.”

Ice hockey is right.

Sky’s betrayal of ET

I saw over the holiday period that there was a good deal of unhappiness with the Gary Neville-David Jones encounter.

Recap: At a game covered by Sky Sports there was a case of racist abuse, with Spurs fans targeting Chelsea player Antonio Rüdiger. Neville observed that the leaders of the two biggest political parties in Britain had been accused of “fuelling racism and accepting racism within their parties. If it’s accepted in the highest office in the country, we’re not talking about it at a micro level, we are talking about it at... the highest office in the country.” Jones said: “I am compelled to say, they are the views of you, Gary Neville, and not those of Sky Sports, that is my duty.” There was a later flurry of apologies and clarifications by Jones, for what it’s worth, and people seemed divided on whether to blame Jones for his intervention or to blame his producers and supervisors for imposing that intervention on him.

Plenty of people chimed in on Sky Sports’ general spinelessness on the issue, but that’s hardly the most grievous crime it committed this Christmas.

I could hardly believe my eyes but am fairly positive that yes, Sky Sports is running a TV commercial which features actor Henry Thomas reprising his best-known role, Elliott from ET, pushing the channel’s sports coverage in an ad with... ET itself perusing a tablet, eyes burning as it sees some abomination from the Premier League scarring its way across the screen.

Surely there’s a version of the commercial where the alien asks to be taken away by the scientists of the original movie (“Dissection! Please! It has to be better than this!”) which can be released as some small compensation for this abomination.

After all, a mealy-mouthed equivocation about racism has nothing on this gross betrayal of all our childhoods. Dear God.

Witty Benchley well worth checking out

I stumbled across a magazine article about Robert Benchley recently and took myself off to try to track down a book of his pieces. I got to know a little about him from one of the greatest books I’ve ever read: Harpo Speaks!, the autobiography of Harpo Marx. The two men were friends for years.

If you only know Benchley through his grandson Peter — who wrote Jaws — then the original version is worth discovering. He was a wit (“It took me 15 years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous,”) and a New Yorker contributor, so the best approach is a collection of his pieces: Benchley Lost And Found is a good starting point.

This decade doesn’t deserve to be glorified

The end of 2019 is in sight, literally. I don’t know what this signifies for you. Perhaps a world-class 24-hour debauch, or a couple of evenings rediscovering Jane Austen’s unfinished works. Both, perhaps.

What it means to your columnist is a rash of commemoration and announcement.

How many teams of the decade are we facing, or players of the decade? Games of the decade? Plays of the decade? Days of the decade? Nights of the decade?

I can’t say I’m in love with the idea of glorifying this decade, though. While there have been some bright spots, my big objection to the twenty-teens is based on deep disappointment.

We are even now four years beyond the society mapped out in Back To The Future Two, and no closer to flying cars.

The prosecution rests.

- michael.moynihan@examiner.ie

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