I mentioned Geoffrey Boycott elsewhere on this page - read the segment yourself, I can’t do everything - but something I didn’t include was a specific dart thrown at him on social media.
A lady recalled being brought to her first big cricket game by her father and approaching Boycott and another player afterward for an autograph. Not only did Boycott refuse, he told the other player not to sign anything either.
This is emphasis rather than explanation: Boycott is clearly someone you’d rush to avoid even if the only vacant seat on the Dublin-Cork train was next to him (“I’m grand, I’ll stand in the toilet”).
But it did made me wonder. Where are the autograph hunters? And what’s next?
A couple of years ago after a Galway-Wexford game I noticed Galway manager Micheal Donoghue being interviewed for radio, while a crowd of kids collected in front of him extending their hurleys for him to sign (credit Donoghue, he fielded the questions and signed the hurleys simultaneously).
It made a nice picture - the children looked like a flock of altar boys holding communion-plates - but it was also an oddity. The default position now is the smartphone, not the notebook and pen.
Who needs someone to scrawl a looping hieroglyphic on a sheet of paper, to be cherished and minded forever, when they can take a quick picture that will be uploaded into the cloud for the delectation of a Russian bot-farm?
The autograph isn’t the only relic being lost to progress. Sports Illustrated recently featured a lament for the lost paper ticket to sports events.
The piece focused on American sports, but the paperless ticket is more and more common here now as well. It may create a smoother experience, but just how smooth do you want your experience?
There can’t be one amongst us who doesn’t recall the deep sense of peace which a physical ticket brought, no matter what your sport was: as soon as you had that strip of cardboard safely in your jacket, there to be checked and rechecked, over and over, you could relax.
Clearly progress can’t be halted. There are no doubt sound reasons for keeping everything virtual, but soundness must yield a little something here to romance.
Tickets and autographs - they even have a certain shape in common, if you had an actual autograph book - are better than QR strips and digital pictures because they force you to do a little work.
You see the ticket and you remember the handover, the payment, the chat before the event. There was a lot of it outside Quinn’s in Drumcondra, for instance, Saturday evening.
An autograph sparks the muscle memory of turning your neck to look up at the person signing their name (it’s an unwritten law that you have to give up getting those signatures when you can look down at the face of the person signing the paper.)
Clicking on an image stored in your phone calls up a distorted image.
The seat row and number living in that online folder you created will never help you to relive the game as well as a stained and faded ticket.
This may be what you’d expect from someone who writes for a newspaper, emphasis on paper, but that doesn’t mean it’s untrue.
Proust was wrong. It wasn’t a cake, but an autograph or ticket which bears unfaltering, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.
No surprises about this week’s book. Adrian Russell, once of this parish and now boss of the42.ie, has written a book about the greatest achievement in the history of the GAA — Cork winning the All- Ireland senior hurling and football titles in the same year back in 1990.
With all due respect to the doubters, the clue is in the GAA part of that equation, something that may be lost on counties which take an a la carte approach to their commitment.
Cork people can have contradictory feelings about 1990, a rumbling discontent with the lack of recognition for the feat existing in parallel with a deep satisfaction that this is how the universe operates: with Cork winning the Double.
Whether you’re conflicted or not, Adrian’s book — The Double — is the chronicle this achievement deserves. Do yourself a favour and collect a copy: it’s in shops all over, not just in Cork, thus underlining our native generosity.
■ Autographs and ticket stubs, firstname.lastname@example.org
Best of luck to Simon Lewis and Brendan O’Brien of this parish, who sailed for Japan last week and the Rugby World Cup, though I use ‘sail’ in the most metaphorical sense.
At least I hope I do. Port out, starboard back, lads! Granted, the RWC seems to have been simmering as interminably as a . . . ham hock, for several months, so it’s no harm that it is now approaching the big kick-off. A suggestion from my own RWC days.
If you are staying in the same hotel - nay, the very same floor - as one of the participants, be bold and decisive when faced with a pile of jerseys left untended by the lift.
Back in 2007 I was in Paris covering the tournament and ensconced in a hotel in Neuilly, where the Samoan side was also staying. I can recall with great clarity the day I strolled over to the lift and saw those nice navy jerseys in a sack.
I was faced with a moral challenge: to liberate one and stuff it under my jacket or to maintain a dignified distance?
I was just about to bend down for the number 5 jersey when the lift opened and three enormous Samoan gents came out.
I swallowed hard and wished them all the best and they nodded before heading off, each footstep sinking six inches into the carpet.
I still dream about that jersey the odd time.
As noted elsewhere, Geoffrey Boycott got a knighthood across the water, which provoked a bit of a backlash.
This is due in part to Boycott’s general unpleasantness, which is not as rare as you might think among sporting figures, but largely down to a conviction for domestic abuse — which is, thankfully.
‘General unpleasantness’ may, in fact, be a little generous.
When criticism from Women’s Aid was drawn to Boycott’s attention on a BBC radio show last week by Martha Kearney, his response was, “I don’t give a toss about her, love . . . It was 25 years ago, love.”
Boycott got a three-month suspended sentence at the time.
I mention this here not to slip something else into Boris Johnson’s in-tray, but as a nod towards what people are inclined to call the good old days.