My Kingdom for a list (not a fear of death)

FOR THE love of God can everyone keep IT DOWN back there? Shh. Less of the noise and so forth.

We’re not in the form for that carry-on this morning (or any morning, to be honest). Honestly, you have one or two bottles of Sam Adams too many in the late evening, and the following morning turns into a post-apocalyptic drama complete with running zombies and lack of clean water.

The normal consolations of the stricken sportswriter are not at hand at such a time, but you’re surely glad we didn’t adopt the last refuge of the scoundrel.

No lists have been compiled here of the worst of the year, or the best of the year, or the worst of the decade, or the likely highlights of the coming century, or even possible lowlights of the just-completed millennium.

That’s because we’ve gone to a zone far beyond the ordinary list, outwards and upwards into a state of meta-listing where we have lists of the lists we’d like to see, or the lists of the lists of things we’d like to see (Top Five Sports Lists We’d Like To Read Listing Other Sports Lists).

Believe us, that’s a fair development. On those now very rare mornings when Talking Sport’s mouth feels like a scene from Lucky Jim (“His mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as its mausoleum” is the quote), the sports list is like a crutch (Top Ten Odd Injuries Suffered By Assorted Sportspeople).

A crutch constructed from Solpadeine, with a chaser of Lucozade Sport (Top Ten Drinks Endorsed By Sportspersons), to be honest.

We’re conflicted about the sporting list. It’s attractive and yet unfulfilling, like scarfing down a breast in a bun after a night in the pub, complete with that unidentifiable yet delicious yellow sauce (Top Five Sportspersons’ Regrettable Nights Out).

Yet we also have a far more intellectual rationale for our simultaneous distrust and love of the list.

Our petty ambivalence is endorsed by one of our favourite know-alls – writer is far too constricting a term – Umberto Eco.

The Italian brainbox may be known to you for his entertaining medieval pastiche The Name Of The Rose, or the movie made of said book, which features Christian Slater in a horrific monk’s tonsure (Worst Sporting Haircuts Of All Time).

We’ve revered the great man ever since we read the essay he wrote which explains how he lost his religious faith at the age of 13, watching a soccer game while also wearing tight jeans.

Discomfited by the tightness of the jeans he had on, Umberto was forced to focus on the physical sensations involved, and that concentration deflected his attention from the ebb and flow out on the pitch, the abstract movements back and forth, and the sacerdotal quality of the game...

Sorry, where were we?

The focus on lists, particularly at this time of the year, is easily explained by Signor Eco: “We have a limit, a very discouraging, humiliating limit: death. That’s why we like all things that we assume have no limits and therefore, no end. It’s a way of escaping thoughts about death. We like lists because we don’t want to die.”

Umb knows whereof he speaks, given that he’s recently published The Infinity of Lists, which ranges from Homer’s Catalogue of the Ships in the Illiad to the menu from the author’s local Chinese takeaway (Top Five Worst Pre-Sport Foods).

Maybe we’re reading a bit too much into the Italian’s love of lists – he certainly has no great love of sport (“As far back as I can remember, soccer for me has been linked with the absence of purpose and vanity of all things and with the fact that the Supreme Being may (or may not be) simply a hole.” We’re sure that would extend equally to matters sporting in Dooradoyle or Newtownshandrum).

But his love of lists make him our particular hero this week. And ranked number-one in our Five Top Sports Intellectuals (Who Not-so-secretly Dislike Sport).

More on this when we get our brains back. In the meantime, happy new year.

* Twitter: MikeMoynihanEx

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