The insider’s guide to avoiding rookie errors

Damn you, internet! Sometimes I don’t know whether what you’re giving me is real or whether it’s being dreamed up by two stoned teenagers chained to a PC in someone’s basement, wondering whether to get the Domino’s deep-dish spectacular or not...

The insider’s guide to avoiding rookie errors

The latest version of this dilemma — truey or phooey, I call it — arose last week when someone called Sarah Lyall started tweeting from the NBA Rookie Transition Programme.

I assume Ms Lyall is an actual person, and the NBA Rookie Transition Programme is an actual event, because if neither exist, then they could only be invented by Flann O’Brien channelling Dave Eggers via Peter Cook.

Lyall’s tweet-reporting, or tweetporting, consisted of deadpan one-liners, the advice being given to these suddenly-rich youngsters, many from uncertain backgrounds, and ranged from obvious pitfalls to less apparent dangers.

“Look at your urine.”

“Your urine should not look like apple juice or Guinness.”

“The round spoon is the soup spoon.”

“Lindsay Lohan is irresponsible.”

“Where is your fork?”

“If people live in your house and use your credit cards and drive your car, you should know their last names.”

And my favourite: “Her name is probably not really Sparkle Smith.”

Do you see what I mean about wanting something to be true really badly? This has got to be the greatest job of reporting since Watergate, and nobody involved in those events 40 years ago ever had to be told, “If you make eye contact, people think you’re sincere,” (though when you think about it, it would have probably helped a couple of the protagonists a great deal).

There’s a sadness beyond the humour to be mined here — the near-feral galoots being told how to interact with real humans are often either cosseted supermen, insulated against the demands of polite society by athletic prowess, or survivors of terrible, all-encompassing, deprivation in their homes. Both, sometimes.

The fact that they have to be told that if they are late, then people will think them inconsiderate, should alert you to their lack of familiarity with general social intercourse, and remove any element of surprise when they react badly to vast amounts of money, microscopically focused media attention and savage physical challenges.

Sarah Lyall has done us all a great favour here. Though clearly this entire scenario would be approaching perfection if she’d used her last tweet to reveal that why yes, her real name was, in fact, Sparkle Smith.

Finding the innate beauty in Federer... and Bellew

I used the late David Foster Wallace last week to make a couple of points about the Armagh footballers’ media ban.

Particular kudos to the man on Twitter who picked up that ball and ran with it, referring to a potential article entitled “Francie Bellew as religious experience”, conflating one of Wallace’s best-known pieces, about Roger Federer, and the Armagh corner-back who continues to haunt the sleep of many an early-Noughties forward who dared to pick up a ball and run with it. In the opposite direction to Francie, usually.

The quotations from Wallace came from his filleting of Tracy Austin’s autobiography, but “Roger Federer as Religious Experience” remains the gold standard in tennis writing, and sportswriting of a particular type — sportswriting which has less to do with scorers and results and more to do with humanity in a very broad sense.

For instance, Wallace says, a propos of top sportspeople: “The human beauty we’re talking about here is beauty of a particular type; it might be called kinetic beauty. Its power and appeal are universal.

“It has nothing to do with sex or cultural norms. What it seems to have to do with, really, is human beings’ reconciliation with the fact of having a body.”

Then again, tennis has always tended to attract a better class of hack. Vladimir Nabokov’s love of the game shines through in more than one book, as we’ve referred to here more than once, while Martin Amis, who has a new book out soon, has also dropped a few dazzling thoughts about his own serve-and-volley game.

Exhibit A: Amis once remembered a pair of his tennis coaches thus — while they might have been “deplorable physical specimens,” both “shared the characteristic that marks the talented player: they knew exactly where your reply was going to go, and flowed towards it with leisurely economy.

“And at the net they both had ‘soft hands’ . . . supply responsive to the feel and pace of the ball. Your hardest forehand would be met by their racket heads quite soundlessly, and the ball would drop, die, and slowly roll halfway to the service line.”

Even if you adhere to the old law that the smaller the ball, the better the writing, that’s pretty good. Aces all round, in fact.

Poulter picks up penalty for tone-deaf tweet

Ouch: the perils of instant communication.

Last Friday golfer Ian Poulter tweeted: “Booked 6 business seats for my wife & nanny to fly home & @British_Airways downgrade my nanny so katie has no help for 10 hours with 4 kids.”

Cue exactly what you might imagine.

The responses ranged from: “Thoughts with you at this dark time,” to: “Eh you could swap places with her,” and all points between.

As misjudged comments go this is not on a par with Ms. M. Antoinette’s regarding cake, obviously.

There is also probably a small part of you that agrees with one of the tweets Poulter sent to expand on his initial point, which was along the lines of being annoyed when you don’t get a service you pay for.

The acid rain that was showered down on poor Poulter was a little over the top (though I should confess to having had a swipe myself, asking if ‘My Struggle’ would be the title of his autobiography).

Being relatively tone-deaf when it comes to how your messages read on social media isn’t a hanging offence in any jurisdiction, though. He didn’t kick anyone’s puppy.

And, if he ever does, he’ll know better now than to tweet about it.

What’s that sound? Not monsters, but men

I wrote about the Armagh footballers’ media ban last week and I don’t doubt you got enough of it over the weekend so relax, we won’t revisit the matter this morning.

But... while listening to the radio coverage of Armagh-Donegal yesterday, I heard music playing in the background in Croke Park.

It wasn’t the dreary dirge that’s usually played after games in the stadium, though.

Could it be that it was the music which is played over the closing credits of the movie Monsters University, the cartoon adventures of loveable beasts Mike and Sully, and in particular their inexorable rise to greatness within the scaring industry?

And if so, what does that mean?

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Saturday, November 27, 2021

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