Sport feeling the butterfly effect

When a butterfly’s wings beat somewhere, something else happens somewhere else to someone else altogether.

Granted, that may not be the verbatim quote, but you understand the basic principle behind chaos theory: ramifications, seen and unseen.

Take for instance the new political benevolence being expressed by the US towards Cuba. This has all sorts of political and economic implications, but sports geeks in America have zeroed in on one obvious result which has electrified aficionados of one sport: baseball.

The disappearance of the Arctic tinge to US-Cuba relations means that suddenly hundreds of professional-grade baseball players in Cuba are available to American clubs. Cue a certain amount of commercial chaos in that sport among agents and clubs as they scramble to grab the bounty.

That wasn’t the biggest story to emerge from the States in the last week if you have an eye to the future, though. Take the hacking of Sony Pictures by agents of the North Korean regime because of The Interview, a movie which features the fictionalised death of Kim Jong-Un, leader of that country.

While the news value of the results of that hacking may be dubious — Angelina Jolie is apparently hard to handle, according to one hacked email; nobody ever felt that might be the case? — and the general glee at the peeking behind the curtain aspect of this controversy, there are other implications.

In the last few weeks I’ve mentioned here the growing trend for information, data, statistics and numbers of all kinds in all sports.

But where is all that data stored? The fact this hyper-sensitive secret information is held in virtual form by those sports organisations, at all levels, all over the world, means one thing: surely those are all liable to hacking as well.

I understand your scepticism. Who, after all, would want to know the fitness results or physical capabilities of athletes at the highest level in their field? Apart from those opposing them, of course.

If you take the time to read Darkmarket by Mischa Glenny you’ll get a glimpse of the answer, at least. In the book Glenny — who wrote the outstanding McMafia a few years before — points out that in today’s modern world of cybercrime, money can be stolen “by a Russian in Ukraine from an American company and paid out in Dubai — and the whole transaction need last no longer than ten minutes.”

Glenny makes the general point that the focus in cybercrime is on the technology rather than the personalities involved, and the personalities who’d seek to benefit from insider sports stats knowledge are obvious enough.

The same people who seek to benefit from that knowledge now. High rollers. Match-fixers.

Crooks, in other words.

By the way, don’t feel that this nefariousness is concentrated solely on professional or international sport.

It might not be high-tech infiltration, but in what sport was there an attempt to get insider information this year by someone who climbed up a Killarney tree?

Banter event to debate issues around mental health in sport

If you’re at a loose end early in the new year and in the mood for entertainment, I heartily endorse an event taking place in Dublin.

The folk at Banter are running a panel discussion entitled Over the Bar which “will look at the many issues around mental health in sport and what teams, clubs, organisations and managers should be doing to help, both during and after a player’s career.”

Given the focus in recent years on this area – the balance between aggressive on-field attitudes and general mental health – it’s a timely talk, and a pretty decent panel.

Those who’ll be discussing the topic — Conor Cusack, the Gaelic Players Association mental health ambassador and former Cork hurler), Nora Stapleton , women’s and girls rugby development executive with the IRFU, member of the Ireland XVs squad and Donegal Ladies Gaelic football) and David Corkery, former Ireland, Munster, Cork Con and Bristol rugby player)

It’s on at the Twisted Pepper (Middle Abbey St., Dublin 1) on Tuesday January 6. Doors open 6pm and the panel kicks off at 6.30pm. Tickets at thisisbanter.com

It’s not cricket, is it?

A pat on the back for everyone all round this week. Well done.

I refer to the massive restraint being shown by all and sundry with the naming of Eoin Morgan as England one-day cricket captain.

There was a time when this would have produced a torrent of what-does-this-mean, and a flood of shouldn’t-he-know-better, but that has been blessedly absent this holiday season, for which much thanks.

As has been pointed out many times in the last week, an odd consistency has floated into the general sporting discourse (trans: the talk down the pub) at long last. As in, people maintaining a sense of perspective regarding Rory McIlroy’s declaration for Ireland in golf, and Morgan’s appointment as England captain.

And no, I don’t believe it’s a matter of people tugging their forelock at the approval of their elders either.

It would have been A Wonderful Life if...

Look, the week that’s in it and everything . . . nobody asked me, but the chances are very high that at some point in the next few days you’ll end up watching It’s A Wonderful Life.

No, wait. I’m not going to “surprise” you by saying this is a “darker movie than you think”, because I don’t believe in insulting your intelligence.

Nor am I going to be a curmudgeon and describe this movie in grudging terms. Any film which gave Jim Henson the names Bert and Ernie for two of his muppets can’t be all bad. They’re the cop and the cabbie in It’s A Wonderful Life, and the iconic Ward Bond – Ward Bond! — is Bert the cop.

However . . . I do feel it necessary to point out that the finale of the movie involves the bailing out of a financial institutions by the private citizens of the area. I wonder how people would feel if we were to have a movie depicting the board of Anglo-Irish Bank as warmhearted, lovable duffers who deserved to have the help of the ordinary people?

This only struck me recently, but I had to give it up as a bad job when, near the end of the movie, the hard-faced bank examiner – the film’s equivalent of the financial regulator, I suppose – digs into his own pocket to help out George Bailey’s bank and then joins in the general merriment with a smile and a song.

That’s when the parallels became too ridiculous to maintain. After all, that was fantasy from start to finish, right?

Enjoy the Christmas.

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