All-women’s show with a difference

Gas what you end up watching over Christmas, and I don’t mean your own waistline, expanding softly over your belt like a runaway pudding.

What’s that? You lost weight over the holidays? Fair play, I’d say you’re great crack come Stephen’s Day.

Anyway, one of the treats that came across this column’s radar was a look back at the days before political correctness, It Was Alright In The 70s, on Channel Four.

This was a flick through the TV shows that were deemed acceptable and entertaining in that decade but which now look like out-takes from a particularly dark brainstorming session with Chris Morris. Rape jokes, schoolgirls in uniform being lusted after by elderly men, grandfathers ogling grand-daughters: and all before the watershed, too! Great days.

All of that’s gone now, of course. I raise the matter here because of news coming through from the New York Post of a sports talk show hosted entirely by women in the States, a development being heralded as positive all round.

We Need To Talk, on the CBS Sports Network, has been on the go since September, so apologies for arriving late to the party, but there were some interesting comments from one of its hosts, Dana Jacobson, in the Post story.

“We’re saturated now with 24/7 sports, so how are we going to differentiate ourselves?” says Jacobson said. “It’s not enough to say, ‘We’re the women’s show.’ I know we can’t be afraid to do things that are us because ‘Oh that’s the female side.’ That is what’s different.

“With all of our interviews, there are always one or two in there that you can say is a lighter side or a different side. I think it’s an interesting side.”

Jacobson is right. With sport in general the coverage is so all-encompassing that sometimes the real challenge can be simply finding a fresh perspective, though clearly the word ‘simply’ comes with an ironic underlining. The basic facts of a sports event – who won, who lost, who participated – are almost instantaneously available to people, so getting your angle is almost of equal importance.

The interesting thing about We Need To Talk, to this observer, is that while it’s a female perspective, it’s a perspective being offered on male sports. What’s common to the US media market and to our own is the female interest in male sports.

Recent events such as the Cork ladies footballers winning team of the year in RTE’s end of year awards are encouraging, but the old observation remains as acute as ever: if the women who follow men’s sports were to follow women’s sports, the latter would obviously be far more popular.

Yet you can’t force people to enjoy themselves either. If some women prefer to watch men’s sports how can you criticise them for a personal preference? Before signing off on We Need To Talk – a title which cries out, of course, for a name to be added: Joe, or Roy, or some such – it should be pointed out that in fairness to the state broadcaster, there’s no shortage of female presenters and interviewers on the national airwaves, while many local stations also have female reporters on their sports staff(s) as well.

With all due respect to the American show, while nobody would claim the Irish sports media to be Scandinavian in its political correctness, maybe that’s worth acknowledging for its lack of news value rather than its sheer novelty?

Door opened for confusion in GAA circles

I see Keith Higgins retired from intercounty football with Mayo.

Oh no he didn’t.

Oh yes he did.

Oh no he didn’t. It was all a joke, see? If you missed this (never a) storm in a (so tiny as to be non-existent) teacup, it was reported the other day that the Mayo corner-back had tweeted his retirement, only for this to be corrected when Higgins clarified that while it had been his Twitter account which carried the brief statement, it wasn’t, you know, true.

Thanks a bunch, Keith.

Introducing the ‘my phone got borrowed’ gambit to interaction with GAA players means those of us reliant on talking to the great men face a hardy few months of similar defences.

Reporter: “But didn’t you tell me you were emigrating?”

Player: “Sure that wasn’t me at all. My grandmother borrowed my smartphone for a game of Subway Surfers and you happened to ring when she had it.”

Reporter: “It sounded like you, though.”

Player: “She’s got a very deep voice from that time in East Germany. Only she tore her ACL she’d have thrown the shot for them.”

I don’t know where it’ll end. Managers will probably adopt this as a way of dealing with the press as well, not to mention county board officials. It’s got the makings of a French farce, though with fewer bedroom scenes. Hopefully.

Reporter: “Well, I wouldn’t have printed what you said about the referee if you didn’t say it to me.”

Manager: “Not me at all. Didn’t have the phone that day, it was the toddler I left it with.”

Reporter: “He’s very advanced. Good to pronounce swear words.”

Manager: “Watches a lot of Peppa Pig, what do you expect?”

Cheers, Keith. Thanks for the Christmas present. Like the proverbial puppy, I expect it to be with us for some time to come.

Paul jumps ahead of the pack with optimistic World Cup prediction

I like to imagine each member of the Irish rugby squad throwing a few bob into the middle of the table, as it were, as they approach a Rugby World Cup in the professional sport equivalent of betting on the speeches at a wedding.

Only for the lads, it’s not so much judging whether the father of the bride loves the sound of his own voice as correctly identifying the first person to say that Ireland can win the tournament outright.

Step forward, Paul O’Connell!

“We certainly have a chance,” the Ireland captain recently told Sky Sports. “We have shown that we can beat anyone on our day.

“We still don’t have the strength in depth of the southern hemisphere nations, so there are certain things that will have to go our way — but I think we have the potential to win a World Cup.”

I wonder who collected the kitty?

Real treat in store for fans of sports science

A pal of this column, Rob Hartnett, runs the Sport For Business website and newsletter and early in the new year he’s got a treat in store for fans of sports science. Sport for Business has organised a second annual Business of Sports Science conference at the RDS for Thursday, January 8.

In partnership with the 51st BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition, Sport for Business are “bringing together leading sports figures and business leaders to look at areas of how science and technology are changing the way we play.”

Its speakers include Paul McGinley, Europe’s Ryder Cup winning captain, Donal Ryan of equine genetics company Equinome, Grant Best of BT Sport and Avenir Sports, the company providing game analytics to top GAA teams.

Interested? We thought so. Log on to for more details.

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